Good Leaders Aren’t Born, They’re Trained: How to Develop Staff to Become Great Restaurant Managers

restaurant manager

Employee development is a hot topic in today’s corporate world. There are many conversations encouraging successful leaders to “send the elevator back down” once they’ve risen to their professional peak. While there’s a moral case to be made to develop staff, there are also pragmatic reasons for prioritizing hospitality staff development.

Great entry-level restaurant employees have the skills to make terrific leaders when the time is right. It doesn’t make sense for a restaurant to solely hire managers from outside of the organization. Here are some great ways to develop employees for future leadership opportunities.

Identify Strengths to Develop Staff 

All hard working employees boast certain strengths. In fact, a good work ethic can be a strength in and of itself. Most people have other unique talents as well. Perhaps your weekend dishwasher is a math whiz. Although he may not yet be ready to run the restaurant, it’s possible that he’ll make a wonderful manager later down the road.

A common strength that goes a long way in the hospitality industry is likeability. Although people skills are valued in most industries, they are especially beneficial when working with customers. That friendly waitress who always earns the most tips may one day use her skills as a manager.

Performance Incentives

Great restaurant employees will work hard simply because “it’s the right thing to do.” However, it never hurts to add incentives. Typically, staff will find motivation in the form of financial benefits like a pay raise or bonus. Yet, there are other creative options too. Perhaps you have an “employee of the month” contest, and the winner receives two extra days of paid vacation.


Cross-training promising employees provides value on multiple levels. First, you’re creating flexibility that is certain to pay off in times of staffing emergencies. If your waiter can also prep in the kitchen, then you have a backup plan if needed. However, cross-training also highlights individual skills that can be nurtured for future promotion.

Does cross-training also include management duties? Absolutely! That busboy’s leadership ability may have gone completely unnoticed if you hadn’t made him “manager for the day.” Now he’s on your radar, and ready to make a transition when the timing is right.


Volunteer your mentoring services to a newer hire and reap the rewards later on. Not only will your employee improve their performance, but you’ll also get an inside look into their raw talent and potential. Mentoring can be as simple as letting a team member know that they have a go-to resource for career advice at any time. You can combine that offer with periodic “shadowing” shifts where staff members learn the ins-and-outs of management.

While employee development isn’t a new concept, there’s much progress to be made from within the hospitality industry. Many restaurant managers fail to make it a priority and miss-out on hidden gems of talent. Remember that today’s dishwasher may be tomorrow’s top-ranked manager!

If your restaurant is in immediate need of managers or supervisors, you should consider working with the industry’s best hospitality staffing agency!

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