Restaurant Management Tips

Achieving perfection as a restaurant manager is impossible; every day presents a variety of new challenges. Over time, a great manager makes steady improvements and understands that mistakes can happen. One way is by addressing performance flaws and fixing them. Here are some common mistakes among restaurant management and ways to work past them.

Responding Defensively to Negative Online Reviews or Comments

You’ve probably heard stories of restaurant owners losing control and letting a negative Yelp reviewer just have it, like the NYC deli owner calling one customer an idiot in Italian. It is quite common to see these exchanges on social media, and the wrong kind of exchange can significantly affect your business. If your restaurant ever received a bad review, you might even relate to these kinds of responses. It’s easy to get frustrated, angry, and overly defensive; obviously you have your life invested in your restaurant.

Any anger in your response, or explanation can be perceived as an aggressive response to a problem a customer is trying to air. This is an opportunity for you to respond cool, collected, and with compassion. Not only will the upset customer appreciate this, but all readers of your response will perceive it in a positive light.

As a reminder, never, ever respond angrily to a negative online review for two main reasons. One: unlike verbal communication, online responses live on indefinitely, can be embarrassing and will drive potential guests away. Two: You’ve wasted a chance to rise above the situation and counterbalance the bad review with a measured, thoughtful response other people can read. With a thoughtful reply from you, the reviewer could even edit and change the bad review or respond with an apology.

If your restaurant gets an unfair, rude, or terrible review (hopefully this doesn’t happen), the best practices for responding to bad review are to:

  •       Wait 24 hours to cool off
  •       Read the entire review again, slowly, so you don’t miss a detail
  •       Write a draft response:
    • Begin with Dear [reviewer’s first name] or when a name is not available, use something like “Valued Customer”
    • In the first sentence, apologize for their poor experience
    • Write a sentence or two to address the problem areas and how you are fixing it
    • Invite the reviewer back to the restaurant and give your name so you can meet in person
    • Close with a thank you
  •       Review your reply to ensure there are no insults, long-winded explanations (it will be perceived as an excuse), sarcasm, or a defensive tone.

It’s important that you are not angry when responding, and if you’re stuck, focus on writing for a potential customer and write to win customers in your favor. If it helps, ask a trusted employee to review the response before you click post.

Stay away from petty reviewers that are there to start fights, commonly referred to as ‘trolls.’ If a reviewer left a one-star because your restaurant wouldn’t deliver food; however, in fact, the restaurant’s bio states it does not deliver food, the review was unfair and malevolent. The best way to respond would be to restate the no-take-out policy, and stress how much they value serving customers in house and how important presentation is to the establishment. The next time someone comes across the exchange, he or she will forget about the bad review and see a restaurant that sincerely cares about its customers.

Not Organizing Your Purchase Order System

Organization is key to keeping on top of invoices, customer requests, and employee issues. If a pile of pink and yellow invoices on your desk it is time to cut out the time to organize. Having a disorganized PO system means that you might be over-ordering or over-paying for ingredients, or possibly purchasing things that are no longer needed. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix to this.

Manual Organization (at Minimum)

You can manually organize your purchase orders and start using a purchase order interface that keeps PO details in order for you. First, sort your POs into categories such as regular deliveries and as needed; or by ordered and received. Devise a system that works for you and document it for others who may fill in for you in an emergency.

Point-of-Sale Purchasing Integration

You can also actively save money with a POS system with purchasing because it searches for better prices for the same or similar ingredients and shows you when there are special discounted rates on applicable ingredients. The best part: It’s not time-consuming, leaving you with more time to manage everything else.

Ignoring Vegetarians

It is 2020 and frankly, there is no excuse for restaurants to ignore vegetarians (unless you run a hot dog stand, then customers will happily find something else). Plant-based dining was a leading trend in 2018 and only grew with the coming out of the IncrediBurger.  The success of any trend is obvious if the trend becomes normalized, such as being vegetarian.  

Meat-eaters are consuming more vegetables and fruits, even going so far as to deliberately not eat meat some days of the week. Offer filling and complex vegetarian dishes to start appealing to a growing customer base. If you’re not sure where to start or what vegetarians are looking for from a restaurant, you can find the answers through studying other local establishments, and even seek input from guests and potential guests through social media or your restaurant’s loyalty app.

Ignoring Trends

Having a brand, character, style, and restaurant culture takes careful consideration, yet refusing any change is a mistake. There are new technologies that propel business or health trends (like plant-based proteins) that are important to understand and follow. Even if you don’t plan on making any changes, keeping up with restaurant trends lets you know what competitors are doing, and one day, you might find a trend that inspires you! The best way to keep up on these trends is through regularly reading industry-related blogs, articles, and studies, such as found here on Lavu or industry sites like the National Restaurant Association at

Using a Legacy System

Investing in a restaurant-specific POS is one of the easiest ways to improve restaurant operations and increase profitability. Simply stated, it is time to transition from the legacy system. We know it was expensive, but if you have had it for a couple of years, or even a few months, it is likely holding you back. Paper orders are sloppy and at risk of human error. Communication between front of house and back of house can improve through timely and easy to understand tickets, and the ability for front of house to know when an item may be getting low.  As a manager, there are numerous other benefits to having a powerful POS, including:

  •       Controlling the COGS
  •       Analyzing restaurant data to make strategic money-making decisions
  •       Tracking helpful KPIs to explain why sales are what they are
  •       Your restaurant has a virtual backbone that lets business thrive.

As we all know, overcoming management mistakes can take work, self-control, and additional investment in your restaurant. Be sure to implement what makes sense for your restaurant’s culture with the tips above and you’re sure to be on a stronger road to success.