Running a Restaurant Successfully in 2020

January 6, 2020
Clock Icon 4 min read

Running a restaurant is no easy feat. After 10 years in the industry, managing establishments from small independents to large chains, I’m more than familiar with the demands coming at you from every angle. In this article, I’m going to share what I think should be the key areas of focus for running your restaurant successfully this year.


What Do You Need to Run a Restaurant This Year?

As a restaurant owner, your key area for strategy focus in 2020 should be on how you can strengthen your position as a business owner, as well as a restaurant owner.

restaurant manager planning how to run her restaurant

This involves setting clear HR foundations, which we know can easily drop in priority as the industry moves at a thousand miles an hour and other demands on your time crop up. However, as a restaurant manager or owner, you need to think about how you manage and take care of your staff. Having clear policies in place will help you achieve this.

The primary concern, I would suggest, is placing emphasis on staff wellbeing. This includes among other concerns, having a dedicated, clear approach to how you manage holiday requests and working hours to benefit the business and the staff alike.

Establishing these areas and setting them out formally in your HR policies makes it much easier to implement and adhere to. January is typically a much quieter month across the industry, making it a more manageable time to try out new ways of working, allowing you time to implement and adjust your policies.

restaurant manager talks to staff

Formalising your policies may sound obvious, but during my time managing restaurants of various sizes, I was surprised at how often basic HR was neglected.

The Impact of Stress in Hospitality

We recently released a report detailing the factors limiting recruitment in the industry and found that perceptions around stress in the workplace were among the top 5. Similarly, males in hospitality, in particular, were calling for improvements in staff wellbeing, over and above higher wages. The hospitality industry has been coming under increased scrutiny for its tough environment and long hours which was heavily publicised in the last year.

As the new generation of baristas, waiters, bar staff, chefs, restaurant managers and the like are entering the workplace and demanding change, we need to listen if we want the industry to continue to evolve. You can read more about how to manage stress in hospitality here.


Running a Business as well as a Restaurant

Particularly with small businesses, managers are juggling multiple roles whilst coping with a lack of resources. It can be difficult to implement policies as you often find you’re accountable for finances, HR, customer service and other such roles that in most businesses would usually be a standalone department – all in addition to your primary job of general manager.

From experience, I know how difficult it is being 3 people at once, but we have to remember that a restaurant, cafe, and food truck are all businesses. Therefore, they still need the basic things that keep a business running smoothly, fairly and happily.

restaurant managers discuss strategy

The hospitality industry is experiencing huge change, bringing issues such as staff wellbeing, career progression and the need for set company policies to the forefront.

As we’ve seen, the industry has come under fire for its perpetuation of work-related stress and ‘burnout.’ I firmly believe this has its roots in the way the industry has operated for so long. Modern values such as the rise in flexible working, the new generation of workers and desire for a better work-life balance are disrupting this legacy.

I’m sure you’ll agree that changes in the industry, led by demands from a new generation of workers, are for the best so that we can encourage everyone to consider a career in hospitality.

So, How Do I Do It?

If you recognise that your attention to policies and staff could be improved, firstly don’t panic! Use this opportunity and the quieter moments in the new year to really think about the direction you want your restaurant to go in in 2020.

Consider the following key areas and how you want them to work for your business and your staff.

  • Working hours – Look at how the rota is organised to ensure you have staff when needed, having more staff on during busy times will reduce employee stress but make sure there aren’t too many on during quieter times. Boredom can be stressful too, and expensive. Do staff have preferred working days? Could you place a limit on how many shifts an employee can do back to back? Can you give better breaks between shifts to help employees get the rest they need?
  • Holiday requests – How do you accommodate holiday requests? Developing a policy here can avoid you being caught short staffed. Do you encourage staff to take holiday? Being the boss who looks out for their wellbeing will foster a loyalty and respect in the workplace that will help you in the long run.
  • Time off – Good employees don’t like letting the team down but sometimes things come up that mean staff need time off at short notice. Forewarned is forearmed so encourage your staff to talk to you about their lives; do they have a driving test, exams coming up, or a special anniversary? Allow them the work-life balance we all deserve, and they will be better workers for it.
  • Sickness – We all get sick but when you work with food and the general public, getting fully better before returning to work is essential. Good hygiene is fundamental to staying healthy so do what you can to encourage a healthy workforce. Provide free orange juice and hand sanitiser for staff when cold and flu season comes around. When staff are sick, encourage them to give as much notice as possible, and make sure they are well before they come back to work – you don’t want staff passing on their germs.
  • Team building – Your restaurant is make or break on the team you employ. Look at how your team operate together; is there any scope to implement team building regularly so your staff feel appreciated? Do you have the best people working in the roles that suit them best? Could you offer more responsibility to staff keen to progress?
  • Disciplinary procedure – This is as essential as any other policy you develop. It is important your staff know and understand what constitutes a disciplinary procedure, what the process involves and what the consequences are. It will give you guidance should you have to deal with employee issues such as theft, assault or workplace bullying. Take the time to set out the disciplinary procedure now so that should you require it, you can call on it to protect you, your business and your staff.
  • Extra support – Sometimes you may be asked questions you don’t know the answer to, don’t brush these off with an ‘I can’t help’ attitude. Instead, be aware of places you or your staff can get answers. There are many resources online that can help, for instance, Citizens Advice, ACAS and Time to Change websites all have a wealth of information available to anyone.

Think about the role your staff play in your restaurant and in your business and decide how you need to act to serve in the best interest of everyone. Set these out as clearly as possible and make sure policies are accessible to all employees.

restaurant manager and chef have 1:1

Our research revealed a common perception, among both professionals and the public, that hospitality careers have limited progression. Make time to talk to your employees to gain an understanding of what they want from their career and how you can help them achieve it.

To support this, I would recommend our Professional Development Plan which contains an example and template for the employee to fill in. It is a clear way of identifying goals and mapping out how to get there with support from the business. This will make your staff feel valued, which is known to increase productivity and job satisfaction.

Remember to include yourself and think about how you can develop your own skills to run a better business. What areas do you want to improve on in the year? It could be you want to get better at using social media to promote your restaurant, or maybe you want to be more confident reading the finances in the business. Whatever it is, having a goal to work towards will see you stay focused, committed and will encourage your business to grow.


January is typically a quiet time for restaurants, and I would recommend restaurant owners use this time to think about how they address the issues in their business at the start of the year. By establishing how you are going to approach and communicate policies to the wider restaurant team, you can plan for the resources you need to facilitate it, look at training if needed and strengthen your food business as a whole.


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