Restaurant Managers: Do You Know the Difference Between Being Strict & Being Mean?

strict restaurant manager reporting waiters

The restaurant industry has hit many road blocks lately. The latest bump in the road is staffing. Many restaurants are struggling to find staff, much less keep them. Adding to that, the people who are willing to work in our industry don’t have the experience we’d like for them to have, which is leading to frustration, tension, and disappointment.

How many times have you gotten so frustrated with your team not doing what they are supposed to that you literally just wanted to scream, “That’s it! No more playing Mr. Nice Guy (or gal). I’m just going to be more of an <bleep>!”?

Your head starts spinning and you make a plan for dealing with your troublemakers:

  1. I’m going to hold everybody accountable
  2. I’m going to stop walking on eggshells and avoiding conflict
  3. I’m going to stop accepting excuses and fire everybody if I have to.

Whoa there, trigger. Let’s pump the brakes for a minute. I know it’s frustrating, but there is a method to being stricter without taking it too far.

BEING STRICT VS BEING MEAN

Strict is great. Strict means holding people accountable and holding them to high standards.  The issue is that most people view being strict with being mean. So many young managers are lenient, which creates bad habits in the team members and frustration with ownership and management.

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Strict is NOT mean. Strict is strict. The difference between the two is in the execution.

Quick question…do you like to be managed? Seriously, do you love having somebody tell you what to do, how to do it, when to do it and checking up on you all day long to see if you got it done? Most people here are going to answer with a HARD NO.

In an effort to be a manager that everybody likes, managers often resort to tactics like being nice to their team. The problem with being “nice” is that it often means letting our team get away with things. Nice also leads to not correcting a team member when they make a mistake.  Nice often means skipping over a coaching moment because we are afraid of confrontation.

The lesson learned here is that you can be strict, you can lead, you can teach, you can coach and you can hold your team accountable, all while being nice.

CONSTANT AND GENTLE PRESSURE

If you’ve been yelled at or if you’ve yelled at an employee before, that’s a large amount of pressure in a very short period of time that might yield a short-term result. In the long run, however, you’re not going to get the result you want. I’ve been pulled into the walk-in of a hotel’s restaurant to get yelled at by the chef many times. If you’ve never been yelled at in a walk-in, you’re not being pulled in there because it’s cold—ha! It’s because a walk-in is pretty soundproof. I will admit that’s what I used to do to my staff. I could yell and scream as loud as I wanted and the people in that dining room wouldn’t hear a thing. Guess what? All of the yelling and screaming didn’t work.

We’re in a high-pressure business, normally, and that pressure is being multiplied by what feels like a million times right now. You’re feeling a lot of stress, pressure, and sometimes emotions take over. What I want you to start thinking of is constant and gentle pressure. What does that mean, exactly?

Think about a fake diamond—there’re many different methods for manufacturing fake diamonds. One method is to apply an enormous amount of pressure in a short period of time. Cubic zirconia stones are made using this method. You get a pretty good result but the result is definitely not a real diamond. We all know that real diamonds are formed over a very long period of time. And while it’s not gentle pressure—diamonds require a lot pressure—the point is they form over a very long period of time.

You can also think of it this way: athletes respond well to a little bit of pressure. Great athletes always step up to the plate. But if you put an athlete, especially a rookie, into the most pressure-packed situation ever, some will rise but most will struggle. These days, most of your staff are rookies.

ADDING VALUE

In our new economy, people simply won’t work for less. They expect to get paid more and receive raises; yet they aren’t willing to do more. It’s safe to say that they likely won’t get paid as much as they think they’re worth.

Why? It’s very simple: how much you’re paid is directly related to the value you add. Your staff isn’t adding value if they’re constantly late, taking days off, not completing their tasks, or simply not doing their job correctly.

Many people adopt an opposite way of thinking: when I get paid more, I will do more. This perspective is completely wrong. It’s your job to teach your team how doing a better job and adding more value will help them reach their goals, NOT YOURS.

This is how you gain their respect. Not by letting them get away with poor behavior, but by believing in them more than they believe in themselves. Help them achieve their goals and clear the path for them to do more and be successful.

THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW

The ultimate moral of this story is that if we don’t change as managers, how can we expect different results from our team? Instead of applying massive amounts of pressure by yelling or screaming, remember to apply constant and gentle pressure to get the results that you want. It’s the difference between being mean and strict and the difference between having happy, long-term team members or constantly posting Now Hiring ads.


Ryan GromfinRyan Gromfin is an author, speaker, chef, restaurateur, and founder of therestaurantboss.com, clickbacon.com, and scalemyrestaurant.com. He is the most followed restaurant coach in the world helping Restaurant Owners and Operators increase profits, improve operations, and scale and grow their businesses.

  • Cuisine Solutions
  • Atosa USA
  • Day & Nite
  • RATIONAL USA
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • Inline Plastics
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • Imperial Dade
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Easy Ice
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • RAK Porcelain
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units