Small Changes That Make a Big Difference

After looking at the potential mistakes regarding temporary staffing, we continue our series by turning to a make-or-break issue in running a successful retail or hospitality business: floor management.

Part 10: Leading From The Floor

If you are the owner or area manager of a chain of stores, bars, clubs or restaurants, the key people on your team are your floor managers.

What makes for a good floor manager in retail or hospitality?

Their responsibility can be summarised with two words: customer experience. Or if we are talking specifically about restaurants, the diner’s experience. All else flows from this.

But of course, a floor manager cannot do everything. That’s where leadership skills come in.

Good floor managers are able to delegate tasks and think on their feet as they address the needs of both customers and the staff that help to deliver that positive customer experience.

So let’s look at the attributes you need to look for and foster in your floor managers.

The basics of floor management

Floor managers must supervise new employees and promote the company culture to staff members. They make sure that workers know how to run cash registers and handle simple customer complaints, either directly themselves or through a trusted and experienced colleague.

A floor manager should have a good overview of all of the functions and activities within an establishment, and how they depend on each other: from store management through the kitchen to waiting and bar staff, for example.

And it goes without saying that they must be able to multi-task, which means being well organised.

The essentials of leadership from the floor

A good manager takes the above duties in his or her stride, but management is not the same thing as leadership. A good leader is the difference between an establishment that is ticking over and doing OK, and one that really thrives.

So here are six essentials of good leadership from the floor:

1. Handling stress

If you are a good manager, then you know how to reduce stress-inducing incidents to the minimum. But they are still going to happen!

Staff shortage through sickness, employee conflicts, orders not being delivered on time, unruly customers, not meeting weekly cashflow targets. There is no end to the things that could cause stress.

But a floor manager must keep a cool head at all times. If the floor manager gets stressed out, so will everyone else on the floor. And that will lose you business.

2. Motivation

A leader motivates the team. But how? The greatest attribute of a motivator is passion for success.

Restaurant and bar managers must be passionate about what they do and determined to succeed. Passion makes things happen. And it’s contagious. We’ll develop this theme in the next article.

3. Love of the brand and knowledge of the product

To be passionate and a motivator, you have to love the brand and its values. A leader is also a brand ambassador, and s/he should motivate the team to be the same. This will help to build brand loyalty among customers, which translates into referrals and repeat business.

Closely related to this is knowledge of the product. You cannot convincingly recommend or promote a dish if you have not tasted it. In a restaurant that means, for example, spending time in the kitchen with the chefs.

4. Social skills

It’s the floor manager who takes the lead in greeting customers and ensuring that they are having a good time. That takes excellent social skills.

A good floor manager knows how to build a rapport with customers quickly, when to ask them if everything is OK, and when to back off.

Customer relationships are paramount, as it is crucial that each person leaves the restaurant looking forward to the opportunity to come back.

If a floor manager gets this right, a lot of it will rub off on other members of staff.

5. Humility

This might seem like an odd one. A good manager has an overview of all the operations within an establishment; a good leader also knows when to pitch in and help.

A leader is always conscious of being the leader of a team, not simply a figurehead or a boss. This not only involves the ability to multi-task, but the willingness to “get your hands dirty” (not literally).

6. Creative entrepreneurship

Even in a franchise set-up, where there are very clear guidelines governing management’s freedom of action, there is room for creative entrepreneurship.

Introducing new ideas is a crucial part of leadership. When you try out new ideas, staff will stay motivated and customers will keep coming back. It might be a new dish or a special offer or something as simple as rearranging the tables so that you get more footfall.

Of course, not everything will work. Creative entrepreneurship is more art than science, so it is important to know when to “fail fast”, i.e. pull the plug when something is not going to work, and when it is worth persevering.

So long as you stay on brand and know the limits, a bit of creativity will help you stay ahead of competition.

In the next article, we will expand further on the issue of staff motivation and engagement.


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