10 Characteristics of a Successful Foodservice Operator

Why waitstaff should be called salespeople

Master these 10 characteristics and your foodservice operation is more likely to thrive.

I have met well over a thousand restaurateurs over the past 15 years in my role with Gordon Food Service. When someone is doing things right, I embrace the opportunity to learn from them. What makes them a good foodservice operator? Why are they succeeding when many fail? 

I believe it comes down to certain characteristics, or traits. The good news is that these traits are things anyone can learn and master. It just takes a little self-awareness and constant practice.

1. Communicating clearly

Successful foodservice operators are clear and concise when giving directions and motivating their staff. They give reasons for why things should be done and constantly reinforce positive outcomes. Issues are tackled immediately, staff meetings are held weekly and pre-shift meetings are the norm. Staff input is encouraged, listened to and often implemented.

2. Thinking creatively

These individuals tend to generate and embrace new ideas and innovative ways of doing things. Frequent challengers of the status quo, they adapt to change in resourceful ways and willingly accept calculated risks. While creativity is vital, highly creative foodservice operators may need to guard against taking unnecessary risks, changing merely for the sake of change and rejecting well-tested approaches.

3. Taking a hands-on approach

Working both the front and back of house, the successful operators I’ve encountered would never ask anyone to do something they would not do themselves. By fully understanding all aspects of their business, they are capable of stepping into any role or situation with ease and avoid being held “hostage” by employees due to lack of knowledge. 

4. Being proactive

They use their supplier’s resources to access industry information and forecast price fluctuations. Accordingly, they flex their menu to take advantage of seasonal buys and avoid items that may be spiking in price. Additionally, they pay attention to new legislation and other external issues beyond their control, and budget their prime costs accordingly. 

5. Applying influence

These individuals are eager to take charge and are comfortable exerting leadership and providing direction. They are careful to avoid abusing power or coming off as intimidating. That’s because they understand nobody likes to work for a “my way or the highway” boss, but employees admire a confident, influential work style.

6. Adopting a “servant” mentality

Simply put, this is doing whatever it takes to make the guests’ experience the best it can be. They want patrons to leave feeling like their expectations were exceeded and are willing to go above and beyond to make that happen.

7. Being a provider

Successful managers know the kitchen cannot create quality dishes without the appropriate equipment and products, nor can the servers sell a new menu if they don’t know what the dishes on it taste like. Strong managers make sure team members have the right tools and training to get the job done.

8. Acting independently

Successful people exhibit autonomy, have a sense of courage and engage in self-directed activities. They chart their own course. However, they understand it’s impossible and risky to do it all. Fiercely independent people may hesitate to seek help from others or admit vulnerability. Avoid being the lone wolf and delegate and accept support when appropriate.

9. Staying focused

Leaders hone in on the task at hand while maintaining an eye on the big picture. By having clear priorities and defining what is truly important to the success of the business, successful operators avoid wasting time and energy and don’t get distracted by constant options. Clear policies and procedures allow them to establish a level of accountability within their staff. 

10. Embracing collaboration

These individuals act cooperatively to foster win-win interactions with others and strive to accomplish goals through teamwork. As operators build and manage their teams, collaboration is essential. They maintain team harmony while guarding against giving in too easily or hesitating to take an authoritative stance when the need arises.

These 10 characteristics probably come as no surprise to you. Consider each of them as they relate to your operation and the role you play within it to see where your strengths lie and where you have opportunities for improvement.

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Want more secrets to successfully managing your staff. See our other articles on the subject.


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