Pre-Opening Support

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QUESTION From: Sandy in Michigan

“I'm looking for some advice. I am opening a new restaurant and I have hired a general manager to run it. Where can I find a list of tasks he can be doing before the restaurant is open for business? I want his help before opening day but it would be very helpful to have a list of his responsibilities before we open vs just an operating one once we are open. I know hiring, training, etc but what else? Thank you!”


My first reaction to this question was one of frustration - because it’s a common question that I most often stems from an owner/operator who is jumping into the industry without any significant experience and basically doesn’t know what to do. I wanted to answer with: “Make a list of all the stuff you have to do and then delegate 90% of it”....

but then I thought of the multitude of Chefs I’ve known who have a ton of experience - in fact, an amount of knowledge that would take more than two lifetimes to impart to me and are some of the most dedicated women & men I know - and yet - when they get in the weeds- their natural instinct is to put their head down and try to push through it. They are the workers. They are the muscle. They are secret weapons of mass destruction on the line and the example of how every staff member and every station on the line should function...but leaders must delegate.

A football coach can walk you through drills during practice and help hold a bag during drills but during the game-coaches coach best from the sidelines.

There are a lot of talented FOH managers turned owners who “manage” the same exact way. Those who bus tables and take orders instead of recognizing the need to tweak the zone coverage on the fly. (Not saying owners and managers shouldn’t bus, run food or assist at the host stand; but there is a propensity for many to get stuck bailing water instead of watching the horizon and filling the hole).

For many of us who have worked their way up through the BOH or FOH Brigade - awareness, skill, responsibility, consistency, resilience and mental fortitude are tested - but the ability to delegate is a hard lane to change into for many...and because I struggled with effective delegation for years - I thought this question deserved not only a little more of my compassion and time - but some additional attention from a group of people here who probably “gets this”.

There’s so much to do before an opening. A friend of mine always says:

“There’s no such thing as a new restaurant. The minute you are open and excepting money you’re a restaurant - period.”

Beyond the need to confirm everything from linen stock (in-house, checked, folded properly and pars quadruple checked) and POS configuration (order screens tested, modifiers working, prices accurate / mirroring menus and printers routing properly) to tastings and recipe/plating cards- the most important thing a GM can assist with is Training. Training. Training.

There’s no such thing as too much hospitality training (and recording / updating of training manuals), mock-service runs, menu training or menu testing.

Additionally, you can never be too organized: from files, forms and handbooks being updated and backed-up on hard drives to crash kits being stocked at every terminal. The facility should be organized as well. Not only to ensure efficient travel paths, flow and/or thru-put but to ensure efficiency & mis on every shelf as well (from BOH to server side stations: if it’s not 100% necessary, it shouldn’t be there).

After Training and organization - You and your management team can't be too familiar with financials (P&L, Pro Forma, inventory methods, costs, margins, ordering and cash handling procedures---all need to be regularly discussed, understood, considered and documented.

Remember - the best way to show your respect is to inspect: when you delegate be sure to follow-up and recognize that things have been done correctly (praise) or find additional opportunities for improvement (coach).

Ideally, a GM will come to you with their own list for prioritizing or suggested prioritization (I would be concerned if they didn’t) but they will rarely take a task away from you if you've taken on too much yourself and will never be able to read your mind... so leave time (or make time) for just hanging out together and talking.  Maintaining open communication starts with just getting used to talking. Share as much as you can - stories, philosophies, other business ideas, strengths, weaknesses, etc...  Brainstorm together. Critique your own restaurant together. Critique other restaurants together. And if you don't already, just gradually get to know each other. Knowing your interests, biggest concerns, fears, pet-peeves, perceptions, values, etc... will make it easier for them to know what you might want them to do when no rule exists or when SOPs conflict.

No matter how much you plan - there will always be surprises. The key is to nail down the basics so that no-one is busy putting out the fires that should have been prevented in the first place when those surprises do pop up.

For a deeper dive into designing a great guest experience check out this article: The Acupuncture of Design.

Good Luck and keep the questions coming (the more specific the better) as there are quite a few experts with whom I discuss these questions and they all have such varied experiences that I’m sure you’ll find us collectively a ready, willing and capable helping hand.