Building a respectful, collaborative, and positive work environment is what Chef Paul Boehmer is all about.
Paul is the Co-Owner and Chef at Boehmer in Toronto, Canada. After two and a half years of apprenticing under internationally renowned Chef Michael Stadtlander, Paul opened up his own farm-to-table restaurant in 2009, with a focus on serving French food, with a focus on flavor. He was excited to put his restaurant management skills he learned to the test.
But what’s special about Paul’s restaurant is not just the locally sourced and fresh food that’s brought in from farms within Canada’s borders, it’s also the excitement and curiosity of the customers that are ready to try a new cuisine.
“There’s a new generation of people coming out to dine that are just learning about it,” Paul explains. “So it’s kind of like putting things out and trying to educate people… this is a French cuisine background, these are the sauces, this is why we do it.”
And while there’s not a day that goes by where Paul isn’t passionate about what he does, keeping his employees as motivated and focused as himself has definitely been a challenge.
Strategies for Retaining Employees
The following are some of Paul’s top skills of a restaurant manager, leading a team, and ultimately retaining employees. These restaurant management skills are so important during a time when nearly half of restaurants are having trouble hiring and retaining employees, according to the “Restaurant Readiness Index,” a PYMENTS and Paytronix survey of 519 restaurant managers. That’s why it’s so important to learn Paul’s essential skills of a restaurant manager – to be consistent, manage with respect, and to stay cool and positive.
1. Always Be Consistent
One of the biggest challenges that Paul faces is keeping staff working together as a team to provide a consistent guest experience “If food is okay one time, but not so great the next, that’s a big problem, he says.
To keep the guest experience consistent, Paul trains staff to help them understand how to confidently explain French cuisine to new guests who are trying it for the first time. And with the right training from the start, Paul notes that employee turnover drops and staff retention is strengthened. “I observe everything.” Paul explains. “The servers are so well trained, that when they go up to tables, they know exactly what they’re talking about.”
For instance, if the staff actually miss something on a plate, like a garnish, by mistake, they will immediately notify the chef to fix the problem. By getting everybody to work together as part of a team, as opposed to having the front of house and back of house siloed, the restaurant operates as smoothly as possible.
2. Manage With Respect
Training is one thing, but fostering a kind and respectful work environment is another must-have restaurant management skill for Paul.
“Kindness is a very important part of running a restaurant.” Paul explains. “Be kind, and take care of your staff. While professionalism is important, your character, your personality, and how you carry yourself, and how you talk to others is too.”
These are the traits that Paul looks for when hiring new staff – folks that want to learn and want to take on what the restaurant is offering. And when they’re in the right mindset, the team can be a lot of fun to work with, he says.
“If they respect me, and I respect them, we really have very few incidents.” And that’s what gets Paul’s staff to stick around. When staff are happy, and get positive feedback from both management and guests, they have few reasons to leave.
“You have to do a lot of training and stay ontop of them all the time.” Paul advises fellow restaurateurs.
3. Stay Cool and Positive
Paul’s final tip for effective restaurant management skills? Learning to stay cool no matter what is the ultimate restaurant management skill.
“Pay attention to how you’re managing, because this way, no one will be afraid to come and talk to you.” says Paul. “Some chefs and managers are very strict and hardcore, and then people are afraid to go talk to them. I can’t have that.”
Paul also recognizes that times have changed and that the restaurant industry is moving away from a more harsh leadership style. “Years ago, you’d go into a kitchen and the chef would tear a piece of your hide off because you messed something up, and then the next thing you know, everyone is cowering. But it shouldn’t be like that anymore,” he says.
“To keep the staff that I have, I have to keep them positive and happy to be there too. If people are getting depressed and everyone’s upset, they can’t work.” Paul explains. “If you’re a leader, you have to be the positive one. You have to be the strong one that helps get everybody through it. And if you don’t, then you’re done.”
As a restaurateur, you may also want to figure out what restaurant manager skills are important to you. That means identifying what skills and characteristics you want to embody as a leader and making sure to lay it all out in your restaurant training manual. Hopefully, these tips from one of Canada’s most renowned chefs will provide a starting point for some of the skills of a restaurant manager that will help keep your staff satisfied and wanting to stick around for years to come. As we learn from Paul, working on your restaurant manager skills means not letting challenges become debilitating. Being a leader means fighting your way to keep cool, be gentle, and manage with respect to create a collaborative team.