Just this last weekend I was privileged to spend a couple hours of quiet time with a man who had owned restaurants, and managed restaurants for more than thirty years. We discussed the evolution of restaurant management in Canada.

The number one difference this gentleman had seen was the evolution of employee management. When he started he related stories where most people enjoyed their job. Working in a restaurant was a good job. It was easy to hire good help. If you had a job in a restaurant then you didn’t need to worry about loosing your job.

I asked him about waitressing, and he did admit that in the USA wages for waitresses hasn’t increased in decades, while the amount of money people tipped dropped dramatically. He laughed when I mentioned that debit machines now almost forced a tip because if they didn’t most people wouldn’t tip.

I also asked about the fact that kitchen staff who earned higher wages also had a right to 50% of tips. He agreed that there were a lot of factors that went into discord among restaurant staff.

Managing People

When my new colleague started in the restaurant business there were no personnel managers. Everyone knew their jobs, but the restaurant industry was simpler. He use to be the general manager and cook. That was just how things were done. Yes, he admitted that the waitresses didn’t make as much, and he was far more demanding than he would be today, but then, he laughed, they went home after 8 hours. He often worked 10 – 15 hour days.

I asked what the #1 change he has seen in the restaurant industry as it pertains to managers. He had to think about this for a few minutes then he nodded and said that it would need to be in the ‘hoops’ managers jump through to try and reduce employee turnover.

Today’s employees ‘job hop’ more than they did in the 80-90 when the boomers were always striving for a new job. He also admitted that this is the fastest way to have your resume dropped into a waste basket. He said there were 2 things that always made him dismiss a resume.

  1. Jobs where the management candidate left in less than 1 – 2 years, unless contracted.
  2. People who took 1 – 2 years off after university. Or they took a sabbatical from work for any reason other than maternity.

The reason had nothing to do with talent, education, or ability. It had everything to do with attitude. Experience taught him that these people were easily distracted, and often found it hard when it was time to crunch. I suggested that this was rather a broad, general description. He admitted that it was, but if you had to detox after school, where life was easy, then would you need to detox in the middle of a 6-month major marketing or restructuring project. Maybe?

I was still unconvinced. What level of commitment to a job did he expect from someone? He laughed, ‘100%’. While we know that all restaurant managers are stereotypical work-a-holics, as a career development coach, I also understood the value of self-care.

This is where we differed.  As a career and transitional coach I knew the importance of taking care of yourself. He agreed, but he preferred a manager who worked hard, play harder, get it out of your system and then get back to work. Do you really need to take 2 years off to see the world? Why not take 1 – 3 weeks off every year and explore the world that way.

He did have one point. What ‘student’ has enough money after university to see the world? While he did admit that anomalies exist, he said that his management model didn’t favor people who were use to their parents paying their bills.

It was an eye opening and enjoyable evening. I went away with new insight to share with my clients. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself, but your ‘career capital’ is something you can only build once. Your mistakes will come back to haunt restaurant manager candidates decades later.


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