Through her work with Restaurants Elevated, Anna helps restaurants take their business to the next level.
She has spent over a decade diving into all areas of the industry, so we were excited to hear her thoughts on what it takes to be an effective leader. As she points out in this interview, it all comes down to your motivation...
Could you tell me a little bit about what you do as a coach at Restaurants Elevated?
Yes of course. I might give you a little bit of background first, to explain how I ended up doing what I’m doing now. I started off in the hospitality industry as a bartender in 2002. I came to the United States from Europe, and didn’t speak any English whatsoever. Within two years I was managing bars, and then I became a restaurant owner on my own.
It was an incredible experience, but the restaurant didn’t survive because I didn’t know how to actually build a business. I did know how to run a restaurant, but not how to build a business.
"I ask questions like: 'why are you in the business?' It’s crucial to know what their why is."
After that I moved to Miami, where I worked for a multi-unit restaurant chain. That was an awesome experience as well, and it solidified my knowledge of the industry. I stayed with them for about 10 years, before I realized working for someone else wasn’t the path I wanted to take after all. I knew I wanted to be in the industry, I just didn’t know how else to do it, and I didn’t want to own my own restaurant after the first fiasco.
So I decided to look for something where I could combine my professional capital and my passion. And I landed on one idea that really appealed to me. I thought, hey, what if I could help other businesses take things to the next level, maximize their profits, and just build better restaurants?
I came across Donald Burns [The Restaurant Coach], and asked him how I could build a business like his. He said, “I would actually like to certify restaurant coaches to do just what I do. Would you be interested?” He kind of showed me the ropes and gave me a partial program of his, and that was my guiding point to get me where I am today.
So what does your management training involve?
When I do leadership development with management teams, I really start with the owner, and I deal with him one-on-one. Culture always flows down, it never flows up. Everything starts at the top.
I ask questions like: “why are you in the business?” It’s crucial to know what their why is. If they’re in the business for the wrong reasons, like “I just want to make money, cash out and leave,” or “I thought it would be a great idea to have a place where I can show off my culinary skills”, then that’s not strong enough.
"People listen to managers out of fear or because they have the title, but positional leaders never make true leaders."
If they are in the business for the right reasons, then at least I know the why is there. Then I determine what their core values are by asking them things like “what kind of business do you want to run? What kind of things you stand for? What kind of things do you definitely not stand for?” After I know their true motivations I can show them how to lead their team.
And that’s the tricky part, because there are some leaders who are born and some who are molded or created. You have to bridge the gap between people who are just managers and people who are leaders. People listen to managers, but people follow leaders; people do not follow managers. When I work with management teams I work on developing them as leaders.
What personality traits make a good manager?
There are so many different attributes you have to have. I would say it comes down to three things: wisdom, courage and kindness combined.
If you don’t have the wisdom, then you really can’t lead, and if you don’t have the courage to lead, you can’t lead, and if you don’t have the kindness, if you’re in it for yourself, then you’re not a leader. Leadership is about others, it’s not about you.
How should a newbie manager prepare for their first shift?
If I was a new manager preparing for my first shift, I would really find out who I was in business with. I would ask myself “What’s the reason I want to work in this restaurant?” When I knew that, and I was sure that I wanted to work in that company, I would find out everything about the owners – including their why and their values – so I could contribute to their vision.
What is your number one tip when it comes to grooming and presentation for managers?
Grooming and presentation is everything. People don’t know you. They see you first and then they meet you. You actually represent your company, you don’t even represent yourself. It’s really important to fall within the guidelines of that company.
When I was working in my own restaurant, I noticed that my team would do 50% of what I did right and 150% of what I did wrong. That’s just how it is. So when you slack off, your team will slack off. When your presentation is not up to par, you’re giving the message that it’s okay to have that standard.
What are your tips for scheduling employees?
Part of being a leader involves considering the people that you’re leading. The restaurant industry is a transient industry; it’s not something that many servers aspire to become involved in for the long run. When you’re scheduling hourly employees, you have to keep their best interests at heart.
"Culture always flows down, it never flows up. Everything starts at the top."
Obviously it’s important to have the business’s best interests at heart as well, but here’s the thing: most of the time your staff are going to be part-time employees. It’s really important to let them keep their flexibility so they love their jobs, so they don’t dread coming into work.
Do you have any advice for staff who would like to become restaurant managers?
The biggest advice I can give is to really understand why you are in business. If you become a manager thinking that you’re just going to have an easier time or make more money, you’re not going to thrive, you’re not going to be respected. It’s just going to be another gig for you and it’s going to be a fiasco.
To be a manager you really have to accept the fact that you’re becoming a leader. It doesn’t matter if you’re still getting paid hourly, if you’re on salary; none of that matters. You now have a tremendous responsibility and you’re a driving force behind that shift, behind that company. You have to think like a leader, not a manager.
Like I said earlier, people listen to managers out of fear or because they have the title, but positional leaders never make true leaders. If you want to be a true team leader, it all comes back to those three things: wisdom, kindness and courage.