running a restaurant team

Your team: the most important investment you’ll make this year

By Matt Rolfe

Technology and innovation have dramatically changed our industry over the last decade and the reality is that the rate of change is accelerating faster than ever before. Whether it is ordering from a touch screen at a McDonald’s, the rapid expansion of online reservation systems, or opting to train and induct staff using videos and smartphone technology, the one thing we know for sure is that rapid continuous change is here. My question for you is: Are you “personally” ready for it?

Personally, I know that I am not yet the leader I need to be in order to support the rate of change in my own company over the next six to 12 months.  To succeed I need to study, innovate and put into to action what I learn. From spending 15 years studying and working with top performing hospitality leaders and companies, I know that the top performers in every industry are those who are constantly growing themselves and their team, while also growing their business.

Leading by example

We know that personal development and growth is not a new concept, but we see it in a variety of forms. Mark Cuban reads three hours every day in an effort to grow himself, while Bill Gates has taken weeks away from his business every year without technology to invest in his personal development. I can share with you dozens more examples of how the best leaders in the world spend an incredible amount of time growing their businesses in addition to growing themselves. The undeniable fact is if you want to improve your business or your performance in your role, then you need to make a significant and strong investment in yourself.

I spend every day supporting the growth and development of leaders in our industry; forcing them to take the time and space to invest in themselves so that they can grow their team and their people.  When I think about hospitality ownership and management, I truly see that our job is to grow leaders. Studies have shown that up to 80 per cent of hospitality owners and managers joined the industry in a front-line position and have limited to no formal leadership training. These people have become masters of their craft, but over time their positions became less about doing the work and more about coaching others to do the work. This is not an easy task, as every day I hear from people that their partner, manager or staff will not do what they are asked or that they’re unsure their team has the technology or “tools” to do their job right. Sound familiar?

I want you to consider one question: What is the annual budget you have set aside for your personal development and for the development of your managers and staff? When I ask owners and managers what their budget is, the answer I hear most often is zero, nothing, zilch! Some answer that they do have a budget which is centered largely around a conference or event. As I’ve stated before, leadership development has to be an ongoing and consistent process, not an isolated event.

Questions you need to answer:

How will you invest in yourself this year?

First let’s start with you. Regardless of your position in our industry, you are a leader. The very fact that you’re taking the time to read this article proves it. What books are you going to read, what conference will you attend, what peer groups will you join, what coaching will you engage in? Remember, we are not looking for environments that allow us to become better at our craft; we need tools to become better leaders.

How will you invest in your people?

After you invest in your own development, how will you invest in your team? Do you see your duties as being a developer of leaders? How much easier would your job be if your team had the knowledge and experience to truly lead your business, staff and customers? Can you take the lessons you have learned and pay it forward? Can you start a leadership-focused book club? Can you invest in leadership coaching for your team? There are so many options here and one of them is doing nothing. In today’s competitive market, I can speak from experience that that is not the road you want to go down. Consider what expense item you could cut that would allow you the funds to invest in your team.

How will you invest in your community?

Think of this as investing in your local restaurant community or the actual community around your location. It has been proven that once people’s basic financial needs are met, their primary goal in the workplace shifts to growth and development. Your next manager is out there, and your next host or server could be eating in your restaurant this weekend.  Investing in your community is the right thing to do while being a great source of recruiting and sharing your love for your industry.

I love the direction and path that technology and innovation is taking our industry, but I challenge you not to invest in another simple tool or solution without investing in yourself and your team first. If you want to know where to start, email me at I would be happy to send your team and yourself tools from the top books to read as well as a list of other resources that can support your journey.

Invest in yourself and your team and you will never see a stronger ROI!

About the author:

Matt Rolfe is the CEO of Barmetrix Global, a hospitality coaching and consulting firm that helps clients multiply profits, maximize staff engagement and deliver remarkable guest services by design. Contact Matt at to book speaking engagements or to discuss Barmetrix Services. For more information, call 416-367-2263.

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