The Troubling State of the Restaurant General Manager | FSR magazine

It’s hard to find two people who agree on the state of the restaurant industry. That’s not so much a matter of politics as it’s just a reality of split conditions. As the economy has improved in recent years, so has consumer sentiment. In turn, restaurant spending is up, checks are rising, and swaths of brands are enjoying positive sales growth after years of flat to negative runs.

However, when you dissect why this is happening, the picture isn’t so cut and dry. The improvement has come largely through a tightening labor market that has greatly reduced unemployment and pushed for higher wage growth. At 3.8 percent unemployment, it’s the toughest labor market in five decades. You would have to look back to December 1969 to find a comparable figure. And it’s been steady. The rate has tracked 4 percent or lower since March 2018.

In this bursting dynamic, restaurants face the reality that they can’t just cut an entry-level paycheck and expect to fully staff restaurants anymore. To attract employees and retain high performers, the value proposition must be compelling. If not, restaurants will lose quality employees to brands with more attractive workplaces. That includes other industries, fellow restaurants, and the pull of the gig economy, where employees, young generations especially, value flexible hours and multiple opportunities over the stability and security of full-time positions.

Industry insights platform TDn2K tackled this issue in a new report geared specifically at the restaurant general manager. More than any role perhaps, the GM is front-and-center in today’s staffing crisis. Beyond the operator-down challenge of keeping good leaders, these staff members feel the direct impact of every crack in your brand’s staffing armor. Not fully staffed? The GM will absorb that stress, and likely start dipping their toe in calmer waters. “Nowadays, they also need to worry about something as elemental as having enough people on the floor.” TDn2K said. “To do this, GMs are often the ones that step into other roles.”

Complicated operations and tech that doesn’t work (or no tech whatsoever)? GMs will be forced to spend too much time on administrative tasks and menial obligations, and not enough on leadership. And so the challenges begin.