About Ken:

Ken McGarrie is the cofounder of Korgen Hospitality, a nationwide consulting firm dedicated to helping restauranteurs reach their absolute potential with effective leadership and maximum profitability. For the past two decades, he has helmed many successful restaurants, bars, and entertainment-based venues with a relentless focus on anticipatory service, staff empowerment, and attentive hospitality. Ken has helped launch new concepts and train hospitality leaders throughout the U.S. and Canada. Learn more at www.korgenhospitality.com.

We were incredibly lucky to have Ken stop by and share his thoughts on all things restaurant management fresh off the publishing of his new book, The Surprise Restaurant Manager.  This is more than a great read, it is a manual on how and how not to manage and effective food-service team.  It’s something we wish we would have had 20 years ago, but we will take it today nonetheless.   This is the best management playbook going!

Segment 1:  Managing Through Emotion vs. Data

“I think and I feel are effective in marriage counseling” but they are not something you should manage a staff with. 

Effective management stems primarily from data, not emotion.  Intuition is incredibly important and should not be eliminated, but it should not be the sole driver in the decision-making process either. 

“You are on their team, giving them clear direction and detailed strategies on how to win. I’m not sure that the Bulls would have won so many championships if Phil Jackson’s locker room speeches were no more helpful than “I feel you aren’t giving your best. I think you guys should try harder.” Doesn’t really do much. Focus on data and take an active role in your teams’ improvement, as all of you are—or should be—focused on a common goal.”

Thankfully, we have plenty of data available to us through our POS systems and even our reservation platforms.  KPIs such as check average, tip averages, ticket times, punctuality, complaint rates, and table turn times can help us effectively gage employee performance.  Ultimately, the use of data while mitigating the emotional response will lead us down a road of fairness and consistency in the handling of our employees.  

Segment 2:  Not Absorbing Negativity

“As with many professions, you will experience pressure as a restaurant manager. It can complicate your job and take you to places you don’t want to go.”  It’s a stressful gig, however, the amount of stress we bear in these positions is truly up to us.  Sure, there are certain things that out of our control, but by managing those things that are in our control, we lessen the impact that the “uncontrollable” have on us!

“You are never going to change the behavior of others, only the way you allow them to affect you. In a moment of frustration and anger, if you were to take a single step back from the situation, you would begin to see why a guest or employ might act a certain way.  When you take one step back, you don’t focus on the surface aggression as much as see the disappointment that lies beneath. Your frustration with the conversation will instinctively be replaced with pity. You will still have to gratuitously apologize, but since you are viewing the exchange with compassion, you won’t internalize negative feelings about it.”

Segment 3: How to Handle Online Reviews

“You have to abandon the desire to be right.”  As they say, perception is reality, and there is little chance of you arguing someone into submission. 

“The goal in delivering effective responses is not to prove your point but to acknowledge the guests’ disappointment, no matter how incorrect.”  While this can be incredibly challenging, it’s ultimately what leads you to the mutually beneficial ground of working towards an adequate solution. 

Taking the review to a more private, intimate conversation allows both sides of the issue to feel engaged and safe, which promotes honesty.  Like gardening, you will not truly get rid of the weeds unless you get to the root, and problem solving is no different.  Getting to that honest root of the problem can quickly expedite the issue at hand.

Sometimes you just have to set your ego aside, humanize the process and engage personally. 

After all, this sacrifice is for the sake of success!

You can also find Ken McGarrie on:

Full Comp with Josh Kopel Mastering Management During a Labor Crisis: Author Ken McGarrie. Season 4: Episode 25

Restaurant Strategy with Chip Klose Navigating the Staffing Crisis with Restaurant Consultant, Ken McGarrie Episode #122

Restaurant Rockstars Podcast The Surprise Restaurant Manager – Ken McGarrie Co-Founder of Korgen Hospitality Group Episode #253


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