It was the big question behind discussion at the recent Restaurant Leaders Summit in Sydney. You don’t have to be Superwoman,  just a real person making lots of people happy and producing a great income.

There’s more to leading a business than having your name on the door. Sure, you might be the boss and do more hours than anyone else, but that’s not what creates strong relationships with suppliers, staff and – most importantly – your customers. To ensure you’re getting the most from both yourself and those around you, make sure you’re a true leader. This means you’re:

  1. Strong on relationships, and not just with customers – it’s amazing how many people we meet, greet and connect with over the years. You’re a hustler, deal maker, a new friend, and above all, just a nice person.
  2. A motivator – the creator of a great culture. It’s no accident that more and more businesses now talk about their People & Culture Dept instead of Human Resources. A positive culture doesn’t happen by accident, but with hard work and leadership.
  3. Fearless and flexible with employees – cheering, coaching, correcting, recognising talent, planning for changes, not too shocked by the unexpected, firm and fair, father, mother, aunty, uncle – you create a strong moral family.
  4. A good trainer – and you delegate most of the training work to others. Whenever we hear the T word we get nervous about time and cost – but there are people on your staff who would love to run the 10 minute training sessions and will make the time in between busy shifts.
  5. A mix of decisive and laid back – sometimes it’s just a matter of waiting for the bride to come back to you on a quote. Or the supplier to recognise how good a customer you will be. Other times you need to move fast and start wheeling and dealing.
  6. Don’t let stress get you down – and you see how it can eat into your staff, especially your kitchen staff – they don’t deserve this. Leaders look after their own health and the health of people around them – ‘healthy food’ isn’t just for fussy customers.
  7. Chase new technology and find ways to use it – why do we have a reputation for being dinosaurs? Leaders use new tech to manage their numbers, share great photos on Instagram, manage menu changes on a shared Google Doc and keep an eye on new trends mentioned on Twitter.
  8. On top of the numbers – and you have systems set up to have these at your fingertips whenever needed. You’re proficient with your online accounting, online rostering, recipe costing, and you’re on top of any credit card deals that might be better than your existing one.
  9. Have a feel for marketing and list building – email, SMS and of course social media. You don’t just say ‘I leave that to my daughter’ (How magical it is to watch customer spending and behaviour change as a result of the marketing moves we make?)
  10. Entrepreneurial and ready to take risks – carefully. A new style of email newsletter, diving into Snapchat, trying sous vide cooking methods, renting a combi oven for testing, redoing the website and testing a pop-up concept.

Finally, good restaurant leaders make sure they are profitable, because that gives them the freedom to innovate, pay decent salaries, replace the stoves with induction cookers, redo the website, get a professional photo shoot done, and train staff. And have those wonderful two weeks in Bali twice a year.

The Restaurant Leaders Summit, a one day conference for restaurateurs, chefs and other foodservice professionals, comprised 16 sessions, each one sharing invaluable advice on how operators can increase their profitability and efficiency. Some of the country’s most respected chefs and restaurant operators shared tips on retaining staff members, how to grow your marketing database, and how to fund your expansion.

If you missed out on the Restaurant Leaders Summit, videos from the day are available to purchase here.


Ken Burgin is founder of Profitable Hospitality,


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