Advice to an interim restaurant GM

Here is a reply I once posted to an assistant manager’s inquiry from a foodservice operation. It deals with a common situation in the food service industry. One that I have not been asked for advice on before, but one that I do have a strong opinion about, especially considering the initial response of other advisors. I think it was an important piece of advice.

“I have quick question…For the past 3 weeks have been the acting GM and have not been compensated for it. I am a team player, but was told that it will be another 12 weeks before they can get another GM trained and ready and that I have to continue in the same role until they find one. Is this right?”

Initial responses directed the person to quit and look for a job that paid what the person thought they were worth. I have a much different take on this situation and thought I would share it. I tend to be pretty straight forward with my opinions and apologize if it doesn’t sound sugar coated.


3 weeks filling in at a GM position doesn’t qualify you to be a GM. Every employee honestly believes they can outperform their boss, whether it’s the restaurant business or any other. That’s human nature. The truth of the matter is that most employees understand no more of their bosses job than what they know how to do themselves. This creates the picture that their boss is not working as hard as them because their boss is not accomplishing the volume of the same activities that the employee does. Thus creating the appearance to the employee that they can do their bosses job better.

An interim position as a GM does not require you to perform all of the duties required of a GM. As GM, what steps have you taken toward the restaurants long term planning goals? What are you doing as GM to increase the revenue of your store? Are you planning the stores marketing strategy? As GM in the last three weeks, what have you done to broaden your restaurants role in the community? Have you been attending Chamber meetings and networking with other area business people to help develop a plan to further your business community’s role in your local area government? What are you doing as interim GM to safeguard your owners against liabilities such as worker’s comp, unemployment insurance costs, lawsuits. Are you performing the restaurants safety plan audits to ensure compliance and reporting the results to the owners? Are you maintaining accurate day to day employee records and answering Department of Labor inquiries as to the status of terminated employees to reduce unnecessary payment of unemployment benefits? Have you started on next year’s financial budget? It’s September now, time to start planning. Do you know what percentages your restaurant has for goals on labor, COG’s? Do you know what COG’s are? Can you read a P&L, really? Can you look at last year’s P&L and know which expenses were out of line and where you can save? Do you know what is acceptable to your owners to plan for as an acceptable increase in sales? Do you know what market prices are acceptable for every item you buy in the restaurant? Do you know if you’re getting ripped off or getting a good deal? What do you do if you are getting ripped off? Are you capable of negotiating a contract with a new purveyor? Do you know how prices for your food items or other expenses are calculated with the companies you do business with? Have you familiarized yourself with pricing structures and payment terms with every company your restaurant has a contract with? Are you familiar with every report required of you as a GM? Are you completing the restaurants Accounts Payable logs, coding invoices for payment, auditing payroll to ensure accurate employee compensation? This is only a short, short list of the GM’s actual responsibilities.

The point here is this, as an assistant, you don’t yet understand what it takes to be a GM. That is why the owners are searching for someone else to fill this position rather than just promoting you. They’re not just idiots who are oblivious to your presence. Believe me, it’s been discussed whether or not they could just promote you. Day to day operations are the responsibility of the staff. They’re only 1/3 of the real responsibilities involved in running a restaurant. A GM who spends all their time concentrating on daily operations is an ineffective GM and most likely overworking themselves. So don’t expect it from the position.

You are in a position of opportunity right now. You have two choices:

1) Let your ignorance lead your actions and assume a negative position. Get mad because you think you are doing a GM’s job and not getting paid for it. Approach the owners from this negative position and create a negative image of yourself to them. Most likely you will quit or get fired when things don’t go your way. You will create a red flag on your resume. “Didn’t see eye to eye with owner” is not something you want to list as your reason for leaving.

2) Look for favorable outcomes that could happen and take a positive position to attack your situation. Ask the owners for a detailed GM’s job description so you can do the best job possible until they find a permanent replacement. Learn everything you can about job tasks you have never had to perform. Take on the tasks you know the most about and demonstrate your ability to the owners to do more than just day to day operations. Gain experience. Your positive actions will show the owners how valuable you are. They could possibly even decide you have enough potential and the right attitude to train into a GM position at that location. Maybe you’ll be the first consideration for GM at their next venture after you have more experience. Maybe they are ignorant fools and you can use this experience to pad your resume in the search for a GM position elsewhere. “Offered a better position” is something acceptable to list as a reason for leaving.

There are many positive outcomes possible here. Think about your future and your reputation and take the positive approach. Negative people are doomed to a life of being unappreciated, overworked, underpaid, and generally miserable whether it’s only imagined or a self fulfilling prophecy.

Opportunities in any occupation are created through adversity, a negative situation. The best outcome is not created with another negative but rather a larger positive. Be the larger positive.