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Irrational and illogical management causes untold losses every year all over the world.

The majority of restaurant managers fail to approach complaints, operational problems, planning and purchasing in a logical fashion. Such failures end up being extremely costly, but sadly, general managers and often boards of directors accept such shortcomings as inevitable.

Managers are paid to make logical, financially viable decisions and solve problems using good judgement to facilitate the smooth flow of the operation. Reasoning is an important process, which anyone can acquire by a short formal education. It is one of the most important factors in making rational decisions. The absence of conscientious, systematic problem analysis and decision making causes inefficiency and waste of resources. It also results in failure to set clear objectives and performance standards. Successful managers plan their meeting for optimal productivity. Meetings must be well organized and controlled; deviations from the agenda must not be tolerated. Operational meetings must be planned to inform rank and file. Suggestions must be solicited and duly studied.The definition of problem is “an unwanted effect, something to be corrected or removed”, that which cannot be solved before establishing its cause.      Every problem, almost always, has only one cause. Problem solving must follow a logical process and careful analysis. It requires skill to apply theory to practice.

A correct decision in one operation may prove to be less effective, even incorrect in another. The decision maker must be fully familiar with the operation, problem area and employees involved.

     Only correct and relevant information must be used in decision-making. Good managers always evaluate daily, the effectiveness of their decision to make corrections. Often, managers make the most convenient, but poor and costly decisions. Poor decisions may appear to solve a problem, but eventually the problem will reappear with more devastating repercussions.

     Young, inexperienced managers rely on technology, and conveniently forget (ignore) the importance of human factors like service standard, product quality, plate presentation and guest satisfaction, all of which cannot be quantified and must be fine-tuned constantly.

     A manager must know precisely the level of performance of all employees. In very large operations, general managers rely on division managers to make decisions on their behalf, then provide guidance when incorrect reasoning was employed. Correct decisions can be made based only on facts.

     Problem solving and analysis are two entirely different processes. A problem indicates deviation from the standard, and usually a change of some kind causes it.

In order to analyse a problem, seven steps are required:

  • Established standards
  • A problem is caused by a deviation from the standard
  • The deviation must be identified, accurately located and described
  • There is always something distinguishing about the deviation from the standard
  • The cause of the problem is an unwanted change
  • Possible causes are deduced from changes established
  • The deviation(s) explains the cause(s) i.e., cooking time for a certain ingredient is three minutes, if cooked for five minutes will result in a problem.

A problem may have several solutions. The decision maker must select the best which is linked to the scope of his/her experience.

  • Here are the steps required to make a good decisions;
  • Establish objectives
    Classify objectives and prioritise
  • Develop alternatives
    Evaluate alternatives against objectives
  • Select the best alternative
  • Test alternatives for possible adverse consequences
  • Control adverse effects by taking affirmative action.


     It is crucial to ensure that all service procedures and quality standards are well thought out, feasible, and communicated to all concerned. Needless to say, staff must be trained according to standards.

     Managers too require standards to follow. If unavailable, they must develop them and seek the approval of their superior.

     Each problem must be solved individually. Several problems (related or not) cannot be solved simultaneously, and jumping from one to another may be an exercise in futility.

     If several problems exist, all must be prioritised and solved in sequence. Vaguely described and/or perceived problems cannot be solved satisfactorily.

     Restaurants purchase a variety of goods and services; raw, semi-processed, and fully prepared. A small change in the production of any plate or delivery results in a substandard product. Internal problems can be solved much faster than external.

     Restaurant management requires a great deal of detail and managers must be familiar with all possible problems in order to analyse and solve them

     A common mistake is jumping to conclusions. Incorrect identification of a problem leads to wrong decisions, and eventually to a major crisis.

     When a guest complains about the quality of steak served the manager must never dismiss it by simply saying that the guest’s palate is off. Instead, immediately the complaint must be verified and corrected. Some restaurants exchange any plate as a matter of policy.

     If the steak fails to conform to standards, the problem is practically external, but receiving (internal) also carries a good portion of the blame.

     Here the responsibility lies with both the receiver and the grill cook for failing to detect the deviation. On the other hand, if the overall beef quality on the market is poor, management must decide – drop the item from the menu, or inform each guest about the quality available.

     Decisions must be made to solve present and potential problems. Restaurants are hectic work places, where often decisions must be made quickly. Timeliness is crucial.

     On occasion a temporary decisions may have to be made, i.e. switching fresh to frozen salmon.

     Managers must be able to anticipate potential problems; promoting a line worker to a supervisory position requires due diligence. The background of the individual must be checked thoroughly, and his/her decision making skills verified before the promotion.

     Managing a modern, fast paced restaurant requires knowledgeable, compassionate, farsighted individuals capable of quick analysis, and correct decision making ability

     Service and quality standards are moving targets and change with the evolving market place. Are you ready?

Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu


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