Managing Management: What to Look for in a Great Manager

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Earlier this year, Shane Baughman was recognized as Manager of the Year for a Buffalo Wings & Rings location in Bedford, Ind.

Of particular note was how Baughman takes care of his employees, has immersed himself into the local community, and boosted sales.

Ann Bennett, who co-owns the restaurant, hired Baughman to work in the kitchen of her Jasper, Ind., Buffalo Wings & Rings, then promoted him to the manager of Bedford store.

“I knew him well, I knew he was reliable, and I didn’t want to lose him, so I offered him the job,” she says. His punctuality, dedication, and eagerness to learn while he was working in the kitchen were what persuaded Bennett that Baughman would be good for the job. “Shane would always ask questions but also offer suggestions on how to improve.”

Finding and retaining a great manager doesn’t come easily. But having a manager is essential. It allows bar and restaurant operators to step back a little, easing their pressure, and maybe take some time off. A great, reliable manager provides a different perspective on the business, as well as skills owners/operators may not have.

When seeking a manager, it’s important to look for a will-do attitude over a can-do attitude, says Steve Zagor, former dean and lead instructor of restaurant and culinary management at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City.

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“The will-dos are far more important,” says Zagor. “Does the person have an easy smile, an empathy, a charm, a relationship-building personality that will be an asset to the employees, who will then go out and please the guests because they’re working in a positive environment?”

While much of Bennett’s reasoning came down to her gut feeling, she says Baughman is “genuine and caring, and truly cared about the success of my business.” She also knew he was eager to climb the ranks. “If you find someone who cares about the success of your business, you need to keep them.”

It was Baughman’s personality and eagerness, combined with the respect he showed for his employees, that impressed Bennett. Having worked for the Army, he wanted this experience to be completely different—devoid of yelling and screaming. Instead, he treats his staff as family, to the extent that some visit him at home. He treats customers in the same way, and he’s careful never to bring bad moods to work. “If I’m in a bad mood, the employees and the customers feed off that,” says Baughman.

Once he had taken on the manager role and Bennett realized he was competent, she backed away—gradually but fairly early on, she says. Now, she barely visits that store. “I don’t need to because he treats it as his own.”

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The success Baughman is having is reflected in the sales of this Buffalo Wings & Rings location, which were up 9.9 percent over the prior year in 2018. Much of this is due to the connections he builds with individual customers and the local community, Bennett says. He shakes hands and makes conversation all day long, and every other Monday he holds a fundraiser, donating five percent of sales to a local community cause.

“You need to get involved in your community,” says Baughman. “My theory is you take care of your backyard. And people see that, and they appreciate it.”

Having Baughman in this role has helped Bennett realize what she’d be looking for if she were ever looking for another manager. “It’s imperative to have the right person in the right place,” she says, adding that the top three traits she’d look for in a manager are trustworthiness, great communication skills, and reliability.

Top Traits for Bar/Restaurant Managers

1. Physical stamina

2. Upbeat attitude

3. Consistency

4. Problem-solving skills

5. Customer service savvy

6. Proactive nature

7. Innovative

Source: GrubHub For Restaurants

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