What if the mindset and role of the corporate office changed from being in charge at the top to being the bottom rung? 

Editor’s note: This is the third article in a new column from restaurant expert Monte Silva. More on the series can be found here. The first story, on Why Underpaying Restaurant Employees is a Recipe for Disaster, is here. The second, on Why Marketing is Not Expensive, is here.

I recently listened to Simon Sinek speak about leadership. And he said something very profound. He said the job of the leader is not to be “IN CHARGE,” but to “CARE FOR THE PEOPLE IN THEIR CHARGE.” I posted the video on my LinkedIn page immediately. That phrase has been continually popping up in my head. These recurring thoughts led to another thought. 

Actually, it was more a few questions. Even though Sinek’s video was not about restaurants, my thoughts were restaurant focused. 

My questions were, why don’t most restaurant corporate people think this way about caring for the people in their charge? 

Why do most people at the corporate level of a restaurant company spend their days sending hundreds of emails to the restaurant operators expecting immediate responses? 

Why do most restaurant executives spend their time trying to catch restaurant operators doing something wrong? 

Why do most restaurant corporate people micro-manage their people?

In Simon Sinek’s video, he goes on to say the reason why leaders focus on being in charge is because they are not leaders, they are managers. They are managers because they once worked in a restaurant and at some point, proved to someone else that they should be promoted. These new corporate executives knew how to do the jobs of the people they were now IN CHARGE of but no one taught them how to lead. So these people became managers, not leaders.

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I spoke at this year’s Bar & Restaurant Expo in Las Vegas this past March about this very thing. One of the points I shared was that one of the differences between managers and Lladers is that we manage processes and we lead people. We don’t manage people. Managing people is baby-sitting. Managing people is micro-managing.

So, what’s the solution? How do we change the corporate hierarchy that has been in place for the last 50 years? What mindset and perspective do we need to alter?

To come up with the answer, I started asking myself, “who were my favorite bosses and what attributes did they have in common with each other that I admired and responded well to?” Then I asked, “who were my least favorite bosses and what personalities and traits did they have that drove me crazy and that I didn’t respect?”

The bosses whom I respected and enjoyed working for supported me. They looked for ways to encourage me, develop me, and challenge me. They were leaders. They focused on people, not tasks.

The bosses whom I didn’t respect or enjoy working with were managers. They sent a ton of emails demanding immediate attention as a way of proving they were doing something. They added work to my schedule by asking for reports they could have put together themselves. They were always trying to catch me doing something wrong. They micromanaged me. These managers focused on tasks, not people.

So, what’s the answer? Here’s a mind-blowing thought: What if we flipped the 50-year-old model upside down? What if the restaurant corporate office became the support center? 

What if the mindset and role of the corporate office changed from being in charge at the top to being the bottom rung? 

Instead of this model: Corporate Office—Restaurant Managers—Employees—Guests

We changed to this model: Guests—Employees—Restaurant Managers—Support Center

If we could start a movement where this became the prevailing thought, imagine the impact we would have on our guests and our people. There would be no “catching people doing something wrong,” no BS reports and special projects, no micro-managing. Imagine how great we would become. Imagine how great our people would become. Imagine how great our restaurant experiences would become if the front-line people were supported instead of being extorted. 

Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees, Leader Insights