Developing internal talent can help restaurants source skilled management candidates.

How to Build a Management Talent Pipeline

Being intentional about employee development helps restaurants train new talent.

Have you ever been to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas? It is the only public diamond mine in the world and offers a one-of-a-kind adventure—the opportunity to hunt for real diamonds and to keep any you find. The park gives you brief training, provides you with equipment, and lets you loose to hunt for diamonds. What the experience teaches you is that finding a diamond requires effort, training, and a little luck. This is exactly what it is like to mine for managers in your restaurant.

Making a Point

Finding your next manager-in-training (MIT) or assistant manager (AM) is like searching for diamonds.

  1. It requires a diamond mine—You restaurant is your diamond mine. If you have done a great job in selecting line employees and an even better job training them, you’ll have a few diamonds worth searching for.
  2. It requires cultivating the soil—One of the ways the Crater of Diamonds State Park helps its visitors find diamonds on their visit is to bulldoze the earth routinely to bring the stones to the top of the soil. In your restaurant, bringing the diamonds to the surface where they can be easily recognized requires that the current management team creates a positive work environment for employees to flourish and grow. It requires that management is constantly training employees to do more.
  3. It requires you to always be looking—Some of the diamonds found at the park are found right on the pathway to where people hunt for diamonds. That means that hundreds, if not thousands, of people walk over a diamond every day because they don’t think to start looking until they get to the mine itself.

What does this mean for you? With a little luck and your eyes open every step, you can find the proverbial diamond in the rough. You need to always be looking for your next MIT or AM, even if your management team is complete. You never know when one of them will move on or when you have the opportunity to open a new location and need to double your management team overnight.

Mining the Wrong Way

When I was the operations manager for an independent multi-unit brew pub and café early in my career, part of my job was to hire new managers. Although I made my fair share of mistakes hiring from the outside, I did try to cultivate talent from within. But a mistake I routinely made hiring from within was offering no management training. This happened a lot. As soon as our insider accepted the new position, we handed them the keys, asked them to follow another manager for a few shifts, and then let them go to survive or die on their own. There was no formal training whatsoever, and since there wasn’t any formal training when they first joined the restaurant, there was no hope.

We would do this again and again, and we would continue to lose great MITs and AMs. Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result. By this definition, we were nuts.

It’s no wonder we lost these great managers. We weren’t offering any guidance, direction or goals. We weren’t offering any training. And a major reason people leave their jobs is because they don’t know what’s expected of them. Without a structured training system, these expectations are overlooked and valuable diamonds are lost.

We spend a lot of time and money training our line employees to give our guests the best experience possible, yet we throw new managers into the fire with almost no support and training and expect them to succeed.

To change that cycle and to allow your diamonds to shine, create a training program specific to management. It should include all your operational systems in an operations manual and then a training program that walks each manager through a step-by-step process to learn the skills necessary to be successful. You have to test them on what they learn so that you know they are proficient at each skill set and system necessary to do their job correctly. Your restaurant’s success is dependent upon it.

Adding this step to your process, especially when developing someone from within, will virtually guarantee you a strong management team from top to bottom.

Promoting from Within the Right Way 

  1. To successfully find your diamond in the rough, follow the steps outlined above when it comes to searching for your gem.
  2. Create your diamond mine through great selection and training of all your line employees.
  3. Cultivate the soil by constantly training and creating a positive work environment for your employees to work in.
  4. Always be looking for your next management candidate.
  5. Require managers go through and pass a structured management training program.

Build a successful management team from within with great training from start to management. 

David Scott Peters

David Scott Peters is a restaurant consultant, event speaker and founder of, a company committed to the success of independent restaurants. offers an exclusive online restaurant management software designed specifically to meet the complete operational needs of independent operators, including holding their managers accountable and running a profitable business. Combined with one-on-one coaching and group workshops, is helping independent restaurants find success in the highly competitive restaurant industry.

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