There are few phrases I want to hear less than, “I want to speak to the manager!” In this episode, I got to sit down with my long-time friend and colleague James Butler, and talk with him about the challenges he has faced as a manager in the bar and restaurant industry here in San Francisco. James has been in the industry since 2007. He has worked and managed many different bars and restaurants, everything from sweet and small neighborhood haunts to hopping Mission cocktail bars. He currently runs a wine consultancy called Cluster and Cane for wine program development and high-touch wine tourism in Northern California.
Managers face a unique set of challenges on top of the challenges we all face in this industry. Managers not only have to deal with the same customer issues, work life balance, emergency situations and everything else that goes along with day to day bar and restaurant service, they also have to handle relations among staff, putting together a solid team, managing the whole operation of the bar and much, much more. It’s a difficult job, and managers are not always compensated for all the extra work they have to do. James has some great advice on how to face these challenges and thrive as a bar or restaurant manager.
Listen my conversation with James in the player below or wherever podcasts are found, and make sure to subscribe with the links in the player, on this page or in your favorite podcast app to stay up to date with our weekly conversations with bartenders about all sorts of challenging situations. Read on after the break for more on our conversation about management problems.
Common management challenges and what to do about them
“I want to speak to the manager,” has become such a cliche in our industry. It’s a phrase nobody wants to hear, and interactions that begin with that phrase often don’t end well. But James believes that they don’t have to end badly, and they can even be amazing opportunities to create an even more positive experience.
“People like your restaurant they may tell a couple friends, people don’t like your restaurant they’ll tell a bunch of friends,” James said, “people have a weird experience or a bad experience, and you fix it, and they’ll want to tell everybody.”
James shares and example of a time he helped a bad customer experience turn into a positive one by completely resetting the table and basically starting over. James pulled all the food from the table and reset it, opened some wine and started the group off on a completely new course.
“They needed a sea change,” James said, “and that meant seeing the table completely get rebuilt, deal with someone else for the evening… I can’t remember if those people ever did come back to the restaurant, but I really feel everyone in the restaurant did everything possible to really just make sure they had the experience they wanted to have.”