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How to Manage a Fast Food Restaurant

How to Manage a Fast Food Restaurant

If you’ve recently opened a fast food restaurant or received a promotion to manager, there are a few critical skills you’ll need to master if you want to be successful in the restaurant industry.

The difference between a profitable cafe and one that closes in six months is the management team’s ability to incorporate efficient work procedures, expert analysis of sales and inventory, and consistent adherence to best practices. With that in mind, here are the most important things to know in order to manage a fast food restaurant successful. 

Make your expectations clear from the get-go

A restaurant employee handbook is crucial for having a high-performing front and back of house staff. We’ve made templates to make it easier for you to create your onboarding and training materials.


Defining management levels

Depending on the organizational structure of your fast-casual eatery, your management team may have the following staff on hand:

General Manager

The General Manager (GM) is responsible for the overall operation of the restaurant. They’re the ‘big boss,’ and all business decisions ultimately pass through them. With national fast food chains like Burger King or Taco Bell, each location will have one general manager.

A good General Manager will have several years of experience as an Assistant Manager, including both kitchen and dining room expertise. While a bachelor’s degree in hospitality isn’t always a requirement, it can enhance their qualifications and pay scale.

Assistant Manager

Under the GM, there may be one or a series of Assistant Managers. If it’s the latter, they are further sub-categorized into different areas of responsibility.

Assistant Restaurant Managers are an entry-level position. Many people get promoted to this role because of their successful performance as a server, bartender or cook.

Kitchen Manager

The Kitchen Manager will supervise all aspects of the kitchen such as hiring the kitchen staff, food preparation and purchasing food inventory.

Dining Room Manager or Floor Manager

These managers are responsible for the front of house (FOH) service staff to ensure your restaurant operations are running smoothly and customers are satisfied.

Some operations use a slightly different format with the General Manager overseeing all activities and a series of shift supervisors on duty to handle guest complaints and facilitate communication between the kitchen and service staff. Every restaurant in the fast-food industry operates slightly different than the next, so find a management style that works best for your unique business needs.


Hire well and reduce staff turnover

Unless you’re hiring for a manager role, many entry-level fast-food jobs pay minimum wage, which can vary by state. Most employees are considered part-time, but there might be a few non-manager full-time employees as well.

To make sure you get the best pool of candidates, create a thorough job description that outlines all the duties the applicant will perform day-to-day, as well as any special circumstances that may arise such as catering an event or corporate lunch. Once you’ve finalized your job description, take the time to post the ad to job boards your ideal employee is most likely to read. For example, Indeed is a great job search platform that caters to a wide variety of job types. 

Lastly, although servers and bartenders are tipped employees, you may attract more personable salespeople by offering a bit more per hour. Some states require tipped employees are paid at the minimum wage rate. Be sure to factor this into your hiring decisions about the amount to pay your staff.

Fast food restaurants see some of the highest turnover rates out of any industry (130%-150%), so don’t get discouraged if you find yourself hiring often. There are several strategies you can use to help reduce turnover, such as: 

  • Being as flexible as possible with scheduling
  • Setting up team-building activities
  • Providing a clear path for growth and development 


Train your staff

Just as proper hiring can reduce staff turnover, so can adequate employee training. Employees who understand how to do their jobs are fully aware of what’s expected of them will perform better than those that lack this level of awareness.

Well-trained employees are also efficient employees. Team members who understand the expectations of their jobs can work with less supervision. A competent team reduces the amount of time it takes to complete work. Less time working equals a decrease in labor costs for you.

A well-trained, efficient cook on your line reduces food errors (waste), works efficiently, and probably has plenty of on-the-job knowledge under his or her belt. The same goes for your front of house staff. A well-trained cashier will reduce order mistakes and get customers through the line faster—all things that have a positive impact on your bottom line.

restaurant worker preparing food behind the counter


Make cleanliness and safety a top priority

Now more than ever, it’s important to keep your restaurant clean and your employees and customers safe. 

Have a clear sanitation schedule and policy in place to make sure your establishment is as safe as possible. Invest in proper cleaning supplies and PPE for your staff, if necessary. 


Cut down on food waste

Your food cost can quickly escalate if you don’t train your staff to make the dishes and portion ingredients properly. If the meal calls for three ounces of chicken but your kitchen staff regularly serves four ounces portions, your chicken costs are going to climb quickly.

We recommend spot checking several times during each shift—weigh the items on a food scale, or with a measuring cup or spoon as your kitchen staff is preparing it. Additionally, your training materials should show detailed photos of what a correctly prepared and portioned menu item should look like. Many fast food restaurants also have these illustrations above the kitchen line for easy reference.

in n out hamburger


Use the right POS system

At the core of any successful fast-casual establishment is a cloud POS system. Beyond all of the other significant benefits, POS software can provide for your small business, communication of orders between FOH and BOH is essential for customer satisfaction. When your servers correctly input orders and each request is processed accurately, the more profitable you’ll be. A POS can also help you manage operations across all your locations (if you have more than one), and give you access to valuable data and insights to help you grow your business. 


Manage inventory 

One of the benefits of a great POS system is the ability to manage restaurant inventory. You can track quantities on-hand and set reorder triggers, so you never run out of your most popular items. 

Physical inventory management in a fast food restaurant

Managing your physical inventory begins with an organized storage area. Each item should have a home, clearly labeled, and with a ‘par’ set, so you can quickly develop your orders each week.

The items soonest to expire are used first, ensuring that you always have fresh product rotating through. When you put away deliveries, your staff must put the new items in the back and move existing stock to the front to facilitate your “first in, first out” system.

Spot check your deliveries, mainly produce and protein, for quality. If there are sub-par items or a question of freshness, your supplier should replace the item.

Your POS can help you forecast how much of each item you’ll need for the week. Use these numbers to anticipate how much of each ingredient you use in a typical week. For example, if you use six cases of fries on a weekday and ten on the weekend, you can set par levels – the number of each item you have on hand. Make sure you order what you need, and not an excessive amount.


Look at customer data to make improvements

Speaking of best and worst sellers, your restaurant POS can provide reports on what your customers are ordering. If you think everyone loves your Cajun chicken salad, but you only sell a few orders per day, perhaps it’s time to eliminate it from your menu. Pick your best sellers, and hone their creation until they’re the best-quality food of their type on the market.


The right tools are a recipe for success

Knowing how to manage a fast food restaurant involves many different responsibilities from hiring and firing to inventory management and forecasting. However, with the right tools, the right team and the right leadership you’ll have a recipe for success.

Looking for tools to help you manage your fast food restaurant? Talk to one of our experts to see how Lightspeed can help you run your hospitality business efficiently. 

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