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How "Managing Up" Can Help Store-Level and Above-Store Restaurant Management

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Maybe you’ve heard the buzz around the “managing up” concept. Are you wondering what that means, or why it could be valuable for your restaurant group?

Managing up is a valuable concept for businesses in general, but it’s particularly important for the restaurant industry.

Restaurants may be in the business of selling food, but as any hospitality veteran can tell you, the restaurant industry is all about people. With so many moving pieces, effective (and constant) communication between staff, management, and leadership is key for a successful restaurant business.

Encouraging your store-level restaurant managers to manage up isn’t an overnight process, but it can help grow your effectiveness as a restaurant group. Many of the most significant decisions in restaurants are made at the ground-level—and communication enables better decision making.

So, how can you create a culture that prioritizes store-level managers who “manage up” to above-store managers?

What does it mean to manage up?

First, let’s start with the definition. For store-level managers, “managing up” means they aren’t just clocking in and clocking out or doing the bare minimum.

Managing up means that instead, managers are going above and beyond to make life easier for their above-store managers. It means they understand what you expect from them. They proactively communicate about what they know you want to know, and make recommendations based on that information.  With all this effort, store-level managers can make a major contribution toward the company’s success.


Why manage up in the restaurant industry?

Start with this question: If your restaurant group is looking to improve gross margins, where do you look first?

It’s probably your restaurant food cost and restaurant labor cost.

And who has the greatest impact on your day-to-day food and labor costs?

It’s probably your store-level managers, who are overseeing ordering, inventory, CoGS, prime cost, scheduling, and adjustments to restaurant labor costs.

Most of the actionable information for improving gross margins lies at the ground level of your restaurants. Your general manager (GM) or store-level manager has an outsized influence on the day-to-day decisions that determine your monthly, quarterly, or annual profits.

A restaurant has tons of moving parts. Compared to other types of businesses, restaurants have all of the employee and customer concerns, but also have the unique difficulties that come with food service.

Many decisions in restaurants may be made in the spur of the moment, but successful restaurant profit margin is defined by consistent, proactive effort. Creating a culture that encourages managing up can be another tool in your toolbox for improving your restaurant operations.

Benefits to Store-Level Restaurant Managers

Managing up is directed toward the upper layers of company management, but it actually has enormous benefits for store-level managers.

For store-level managers, healthy communication with their bosses can contribute to success at their locations. More trust can open up new opportunities to build up further management skills, like diving deep with your group’s restaurant accounting software.

A healthy relationship can also help if any routine issues arise, because you have a communication foundation to resolve complex problems quickly.

Finally, managing up is a proactive approach to career development for the store-level manager. Of course, promotions are dependent on skillsets and hard work. However, hard work may not always speak for itself. Managing up helps managers showcase to above-store management the value they bring to the organization.

Benefits to Above-Store Management

If you are in above-store management, encouraging managing up with your direct reports can also make your life easier. Fundamentally, if your direct report understands how their performance affects your success, it’s a beneficial collaboration.

Managing up requires that your direct reports understand your priorities and expectations. And when store-level managers can speak to your decision-making style, or how you prefer to communicate, it’s easier to grow a healthy working relationship.

Benefits to the Company

Finally, managing up can benefit the company as a whole.

Restaurant managers invested in managing up will usually be more productive and successful, because they have the tools and support they need. For instance, if managers are empowered to get everything they can out of your restaurant inventory management software or if they know how to read a P&L statement, they can have an enormous impact on your daily, weekly, and monthly food costs.

With open communication, you can also be confident that you’ll be less frequently blindsided by issues. Instead of small hiccups becoming persistent, costly problems, managing up means that store-level managers can make proactive decisions and ask for help (if needed) before small issues become ongoing, costly problems.

A culture of managing up can also help spark employee engagement overall. When existing staff can see that there are career paths in the organization, you may even contribute to better employee retention.

Effective communication between above-store and store-level

To be honest, creating a culture of managing up isn’t accomplished overnight. It’s not as simple as announcing, “now we are having open communication.” Creating effective communication habits can be complicated and time consuming—but the benefits are enormous.

It takes time and consistent effort to grow a culture that prioritizes managing up. To hit your restaurant group’s goals, you need to create an environment where your management team members can have opinions, make mistakes, and effectively communicate.

Start with the mentality that it’s not really possible to communicate too much. Communication helps you spot issues earlier and resolve them faster.

Also understand that this may take a long-term, thoughtful commitment in your restaurant group, especially if your culture didn’t prioritize managing up previously.

Are you wondering where to start? Below are tips for both store-level managers and above store-level management on how to manage up.

5 tips for above-store managers creating a managing up culture

  1. Be consistent in how you communicate about existing objectives and new priorities. If you want your restaurant managers to act proactively, they need to be well informed.
  2. Be prepared to answer the “why?” question from your store-level managers. If you have a new initiative you want to push out to individual locations, you need your GMs to champion it. They should be comfortable asking “why are we doing this?” and understanding the answer. Not only will you get more buy-in, but you will also receive valuable ground-level insight from your store-level managers.
  3. Cultivate an open mind that even though you are an above-store manager, you may not know everything. At one point you may have been involved with day-to-day operations, but if you are at a higher management level, you’re further removed. Particularly for restaurants, it is often the ground-level person who has an especially valuable perspective on restaurant operations.
  4. Be sure to show your managers that their input is valuable and appreciated. It’s one thing to accept input from your store-level managers, but if they see that you don’t take any action on what they bring up, they will eventually stop providing their insight.
  5. Don’t be afraid to show your own mistakes and learning opportunities. Talking about it with your team can help encourage a culture of honest feedback.

5 tips for store-level restaurant managers to manage up

  1. Learn about your direct manager’s goals and expectations. Your job performance will be heavily measured by your ability to hit these objectives. You’ll get an idea of how what you’re doing matters to the company at large.
  2. If you don’t know where to begin… ask! You will not only get a much better idea through a one-on-one meeting with your boss, but you may very well impress your direct supervisor with your initiative.
  3. If you need help with a particular problem, discuss it with your boss. It can be difficult to discuss certain issues, but they may come to light eventually anyway. Managing up embraces openness and honesty so your manager can help support you.
  4. If you really want to impress your manager, consider trying this approach: when you do need to consult your boss about a problem, always bring a few potential solution ideas as well. This shows your boss that you respect their time and are thinking about the problem holistically.
  5. Establish a regular two-way conversation with your boss. Show your proactive management style by adding structure to your meetings, including things like a brief summary of the last week, an overview of priorities for the next week, or your current objectives for your store-level team.


Creating an organizational culture that values managing up takes time and consistent effort. However, if your restaurant group wants to meet all the challenges of the future, empowering all members of your management team to improve your restaurant operations is an effective strategy.

If you’d like to equip your store-level managers with the tools they need to successfully manage up, consider an all-in-one restaurant management software platform, now with the new Smart Ops Release. Restaurant365 incorporates restaurant accounting software, restaurant operations software, inventory management software, payroll + HR software, and scheduling software into a cloud-based platform that’s fully integrated with your POS system, as well as to your food and beverage vendors, and bank.

Ask for a free demo of Restaurant365 today.