Post-Pandemic Team Leadership Tips for Restaurant & Bar Owners

The extent to which COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry has been heavily-reported. For some disheartening perspective, reports that upwards of 85% of independent restaurants may face closure by the end of 2020. Even for those restaurants fortunate enough to survive, a plethora of other pain points persist. This certainly includes controversy surrounding mask wearing that, in some instances, has led to retaliation against restaurant owners and employees. So, amid the cornucopia of chaos, how can restaurant owners lead their teams through one of the worst crises the industry has ever seen? One answer to this is mindfully and respectfully.

Things within the hospitality industry have changed significantly and, with health and safety standards appreciably heightened, the worst thing a restaurant owner can do is pretend things are “business as usual” … even as eateries open back up in many regions. Employees and customers are still fearful to varying degrees, and it’s an owner’s and manager’s job to mitigate those fears so individuals feel comfortable coming to work, dining in or ordering take out from an establishment.

In order to achieve this, Gregg Ward—a master corporate executive coach who serves as Executive Director for The Center for Respectful Leadership—suggests that operators endeavor to be extraordinarily clear as to the protective and precautionary health and safety guidelines, policies and procedures that have been instituted.

Ward, an expert in the neuroscience behind respectful leadership who has trained major corporations, police departments and much in between for over three decades, says that, “You need to demonstrate that you care as much about your employees as you do your customers, he underscores. “If employees know that their bosses truly care about their health and safety, they will willingly abide by the protocols that you’ve put in place.”

During this tumultuous time, restaurant operators would do also well to make relevant, meaningful changes. Being willing to pivot and embrace agility can be a make or break mindset. Indeed, what worked for a restaurant even six months ago may not work now. Clinging to old ways of doing business can spell failure for your restaurant, so now is the time to “think outside the box” relative to menu offerings, facility operations and design, customer engagement and more. Even small but impactful changes can help you thrive during these uncertain times.

As one who’s reported extensively mindful leadership on, and elsewhere, I contend that restaurant operators should also strive to lead a team mindfully.  Mindfulness has been shown to improve outcomes, both for personal mental health, as well as outcomes in the workplace.  Practicing mindfulness in the workplace can lead to increased resiliency, which is so important right now. There are certainly a wealth of studies and reports outlining the benefits of mindful leadership, with one story detailing enhanced task performance impacts.

Amid today’s ever-changing norms, perhaps Ward’s overarching operational philosophy of “respectful leadership” will best drive productivity and performance. It’ll certainly help cultivate a more conscientious and considerate organization.


Forbes Business Council Member
 Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally-regarded brand analyst, strategist and futurist who reports on noteworthy industry change makers, movers, shakers and innovators across all categories, both B2C and B2B. This includes field experts and thought leaders, brands, products, services, destinations and events. Merilee is Founder, Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List” as well as Host of the nationally-syndicated “Savvy Living TV show. As a prolific consumer and business trends, lifestyle and leisure industry voice of authority and tastemaker, she keeps her finger on the pulse of the marketplace in search of new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points, from the affordable to the extreme. Her work reaches multi-millions worldwide via broadcast TV (her own shows and copious others on which she appears) as well as a myriad of print and online publications. Connect with her at and / Instagram  / Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIN

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