Canadian Pizza Magazine

The Pizza Chef: Creating good managers

Diana Cline   

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Creating good managers

Employees who have been proven to consistently follow your checklists are the best candidates to promote to supervising positions. Photo: Fotolia

How do you identify and bring along internal staff to management positions?

The pizza business is not a business of one: even independently owned take-out and delivery operations require additional staff to answer phones and to make and deliver pizzas.

Also, every owner needs a day off to rest and recharge, although I think for many of us these days are spent catching up on dozens of other things.  

Many independent operators I know feel they cannot take a day off because the business doesn’t run as it would if they were there and because problems come up whenever they aren’t on site. They feel the time off is not worth the problems. This is your warning flag that you’ve set yourself up with a job, not with a business that creates an income. It is a fatal mistake many independent operators make.


A business set up this way is no way to live. Think about it: if you worked for anyone else, you’d have a limit on the number of hours you work, and you’d have time off and vacation pay accruing. Working for yourself with a design that gives you no time off is a certain path to total burnout. You must make the mental shift from employee to business
owner and from working for an hourly wage to increasing the value of your business.

Some independent pizzeria owners I know have shut down their store for a week or up to a month to take a vacation. I understand why; however, consider what it would mean to you if your store were set up to operate without you. What if you could take that vacation and still have the business income?

Back to the main point of this column: you need additional help to work your business and key individuals to manage your business, yet how do you find the right individuals to promote to those positions?

Take a step back for a moment and put first things first: you must systemize your operation. I mean that everything must be written down as a step-by-step manual on how to run your operation. This in turn creates a system of checklists that automates your operation.

Do you personally open up your pizzeria every day? What is the first step? And the next? And the next? Write these steps down and now you’ve created your “opening checklist.” Print up a dozen copies and make it a policy that every staff member who opens completes the opening checklist. Now any one of your staff can follow this simple checklist. It’s not a matter of leaving it up to the employee to remember: it’s either done or it isn’t.

Next, follow the same process for the step-by-step checklist for closing your pizzeria. Identify the essential tasks a supervisor or manager needs to perform the way you do, then create a document that could also be used as a checklist for these jobs.  

Initially, it’s not a matter of the “who” as much as it is the purposeful breaking down of your operation into the simplest steps imaginable. An opening checklist usually looks like this: 1) Turn on air make-up unit/hood exhaust. 2) Turn on oven and make sure it’s set to the correct temperature. 3) Pull out dough to warm up. 4) Pull out pizza sauce bucket(s) to warm. 5) At 11 a.m. turn on the open sign and unlock the front door. And so on.  

Lastly, it’s important to inspect what you expect. Verify that the checklists are being completed to the standard you have set. The staff members who have been proven to consistently follow your checklists are the best candidates to promote to supervising and managing positions. They have demonstrated they are willing and able to follow your directions on how to operate your pizzeria. They are the likely natural leaders who will make your operation run smoothly, whether you are there on site or not.

It’s really that simple.

Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine Chef of the Year, three-time winner of “Canada’s Best Pizza Chef” at international pizza competitions, a judge for international pizza culinary competitions in Las Vegas, Italy and France, and a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis, for more information contact her at

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