GM of the Year Criteria

Restaurant Business is launching a program to recognize the industry’s most important position: The restaurant general manager.

The Restaurant Business GM of the Year award will honor three recipients, one each from limited-service chain restaurants, full-service chain restaurants, and independent restaurants.

The award was conceived as a way of recognizing the person who's absolutely critical to a restaurant's success, the individual who is responsible for everything that happens within an establishment's four walls.

"Ask any restaurant company CEO to name the most important person within the organization, and chances are they'll say the unit-level GM," said Jonathan Maze, editor-in-chief of Restaurant Business. "They're the individuals who determine whether a brand is a good place to eat, work or have as part of a community. It's a task that involves everything from marketing to food safety, night after night. They deserve to be honored."

The winners will be recognized editorially by Restaurant Business and honored at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, May 20-23.  The winners' travel and accommodations will be covered. 

The winners will be selected by a panel that includes the editorial staff of Restaurant Business. 

Enter the contest here

The criteria include:

Proven financial acumen. This is based on year-over-year sales growth and the margins of the applicant’s store, among other metrics specific to the brand.

Proven managerial and inspirational skills. This will be reflected in a chain or restaurant’s formal assessment of employee satisfaction and guest evaluations of service within a nominee’s unit. 

Recruitment and retention. Applicants will be judged on their ability to limit turnover and meet staffing goals. They will be required to provide data that illustrate this accomplishment.

Leadership ability. This will be demonstrated through acts that go above and beyond running the restaurant, such as leading the team through extraordinary developments. Those changes could include damage or shutdowns from natural disasters such as weather-related shutdowns, the illness of an essential employee or dramatic changes within the market (i.e., a nearby military base or major employer shutting down.)

Talent development. The GM of the Year will have a demonstrated ability to develop talent within their restaurant, as indicated by the number of team members who have risen to management level or participated in the opening of other stores. Judges will also look for steps the GMs have taken upon their own initiative to help subordinates rise into more responsible positions.

Promoting diversity. Objective data should be provided to show how the candidate has pushed for inclusion within their workforce. Those efforts should be in addition to participating in industry or chainwide initiatives aimed at the same end.

Creating a positive work culture. GMs will be judged on ways in which they foster team building and bonding, reward achievements, encourage open communication, etc. Nominations should feature specific examples or employee testimonials.  

Preference will be given to people who’ve taken steps to improve their organizations. Tell us how the applicant met or exceeded internal metrics or inspired innovations adopted chainwide. For instance, did they suggest a menu change that was adopted chainwide or develop new methods for recruitment and retention?

“General manager” within the context of the contest refers to the individual manager who bears overall, hands-on responsibility for a restaurant. It does not extend to regional or divisional managers.  Assistant managers reporting to the GM would not be eligible.

The winning entries will feature strong examples that fit the above criteria, along with data from the individual restaurant that backs their case for winning the award.

For more information, contact Jonathan Maze at


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