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How to get food out in a timely manner without a host?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I work at a restaurant near multiple event venues and we do not have a host. I've never bothered to ask FOH about the seating capacity, but it's easily over 100 and we accommodate a lot of big tops daily.

 

Usually we switch over to a limited menu for sporting events so that we can put food out pretty quickly and efficiently given the circumstances.

 

However, this weekend we stayed on full menu and got absolutely DEMOLISHED for lunch. The entire restaurant fills up almost all at once, with tickets coming back first for 6, 11, 8 tops so we're already bogged down dealing with that while a million other tickets print out filling up two rails with a bunch more untouched on the printer.

We had the best guys on line cooking too.

 

On Saturday, ticket times were atrocious, servers were crying, some people walked out, and the GM's comps were astronomical. All this even though the same thing happened (though not nearly as bad) on Friday, and we knew it was coming too.

 

Not only is it a bad experience, but it ruins everything for the rest of the day--it's all hands on deck to the line for 2 hours, dishwasher included and no prep gets done at all while we get cleaned out of prepped food. 

 

Obviously one way that we could have improved was to run our limited menu. Also going to hire a guy to only prep so that we can afford to put more people on line without jeopardizing prep. But otherwise, how do you folks deal with massive volume all at once like that? I doubt that having more cooks on line would have helped that much, either. Servers weren't intentionally stacking tickets... but it's just the way things happened---everything came back at once.

 

 

I love my job, but every weekend for the past 6 weekends has been progressively getting busier and busier, and worse and worse to be on the line. I don't know how much longer I, or any one else (exec and sous included) can take it if we keep getting demolished like we did on Saturday.

post #2 of 8

As a cook, all I can say is mise, mise, mise. Keep you head down, your hands flying, your brain multitasking.

 

As a chef, all I can say is menu, menu, menu.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #3 of 8

A mandatory meeting is needed. Either BOH and FOH management or all employees but a serious, professional discussion needs to take place. 

What you have described is no way to run a restaurant. 

     A clear action plan needs to be put in place concerning all issues that arise during those times. Allowing a flood of customers like that to over run the restaurant with no control does nothing for the customers or the staff and if the comps are that high, profit goes out the door and any benefit for allowing the flood is lost. 

     For FOH one suggestion I would make is that along with having enough support staff (busboys, etc.) on hand, servers take orders in order. If three tables arrive simultaneously, the server makes the decision as to which is "first", takes their order, puts it in and then moves on to the next table. Under no circumstance does a single server put in more than one table at a time. Even with multiple servers this provides a built in time buffer between tables, even if only a few minutes worth. Those minutes will matter to the kitchen staff. 

For BOH, implementing the limited menu should be automatic and expected. If the event is known and expected, obviously plenty of prep can be done before hand. 

     Ultimately this is managements fault for allowing it to continue and not working to solve the problems. There will be multiple decisions needing to be made and multiple strategies and systems needing to be developed to insure customer satisfaction and prevent employee burnout. Turnover is great but every table is going to need a certain amount of time to be seated, wait for food, eat food and pay the bill. 

      Management will have to recognize that ultimately the restaurant can only handle so many customers in an efficient and profitable manner without the customers (and staff) suffering in pointless and unacceptable ways. Not facing that reality by allowing the flood without a plan just makes everyone look foolish. You could point out that a customer turned away because of a full restaurant is more likely to return to see what all the fuss is about than a customer who was allowed to be part of a circus and feels ripped off. 

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post
 

A mandatory meeting is needed. Either BOH and FOH management or all employees but a serious, professional discussion needs to take place. 

What you have described is no way to run a restaurant. 

     A clear action plan needs to be put in place concerning all issues that arise during those times. Allowing a flood of customers like that to over run the restaurant with no control does nothing for the customers or the staff and if the comps are that high, profit goes out the door and any benefit for allowing the flood is lost. 

     For FOH one suggestion I would make is that along with having enough support staff (busboys, etc.) on hand, servers take orders in order. If three tables arrive simultaneously, the server makes the decision as to which is "first", takes their order, puts it in and then moves on to the next table. Under no circumstance does a single server put in more than one table at a time. Even with multiple servers this provides a built in time buffer between tables, even if only a few minutes worth. Those minutes will matter to the kitchen staff. 

For BOH, implementing the limited menu should be automatic and expected. If the event is known and expected, obviously plenty of prep can be done before hand. 

     Ultimately this is managements fault for allowing it to continue and not working to solve the problems. There will be multiple decisions needing to be made and multiple strategies and systems needing to be developed to insure customer satisfaction and prevent employee burnout. Turnover is great but every table is going to need a certain amount of time to be seated, wait for food, eat food and pay the bill. 

      Management will have to recognize that ultimately the restaurant can only handle so many customers in an efficient and profitable manner without the customers (and staff) suffering in pointless and unacceptable ways. Not facing that reality by allowing the flood without a plan just makes everyone look foolish. You could point out that a customer turned away because of a full restaurant is more likely to return to see what all the fuss is about than a customer who was allowed to be part of a circus and feels ripped off. 

 

Exec and GM looked at last year's sales from this same event and we all knew that we were going to get rocked for lunch but have a mild dinner, which was true (though we did not know it would be that bad). We also knew that last year's Exec went on limited for this event. We had the best staff on deck FOH and BOH (no hosts/food runners/bussers at this restaurant). 
A few weeks ago we attempted to begin service for a sporting event on full menu because we did not think it would get that bad, only to get flooded and have to switch to limited menu after 15 minutes.

Last week we had multiple sporting events throughout the day and we stayed on limited menu all day. The entire restaurant would fill up, empty out, then fill up again and we would have ticket times of 20 minutes or less.

 

I guess the ultimate solution is to run limited menu when in doubt. No more debating or teeter-tottering between full and limited menu (I love my GM, but personally I blame the GM for making us run full when we have a potential to get demolished).

 

As spring and summer nears with more and more sporting / concerts / convention center events due to happen, I hope that the GM realizes that we should always run limited. If it's very manageable, we can easily switch to full menu. But to be inundated on full and have to switch to limited is just embarrassing while already leaving us behind on ticket times.

post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post
 

A mandatory meeting is needed. Either BOH and FOH management or all employees but a serious, professional discussion needs to take place. 

What you have described is no way to run a restaurant. 

     A clear action plan needs to be put in place concerning all issues that arise during those times. Allowing a flood of customers like that to over run the restaurant with no control does nothing for the customers or the staff and if the comps are that high, profit goes out the door and any benefit for allowing the flood is lost. 

     For FOH one suggestion I would make is that along with having enough support staff (busboys, etc.) on hand, servers take orders in order. If three tables arrive simultaneously, the server makes the decision as to which is "first", takes their order, puts it in and then moves on to the next table. Under no circumstance does a single server put in more than one table at a time. Even with multiple servers this provides a built in time buffer between tables, even if only a few minutes worth. Those minutes will matter to the kitchen staff. 

For BOH, implementing the limited menu should be automatic and expected. If the event is known and expected, obviously plenty of prep can be done before hand. 

     Ultimately this is managements fault for allowing it to continue and not working to solve the problems. There will be multiple decisions needing to be made and multiple strategies and systems needing to be developed to insure customer satisfaction and prevent employee burnout. Turnover is great but every table is going to need a certain amount of time to be seated, wait for food, eat food and pay the bill. 

      Management will have to recognize that ultimately the restaurant can only handle so many customers in an efficient and profitable manner without the customers (and staff) suffering in pointless and unacceptable ways. Not facing that reality by allowing the flood without a plan just makes everyone look foolish. You could point out that a customer turned away because of a full restaurant is more likely to return to see what all the fuss is about than a customer who was allowed to be part of a circus and feels ripped off. 

 

Yeah.  Don't let the servers double ticket you.  This has been the best way of controlling the flow.  This is probably the worst ever habit that servers have when they get busy.  They double ticket you you double ticket them as retaliation and then the whole service is messed up for the whole day.

post #6 of 8

     You can find out seating capacity by looking for the occupancy permit hanging on the wall somewhere in the public space of the restaurant. I don't remember if it's health department or fire department who requires it. 

       In light of the fact that from your description the restaurant does most of it's business during these events, why have two menus at all? 

Would it not be better to find a happy medium between the two and have a single, smaller  but varied menu that can be executed quickly all the time? 

I am perhaps a bit biased as I have come to dislike restaurants offering so many choices. I would rather be offered a smaller list of options and feel confident the kitchen can execute them all well all the time. 

     I'll go so far as to suggest a review of sales records from the POS system to discover which menu items are the top sellers; top sellers during those big event rushes and top sellers from other times. Are they the same?  Menu items that don't sell well at any time are simply taking up menu and storage space, prep and service time and only serve to drag down the efficiency of moving the big sellers. 

     I found the POS systems to be a great source of impartial knowledge about sales in a restaurant. Not just overall sales amounts, they are designed to provide all the information you desire in multiple ways, from simple printed lists to various graphs and pie charts. 

     For example, we offered a dish that an owner and the staff were convinced sold extremely well. After running a sales report on the top fifteen items sold over the past thirty days (just one option available) that particular dish did not even make the list. As that dish required several special ingredients that served no other purpose on the menu, we dumped it with no loss in sales. 

    Anyway, hope this helps. 

PS. All POS systems have the ability to run these sales reports and in a variety of detailed ways, not just overall totals. Fwiw the current administration where I work is convinced the system dumps any information over three days. I don't know why they think this as the website for the system advertises one of the benefits of the system as being able to track customer trends and preferences over time and of course, this is exactly why these systems were developed in the first place.  Unfortunately I am not in a position to show them they are mistaken. I relate this on the chance your GM is of a similar belief. 

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by kuan View Post
 

 

Yeah.  Don't let the servers double ticket you.  This has been the best way of controlling the flow.  This is probably the worst ever habit that servers have when they get busy.  They double ticket you you double ticket them as retaliation and then the whole service is messed up for the whole day.

 

I waited tables for a few years before I discovered that the BOH was what I loved and I was always amazed by what I dubbed the "firing frenzy". Guys would see the tickets start to pile up and so they would rush to get their tickets in, only to contribute to the mayhem even more. I would see it coming from a long way off and would work my tables to be either in front of the insanity or behind it. The really funny part is that I got better tips and turned my tables more than the other guys, which meant more tips at the end of the night.

 

Still amazes me to this day because I still see "firing frenzies" in places that I work. At my place, I generally tried to train new wait staff when possible, so that the subtle nuances of waiting could be taught and if I couldn't do it I would make sure that someone who had it down pat did the training. Even so I still had some knuckleheads who couldn't get it and occasional "firing frenzies" thrust upon the kitchen as a result.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Reply
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Our full menu isn't even that extensive, and everything sells pretty well.

The limited menu is maybe a third of the size of our full menu, featuring stuff that we can sandbag/hold well (usually no longer than 10 min between off-the-grill to on-the-plate) or cook quickly

 

We aren't actually on limited menu that much--only for sporting events, concerts, and big all day conventions in conjunction with sporting events/concerts.

On days where there's say, a basketball game or concert at 8 PM, we'll run limited starting at around 6pm and go back on full menu at 8pm.

 

Our servers are pretty good at not stacking tickets / punching in multiple tables at once.

 

HOWEVER, we have 4 POS stations where food can all be punched in...

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