MAINS: HERE FOR THE ACTION
Grace under pressure, DO IT WITH HEART
Here is the part where you earn your salary and tips. Sometimes all kinds of things will be going on, and I know it’s a great mental act trying to keep track of 10 things at the same time.
The key is to remain cool. How? PRIORITIZE. In hospitals they call it TRIAGE.
How to develop priorities / sense of triage?
- READ THE FLOW
This will come with time. Once you develop a sense of the flow of the restaurant (how long the dishes normally take, how fast can the kitchen cope with a rush, how long the guests are staying etc.) , it will become easier. Learn this flow, and the night will go faster than you imagine. At first you will have to pay more attention, but later, as with most things that one becomes familiar or proficient with, it will become automatic.
If you have done your prep work, you have your gear, and your tables are comfortable with you around, all you have to do is juggle.
2. READ THE TABLE
As we have discussed before, different crowds will have different needs.. Here are some ideas to set up your triage. If these suggestions don’t work for you or your setting, develop your own system.
3. SORT OUT LEVEL OF URGENCY
Some guests will be starving and hangry. Some may be just decompressing. Children = bring food immediately. Not everyone will need food and drinks right away. You may have time, but always clarify with the guest.
GET THEM A BEVERAGE (water at the least)
GET THEM SOME FOOD (anything if you have to!)
Then cruise to the next stages . . .
This should be your goal: Hot food should be hot, cold should be cold.
- No foreign objects in food or drink, delivered timely, seasoned (to reason)
- In case of customer dislike, offer to take the dish away, offer a menu and or a specific replacement. Politely ask later for feedback for the chef, “it helps us tweak our dishes. . .” (Or something similar)
- Make clients feel that they are part of making the restaurant better. Sometimes, though, there is no helping…
Any complaints about food should be your top concern. Everything else can be fixed much easier. STOP, pay attention, act. Apologize and look them in the eye. That’s pretty much all that is really within your control.
Tell the customer you will look into it. And DO IT.
Alert the manager, get the info, pass the puck. If you can fix it yourself then do so RIGHT AWAY. Ideally, Management should deal with this further, don’t get tangled in drama. Nobody wins. Get things sorted out, let the kitchen deal with fixes.
Get back out there, and sell, sell, sell!
2) Customer calls you over
GO. Listen. Move in and act. There’s nothing worse than being ignored by a waiter. If you are tied up at a table give them a smile and a nod. Then go ASAP
Ever had that feeling when someone is staring at you? If you have that feeling while working, chances are they are. I don’t know why it works, but as you get more experience you should try to develop this superpower, it will pay itself many many times over.
Hot should be hot, cold should be cold. Make them happy or offer something else. No hard feelings EVER. Mention issues to manager, pass the puck, charisma, win.
a. No foreign objects, delivered timely, with flourish if needed (as per client aspirations), invisible if not.
b. Clear the extras (wine glasses, beer).
Make sure your guests are comfortable. Pleasant music, comfortably air-conditioned space, heat in the winter. If not, a shawl for the ladies in winter, electric fan (or handheld!) in the summer. If you can’t do anything about it, at least offer empathy as you are probably sweating just as much. Most people will appreciate at least the thought.
5) In extremely busy moments, decide who needs the most attention
You can’t do much about this one, but hopefully not every table in the joint is a princess. And if they are, I pray to the great big spirit that you have enough personnel.
and KEEP MOVING.
There is always something you could be doing for a table. Even little things can seem big to customers. It’s silly but true. For logistics and flow, Five one-minute table visits are better than one 10 minute chat.
After the meal is finished, clear the table of everything that is no longer needed. Napkins, everything. Nothing should be left but water glasses (this may vary to each establishment).
This is a dual-purpose strategy. It makes people realize someone is doing a job, and it also makes them realize that dinner is over. Win-win.
Importantly: Do the damn best job you can. A job well done will bring you far more personal satisfaction than slacking off or doing things half heartedly. Serving well can almost become a meditation if you can do it right. Also, this is where the money is!