4 Tips for Establishing a Smooth Restaurant Workflow
Restaurants are some of the most complex and labor-intensive businesses in the country. Customers expect good food and timely service. In order to provide that, restaurant owners and managers need to implement a mandatory workflow protocol for their staff.
Nailing an effective workflow is more than just ensuring everyone knows their job. It’s about creating harmony between front-of-house and back-of-house employees so that there are no loose threads that disrupt the otherwise smooth service process, from taking the order to providing the customer with their check.
Writing Down Orders
Many long-time servers make the mistake of not writing down orders, but this can lead to mistakes even among the most seasoned service professionals. You can fix this problem by ensuring that your servers always write down their table’s orders. Emphasize consistency with this practice. Policies stick when they are enforced without exception.
So, even if you have a long-time server who is not accustomed to writing down his or her orders, you must explain to them why you are now enforcing this new policy and politely ask that they comply—if not for their own sake, for the sake of the younger or newer staff. Providing servers with tablets that automatically connect to a POS system where orders are transferred to the kitchen is one more way to condense the workflow chain, though it can be a costly investment.
Punching in complex food modifications and substitutions into the POS system can be time-consuming. But it’s far preferable for a server to lose a few seconds on the POS than it is for them to forget that the guy at Table 3 has a nut allergy.
Servers should always take the time to first punch in all food modifications/substitutions into the POS. Secondly, they should personally walk into the kitchen and verbally clarify the substitutions/modifications to the head chef or food expo. This method of double-up on instructions for complex orders ensures that your patrons always get what they want.
Hire Food Runners
Your servers should not have to deliver all of their own food. That is what food runners are for. Having food runners on your staff ensures that servers are able to focus on customer service and making sure their tables are all satisfied.
Another bonus of hiring food-runners is that they can relay messages between the front and back of the house. When an item is 86ed, for example, food runners can quickly travel around the restaurant to tell the servers that they are out of that item. This saves a lot of headaches when it comes to customers ordering things like daily specials when they are no longer available.
Finally, food runners are also efficient in that you don’t need as many of them as you do servers. Just a few food runners can handle an entire restaurant’s worth of tables.
Establish a Shift-Transfer Process
If servers transfer tables mid-service, then the original server taking care of the table must take the time to inform the new server about the table’s status. You don’t want a new server walking up to a table that has already ordered and asking them questions they have just answered. Displaying unity and swift communication is essential to an easy-going customer experience.
The solution is simple: Implement a shift-transfer process where servers must either wait to leave until their tables finish, or they must thoroughly explain to new servers about the table’s status before they leave. They should not simply clock-out and throw caution to the wind.