Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Lesson in Kicking Ourselves in the Ass

In my restaurant, speed is the top priority. This is aggravating because the speed precedent is what will ultimately bring this restaurant to a screeching halt. Management is so speed oriented, they don't take the time to notice how it affects the rest of the restaurant. It's all about turnin' and burnin'. We don't even offer dessert, so people will turn and burn the heck out and the next table can take its place. It's an interesting concept; however, execution needs some serious work.
The beginning of the shift usually starts off fine; rotation is implemented, and everyone has the same amount of tables. I guess this works through the first full rotation. Once the restaurant is full and we go on a wait, the rotation goes to shit, and it's every man for himself. It's bananas. In our restaurant, there is no such thing as "pacing the wait." In every other restaurant I've worked in, the hostesses have been taught to "pace the wait." This will ensure that servers don't get double and triple-sat, and more importantly, the kitchen will not crash. It's unbelievable that every Friday and Saturday night the kitchen will crash at some point. What's even more unbelievable is that no one I work with (except select few) has any idea what "crashing the kitchen" even means. Ridiculous. Two weeks ago one of our KMs (the best one, I might add), looked right at me in the middle of the rush and said, "What the fuck are they doing out there?" His co-workers, his peers, set him up for a serious ass-kicking that night. They flat-sat the restaurant. Flat-seating the restaurant means that the hostesses seat tables faster than the kitchen can get out tickets.
This is wrong on so many levels.

Flat-seating the restaurant from a kitchen perspective:
  • If everyone is fighting to manage the tickets because there is a steady stream flowing out of the printer, you know that quality assurances has flown out the window.
  • At this point, it's only about speed. Entrees are slopped together, sometimes half-falling off the plate.
  • Tickets aren't read properly. In my restaurant there is already a language barrier between the wait-staff and the kitchen-staff. Tickets are read to the cooks by the KM on duty. Stupido. There are a few kitchen-staff members who can read English very well and can translate, that helps, but it's still a huge pain in the ass.
  • Tables get the wrong food. I love when my tray comes out after waiting nearly 25 min, and it's wrong. Maybe if we were more focused on quality assurance and less focused on speed, we wouldn't have so many fucking promos.

Flat-seating from a server perspective:

  • Weeded. We have a lot of green servers, and that should be taken into account when flat-seating the entire restaurant. If everyone is getting triple-sat, it's no wonder we can't help each other out--some of us can't handle it.
  • If we didn't have so many brand-new servers in the weeds, we would have less promos and less customer complaints.
  • Because speed is priority, no other side-work, store cleanliness, or teamwork takes place because in this restaurant, it's survival of the fittest. Every man for himself. It's really a shame.
  • Having tables wait, then realizing that the kitchen forgot to put their side items on the tray, so I have to go back. If I ask for extra dressing or sauce, I rarely get it, so I've stopped ringing it in.
  • We are supposed to use an "appetizer" button when ordering entrees, so the kitchen has the ticket. The kitchen is then supposed to wait the allotted time-standard. With speed as the TOP priority, time-standards also fly to shit. I do not use the "appetizer" button. If I do, I know that my table will get everything pretty much at the same time. It's annoying. I've learned about how long it takes for appetizers and menu items, and I time it. If the app only takes a few min (like soup, salad, and dip), I'll order the entrees right away because chances are the table will be finished before their meal is delivered. If it's another, larger appetizer, I will wait until the table has its app before ordering its entree. This gives the guests a little bit of time to digest and not feel rushed out of their experience. My check-times are still on average 30-40 minutes (at lunch) and 40-45 at dinner--and so are everyone elses. My guests do not stay longer, they are just happier when they leave.

For both perspectives, I have to add that this type of restaurant is so exhausting to work in. I've worked in extremely busy restaurants before, but I've never worked harder than I do now--just to keep up with the side-work that no one is doing.

This is also the first restaurant I've worked in where servers are treated like absolute crap. Management could give three shits about the servers because they know there will always be more servers--we're disposable. What they don't realize is that if they trained their servers properly and stayed consistent with rules, etc., more people would stay longer. Shit, I've already been there a year, and I only wanted to stay for six months. They don't realize really how many servers would stay for a couple years. If they had an older staff, who worked well as a team, they would see how valuable good servers really are.

Servers in my restaurant don't talk to each other. I mean, we talk to each other, but we don't communicate throughout the shift. No one says "behind you" (we have crashes all the time), no one says ANYTHING that will contribute to the successful running of the shift, except when the managers start nagging at us unnecessarily throughout the shift.

The only thing I can say we're good at, is cleaning up those spills (except for the new buss-boy, he leaves his spills all the time, and he's a clumsy mother-fucker).

It's a vicious circle of management trying to execute the plans of a misguided leader who has never waited tables a day in his life. I feel it should be a prerequisite for all owners and management to have served (or worked the line, if we're talking kitchen) before being in charge of a restaurant.

I think I'm gonna write a letter. This is bullshit.

Double tomorrow.


Ex-Restaurant Manager said...

I hear what you're saying, and I agree with you. I used to get into trouble for going on 'fake waits'. I would rather apologize to a guest for waiting to be seated, than to grovel for forgiveness when a tables entree take 40 minutes. A large percentage were agreeable, some can't understand why a table or two will sit vacant for 10 minutes. Se La Vie!

KV said...

Ugh. Your restaurant is quick with the food. I mean REALLY quick. They seem to have it down pat. I was always shocked by how quickly my food came out when dining there.

So they have that down, they should really be focusing on fixing everything else now. Kitchen tickets are being READ to the kitchen staff?? WTF? I'm sure there has to be a way for bi-lingual tickets to print out! (Am I on to a million-dollar idea here? If so, no one steal it while I run to the Patent Office...)

And focus on retention of the servers. That's key to everything. If you have good servers who are loyal, well-trained and dedicated to excellent customer service, they in turn train the new people well, the whole place will begin to run like a well-oiled machine. If not, shit will hit the fan internally, and customers will begin to pick up on it. That is the beginning of the end.

Food Service Ninja said...

It is common for the lead kitchen guy usually the chef to read out the incoming tickets. Mind you at Waffle House they just hand em over to the short order guy but even there they call out whats on it to him .

But from my perspective as a 20 yr food service vet is find a better run place to work. The full bore running isnt good for your long term health. My advice is move up the food chain. The higher the service level place the more emphasis there will be on dining experience which is the opposite of where you are working. The price point goes up thus your income goes up too.

I once worked in a speed focused place as we were just across the street from a performing arts center but we had to maintain a higher level of service and food quality and presentation had to be kept high. Even that got old as hell over time esp when I started getting planar fascitits on my hell from the multiple levels of the dining room.