Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

What do you do when food quality begins to tank


Old Timer
 Share

Recommended Posts

We have all been there.

A quiet morning, afternoon or evening turns into mayhem when it seems as though the whole city is coming to your place to eat at the same time.

You go from nothing to being swamped with orders.

As you progress through the orders at breakneck pace, your servers bemoan how slow the kitchen is. You try to step up the pace, and all of a sudden your beautiful omelets are going out a little undercooked, your pancakes a little wet in the middle, or a "well done" hamburger actually goes out medium.

You see the quality of your efforts start to suffer.

What do you do?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A good expediter should be able to help. If you don't have one a swing position might be able to be created by adding it to an existing job description on an "as needed basis". If the service staff is underwhelmed and the kitchen overwhelmed there might be someone from FOH who could do this. Assistant manager types come to mind, the sorts that generally hang out in the office. :biggrin: It's fun to see them get flustered. And then when they do usually the smartest busboy can take over and do the job better, with that promise of advancement twinkling in their eye. :wink:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't know, it hasn't happened since I worked in a shitty chain restaurant many years ago...

For most of my career I've worked in fine dining, and it was usually that the kitchen was underwhelmed, and the servers overwhelmed... With true professional cooks, I don't think I've seen the quality slip like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I try go as fast as I can without losing quality. Quality is the most important thing. I would rather wait 20 minutes to eat proper food that wait 10 to eat garbage. I explain why there is a wait to whomever asks ( the lead, servers, expos) but I am not going to give someone a crab cake that's 80 degrees in the center.

On the flip side of that; If someone orders their salmon medium-rare and I accidently cook it medium, I'm putting it on the plate. If it looked broiled I would make another one, though.

I try to put myself in the diner's perspective and what kind of leniency I would be able to give under the circumstances. Meat a temp over or something a little past golden brown is acceptable. That's really it though. They pay good money to eat and they should get what they pay for. That's what I would want.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Getting more help in the kitchen had better be an option, or I'm quitting. But, the most obvious way is to slow down the seating.

So true. Oftentimes the kitchen isn't kept in the loop, and has no control over the FOH. The best restaurants I've worked in, were all chef owned and controlled...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies.

Here is how we do it.

Since we are very popular for breakfast, it is nothing to get hit with 15-20 tickets at a time.

The dining room manager knows to come to the kitchen and get approximate serving times for orders.

If we are really backed up, she notifies the customers as soon as they are seated that their will be a delay in their food getting served.

She then offers them free coffee and small cookies we keep for these occasions.

The vast majority of the customers have no problem waiting when informed this way.

A few leave, but at least they are not upset at long wait times.

Before I took over the kitchen here, it was a disaster.

The cooks frantically ran everywhere trying to keep up with the orders, and food was going out either undercooked or overcooked and the servers were constantly complaining that the kitchen was too slow, and by implication-incompetent.

When I arrived, I deliberately slowed things down and implemented the above policy.

We are in a highly competitive market and adding extra labor is not an option at this time, maybe next season.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am with you - I work at a golf club and yes they all come in at one time - I still don't know how the guys that have assigned tee times at different times all come in at the same time to eat. Some days it will be a nice pace and then others you run out of plates! Most of the time you can't tell when it is even gonna happen to hire a swing shifter. I did read above about an expediter. Our GM is always on call for me. We have had 100 people at the same time for lunch where slowing it down is not really an option. We have nice food, but 10-15 minute turn arounds. He is a pro F/B guys so he knows what to look for. He can see through the pass what we have going on and to ask me -do you have a salmon down or a whatever - it has been a huge help. The other times I have been pushed is a late evening where nothing was scheduled and have 20 walk in at the same time. I just work as I can work - I am not slow but - we have a couple of plates that take extra effort and I have 86d them just to stay above drowning at that 15 minute and over mark. That particular time I was running the entire line and just saw no way to have anything come up together with that one dish....but bang away at it is all I can tell you - I do tell the servers to get the hell away from the pass and to talk about "the game" away from the line so my crew can concentrate. NEVER send anything out wrong. Take an extra 10 seconds - it could mean that plate is going to a person that knows everyone and can sink you...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, I think keeping everyone in the loop of your situation before it gets dire will totally help. I think the idea of having the servers help make the diners feel more comfortable while they wait an extra few minutes for their food is a step in the right direction.

Another thing that might help is adjusting your prep...perhaps there's a few more things you can do ahead to help speed things along...maybe assemble little omelette kits or packets of stuff that are already to go? I am sure you already have stuff like this in place, but maybe there's more?

The important thing is to know the warning signs and be proactive about trying to keep the situation under control. If you can do that, then there's no need to get that extra help and voila, the restaurant is more profitable just by everyone pulling together and helping out.

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We had a situation a few weeks ago when all my tables turned up within 20mins( they are normally staggered over 2 hours).We seat 22, have one chef, one kitchen helper and one waiter.My solution was to go into the restaurant and give a speech about how we had obvioulsy made mistakes with our bookings,some of you have turned up at the wrong time etc etc and that service would be a little slower than normal.Asked if anyone had a plane to catch? :biggrin:

Guests responded so well, totally understanding.We then had the most crazy service, but the food was good, and the tips even better.My advice is to be upfront with your guests, if they know whats going on , they are more likely to be cool.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i personally don't see this as a kitchen issue as much as a foh mgt issue- whoever is running the door should have some sort of system for seating the restaurant according to what the kitchen can handle rather than whether there is an empty table, meaning you figure out at what point the kitchen loses its ability to put out good food, scale it back a couple of tables, and make that many slots available per 1/2 hour (or more or less depending on your turn time). it's always better to turn away a guest because you are too busy than it is to feed a guest and have them leave unhappy (at least in the first instance of them leaving unhappy, they are doing so thinking that the restaurant must be good if there is a 2 hour wait).

Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We tend do get mostly walk ins, so on occasion we get hit with 20+ orders, (4 nites w/one line cook, one cold, 3nites 2 on hot) . My rule is make the plate perfect, as people will be ok if you send it out right , its worse if they wait and the food comes out off. I have the cooks focus on only 2-3 tickets at a time, put the head down and just work thru it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not a professional chef but as a former restaurant owner I had to suffer <G> a few of them.

My interpretation of "food tanking" is that it could be a symptom that the chef has burned out. Seems to happen a lot. Restaurant kitchens create all types of stress.

Best cure I've seen: Philadelphia and most cities now have schools, everything from high school, two year programs, trade certificate programs, four year programs, and even inmate work programs to teach the culinary arts.

During the period I taught business at the Philadelphia Restaurant School, many of the chef instructors left the industry. They needed to get away from the daily grind. After spending a few years with culinary students, especially where the students are eager to learn, most of the chef instructors were rejuvenated and ready again to return to running a kitchen.

There is no better way to rekindle interest in / love of one's vocation than to teach / mentor others who share your previous enthusiasm.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kicking in from the point of view of the consumer. Intelligent diners are aware that such problems do arise and will rarely be offended if approached (as several have suggested) with an honest appraisal of the situation by either the chef or the waitstaff, have this explained to them and are then offered some minor form of compensation - coffee and cookies at breakfast, a glass of wine at dinner, whatever.

I cannot help but think that indeed in such cases honesty is the best policy and that most clients will respond positively to that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My position now takes me more to the FOH than the BOH, and I can say, if things are gonna get hairy, you can fix them if you know about it ahead of time. Offer bread, soup, salads, anything the table hasn't had that is quick to appease them if they are antsy. If that doesn't work, tell them to save room for a dessert on the house. If they are still not happy, at least you did your best. Hopefully the food will overwhelm them...

That being said, as a BOH person at heart, sometimes if you are 15 minutes into a dish that should have been out at 12 minutes, and you know re-cooking it will take 12 more minutes, and you think it MIGHT pass, you might send it out. It sucks but it happens. Re-plate it, juice it up, and hope for the best...

One day I hope to not have to lower my degree of quality like that, but where I work, it's a necessity occasionally....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't know, it hasn't happened since I worked in a shitty chain restaurant many years ago...

For most of my career I've worked in fine dining, and it was usually that the kitchen was underwhelmed, and the servers overwhelmed...  With true professional cooks, I don't think I've seen the quality slip like that.

Im with you. No matter how bad it gets, the food is always correct. No matter what. At TFL, we always used to go by a quote by the great Fernand Point, "It is the guest who must wait for la grande cuisine."

-Chef Johnny

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...