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RAHiggins1

The ebb and flow of the rush hour

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We put a lot of attention around here to what goes on in the kitchens, but that's only half of the house. I've worked both, I've managed both, when FOH is going smooth the BOH flows with it and when the front is fubar'ed the back is too.

The worst it can get is when you see the whole restaurant turn at once. It empties out, tables are hurriedly bussed and reseated and orders come en masse to the kitchen. That my friends is when the shite has hit the fan, nothing is more torturous than to wade through the onslaught of orders. So many that you can't get them all fired and food is pulled and stacked waiting for space on the grill, fryer, what have you. Tickets are placed on top of tickets until you no longer know or care which came in first. Your eyes glaze over and you stare at what's cooking, no longer sure what goes with what. At the pass, servers and runners are snatching plates left and right. Its a dog eat dog world and they all want to get plates in front of their customers and will screw each other over in a heartbeat for it.

Out on the floor, the pandemonium is sensed by the customer. They glare about looking for their waiter/waitress wanting their presence acknowledged. They see other tables seated after them being served before them. The other table's food has arrived and are almost done while your glasses are empty and have no plates in front of you. Other customers are done and sitting at a table that has not been pre-bussed. They want their check and they want it right now. It's time to leave.

I've experienced all three sides and I can tell you, It never has to be that way.

First, never let a customer go without being greeted and a drink in their hand. Have someone who does nothing but takes drink orders and goes to the bar to get them, this initiates a contract and buys you time to get them seated.

Once seated, each table should be treated like they are the only table in the restaurant. Serve them. Get their order, get it put in and started in the kitchen and then seat the next one. Seat customers round robin style in the different sections/stations. Never, seat all the tables, take all the orders and then go put them all in. There has to be time between orders for the kitchen to process it. No exceptions.

Serve all the places at the table at once.

Prebus

Prebus

Prebus

Keep drinks filled.

Watch the tables closely, present the check at the last bite.

For a server the most crucial moment is the last one, as soon as the customer is ready to pay, process it and get them the "F" out of there.

All in all its a real juggling act. You have to keep everyone happy all of the time.

I do not know why I felt compelled to write this, maybe I miss working in that environment or am just tired of schlepping computer parts. Who knows.


Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.

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yep, if we were so minded we could really screw the kitchen over, though I prefer just putting the pressure on a bit, especially when some of the mouthier chefs are on the pass, you know just bring a couple of tables through from the cocktail bar in quick succession, then maybe a table or two order at the table..... instead of the nice orderly procession of checks, they get maybe 4 or 5 really quickly, nothing too serious, but it doesn't half wind up the chefs, especially afterwards when you wander is - what the big fuss only 40 cover service....

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Good points there, too bad most restaurant these days don't follow the suit.

Generally whomever takes down reservations stack the seatings somewhat well enough for the restaurant to run smoothly. Though occasions such as holidays, or lunch for example, where you get slammed real hard real fast at around 1pm. It's quite hard to avoid the cluster f of tickets all at once. Yet the push is always thrilling

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I just floated on the flow of your words---I thought of TB's "A Day In the Life..." and as then, thought "I'm glad it's not me."

I've just seen TC, in which Tom C was "expediter, " and then did a total immersion in a TIVO-ed HK marathon, in which Ramsay, and then each of the chefs, did all the yelling and hurry-up and pick-it-up and where's-my-risotto? and you-lazy-cow. So my customer-only experience is coloring my idea that that was drama for TV. I've certainly never heard any such noise from the kitchen in any restaurant I've ever been in.

Is there that much yelling, and even more interesting---does a line of chefs/cooks totally remember six orders shouted out at once, including salads and desserts? And over and over again in a night's work?

That's just beyond imaginable to me, to work in a hot, quick environment with the pressure that it must entail. I can, and have, cooked for 300, but at HOME, at my own pace during a day's work---not bumping elbows and frying pans and sharp blades with frenzied companions intent on immolating and chopping everything in sight.

My mind boggles. And my admiration rises.


Edited by racheld (log)

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The way I look at it, either you can or you can't. The ones whom "can't" either write it down or eventually get weeded out.

Personally the more times you practice call backs, the more it helps your memory. Though obviously when a ten top comes in follow by several deuses it's certainly going to get confusing. Thus why you ask to verify or the sous/expo would do so anyways to double check.

Another way we do it in the restaurant, say on a protein station for example; you arrange the orders chronologically as they come in. So for example if I pulled 5 duck breasts, I would arrange them 3then2 (or whatever) so I would know how many on the board..then after I rendered the fat or whatever, I would let them rest the same order.

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The way I look at it, either you can or you can't. The ones whom "can't" either write it down or eventually get weeded out.

Personally the more times you practice call backs, the more it helps your memory. Though obviously when a ten top comes in follow by several deuses it's certainly going to get confusing. Thus why you ask to verify or the sous/expo would do so anyways to double check.

Another way we do it in the restaurant, say on a protein station for example; you arrange the orders chronologically as they come in. So for example if I pulled 5 duck breasts, I would arrange them 3then2 (or whatever) so I would know how many on the board..then after I rendered the fat or whatever, I would let them rest the same order.

I used to cook short order from memory, but I did rely heavily on pulling anything out that varied to my board or to the grill. I had to though, we weren't given tickets and the waitresses called in the food orders and walked off. It took me a long time to get it though. If you needed to know what was supposed to go with what, you had to flag them down and wait for them to rifle through their tickets.

On the kitchen language, if the kitchen is behind closed doors, then yes the language takes a nose dive in general. Add to that the strongly hispanic work force, and you get the machismo high school grab ass thrown in as well. Usually homo-erotic in nature. If you can't keep up, you can bet you'll be told or mocked.

If you look around and they are all looking at you with disdain, or mirth, you are holding up the line.


Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.

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When the front would sit and order the entire dining room, all I could do, as a chef of a 50 seat or a 250 seat, was to fire and send tickets in groups, 4-6 at a time. Some will wait, but at least their food will be right. I got little satisfaction from giving back to the mismanagement of the front of house, but when they would look at me as I called pick up and they weren't ready, I would then call 2 more. Payback sucks, ya know? I refused to let the kitchen be the fall guy for inept foh management,( and I'm the bad guy?)


Edited by Timh (log)

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ooo, Tim....I'm not even going to touch that one....

Ok maybe I will :biggrin:

Certainly there is mismanagement FOH but there is certainly a unnessesary tug-of-war between FOH and BOH that leads to disaray as well....

SOMETIMES....reservations are late....or early....and sit all together...OR they want to have a drink at the bar and THEN decide (after trying to coax them earlier) to seat at 8 o'clock...along with everyone else....or sometimes they sit forever waving their server off (as they try and try) till -they- are ready to order...then it goes in along with everyone else.....there are numerous incidents that aren't as 'controllable' (remember we are dealing with the public) as you may think...

Of course, we, and the servers try to stagger the best way we can but sometimes it's unavoidable the way it hits the kitchen.

And when that happens....I NEED a steady chef...one who will work with me in terms of...no, don't worry about table 16 they've happily ordered another bottle of wine and are inclined to wait...what I need it table 2 who looks like they are having a marriage war and have nothing to say to each other.

I don't always get that rapport with chef's...they'd rather play games with 'what tickets came first'....or 'don't tell me how to run my kitchen' (I'm the cute FEMALE GM, btw, trying to deal with all the 'ego's')...

If we can work better together...we'd get thru the mad rush better than you think....

It may not be that way in your restaurant...but whew....I'm just venting. :wink:


Edited by Sukie (log)

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Very well said! I enjoyed reading this!!


At the end of the day, it's all about good food!

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SOMETIMES....reservations are late....or early....and sit all together...OR they want to have a drink at the bar and THEN decide (after trying to coax them earlier) to seat at 8 o'clock...along with everyone else....or sometimes they sit forever waving their server off (as they try and try) till -they- are ready to order...then it goes in along with everyone else.....there are numerous incidents that aren't as 'controllable' (remember we are dealing with the public) as you may think...

Of course, we, and the servers try to stagger the best way we can but sometimes it's unavoidable the way it hits the kitchen. 

And when that happens....I NEED a steady chef...one who will work with me in terms of...no, don't worry about table 16 they've happily ordered another bottle of wine and are inclined to wait...what I need it table 2 who looks like they are having a marriage war and have nothing to say to each other.

I wish more chefs would do this. I am always super on top of my tables and would love to be able to work with our chef in this way. As it is, when things get backed up, I just become really, really persistent and annoying, because otherwise things fall through the cracks and I get blamed for it.


"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

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I have found if you can train the people in charge of seating, ie host's and managers, to walk slowly too and from tables it creates enough difference in the customer seating times to give the servers and kitchen time to process tables consecutively rather than all coming in at once.

The other thing that can kill a service is a 'section sweep', this is where the server takes multiple orders before sending them into the kitchen all at once. This is bad for the kitchen and bad for the first table that ordered. They may wait 5-10 minutes before the order even reaches the cooks, which is half of my 20 minute max order time.

In the end though, with 4 computers to place orders for 160 seats, two bars, and a ton of takeout the printer can spit tickets for 1/2 an hour at a pop even if everyone is doing everything right, it just means the take out phone wont stop ringing and the line at the door is so long that people are ordering food from the bartenders and the waitress is soo busy she forgot that order for table 23 in her pocket and by the way that order you are about to sell, here are its app's we forgot to put in, could they come first please?

In the end we push through by sandbagging the longer cooking items (bbq 1/2 chicken, well done stuff, etc...) and trying to sell the tickets as fast as we can. The real kitchen problems USUALLY only happen when there are problems out front and the chef has a line of servers with problems like misordered or delivered food or stupid questions (where are the napkins? Does the BBQ Sauce have sugar in it? Is your chicken vegatable soup vegetarian? and a whole list of questions to be asked at any other time but in the middle of service ) Get a few of those in a row, distract the chef's train of thought for a moment and it takes a minute or two to get on track and in that time is when the wheels fall off the bus. This is why I am a holy terror in my kitchen on a friday or saturday night service, to encourage the average server to think twice before entering that kitchen and screwing with our groove. All stupid questions get stupid answers, all location requests (where are the togo cups?) are simply answered with 'On your station, where you put them when you set up at 5 like we did with all of our prep' It only took a few months of these tactics and most weekend nights I only see the servers at the beginning of dinner, family meal, or if I send a food runner with a question. As a result though the managers have noticed that the foh is much more ready now that the kitchen is no longer a hang out and information booth.

Of course if they were really doing their jobs none of these tactics would be needed and most of the wait staff might not think I am a total egotistical A-hole, but if that is what it takes to get my food in front of happy customers, so be it. I prefer happy customers to happy servers and the servers that know the business see what I am doing and that I am fair and consistent about it so they back me up and like seeing the slackers and dodgers get deserved abuse. (I'll tell you where the togo cups are at 5 while you are setting up and i am not busy, I might even show you if you are new and I am bored.)

Wow if this reads odd sorry, it took too long to type and I just can't bring myself to proofread.

Fink


The best part of the Guiniea Pig? The Cheeks! Definately the cheeks!!

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Has anyone ever played Diner Dash?

It TEACHES people that the correct thing to do is "section sweep".. you get bonus points for doing it!

Honestly it depends on the front of house to teach the servers properly.. we've had the owner go upstairs on a record breaking night and catch a server with a 15top in hand, ringing in an 8 top! He said "no WAY you are going to do that, right?"


Rico

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