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Tales of the Front of the House


SobaAddict70
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wow, foodtutor, that sounds a lot like the ruth's chris i worked at as a hostess. we had pivot points, time limits on drinks, appetizers, entrees, etc., certification and recertification, etc. but we weren't as efficient as your restaurant when it came to greeting, or hobart procedure.

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I've been in the biz for almost 30 years, and almost every restaurant has recognized pivot points at the tables, and all have had set times for each action - whether enforced or not. Outback Steakhouse (my last gig) wants a 30 second greet time, 2 minute drink arrival and max of 14 minutes for entrees. App's vary as it takes significantly longer to cook the chicken wings than the other items. All this while running everyone elses food, leading each and every guest on a 'walkabout' of the menu (ok, now they call it a 'menu conversation') and inevitably bussing your own tables because they are watching labor and are understaffed. Oh, and I forgot ... refilling everyone's soda before they have a chance to suck it up.

Outback also uses a fairly easy trick to let everyone know if a table has been greeted or not - when greeted, the coasters are placed in front of each guest. Of course, when the guests start building houses of cards out of the coasters all bets are off :smile:

And before I go down in flames for working for Outback ... I like a job where I can joke with my guests, not have to worry if I have enough white shirts starched and pressed, and can get away with occasionally having bizarre words flow from my mouth (early onset turrets?). Actually, I recently left Outback and start a new job (accounting for a theatre organization) on Monday. Scary stuff maynard!

My pet peeve? For the moment it's people who think they 'know' how things should be because they've written restaurant reviews.

No one can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it. - T. Bankhead
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This brings back memories of the corporate line dance I did while working for Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago. At the restaurant I worked at, the goal seemed to be a high level of mediocrity(my perspective from the boh). But the systems used were effecient to say the least, and I 've retained much of that aspect .

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Chains have corporate trainers and efficiency experts who can teach people to work in a certain way. It's interesting and all, but short of "obtaining" those training materials from a chain, how do the mom and pop places do it?

You can teach a 9 iron how to do anything with the right training materials. For the smaller places, it has to be personable and smart people to make it run right.

Nothing against the people who work for chains, mind you. But the little place down the street from me does just fine without computer aided ordering. There's no secret code of napkins at the table. It's good customer service and good food. Sometimes I think this stuff gets a little overthought.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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There's something to be said for a well written and well drilled in "sequence of service". It's what makes certain the customer gets the same and consistent service every time they walk in the door, not just on the nights that they get the "good" waiter. It means you'll always have your soup spoon before your soup arrives. It means you'll have time to enjoy your meal without a hovering and annoying waiter, and should want for nothing because it's all been thought out ahead of time.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Nothing against the people who work for chains, mind you. But the little place down the street from me does just fine without computer aided ordering. There's no secret code of napkins at the table. It's good customer service and good food. Sometimes I think this stuff gets a little overthought.

You can't compare the mom & pop places to the larger operations. They're totally different birds and require different methods of operation. In the little place down the street, the owner can (and almost always does) keep an eye on every table from the time the guest is sat to the time the bill is paid. There isn't the need for the little games to assure the guest is being taken care of because the owner is taking that responsibility. They don't need a computer to track their sales because they take their own inventory daily and know what's selling (or being stolen by the crew!) by what products they're low on. And yes, sometimes things are a little overthought - but you might be surprised at the little 'tricks' that your mom & pop place does without your ever knowing to ensure your good service and good food.

No one can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it. - T. Bankhead
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I'm VERY impressed!

It sounds like an efficient but friendly operation. 

Do you have locations in the Midwest?

Would you like one?

SB (sitting on a dynamite lease in a great neighborhood)

I just did a web search, to refresh myself on where all of the locations are, and the closest one that comes to being "Midwest" is in Kansas City. I'm not sure if that counts, because "Midwest" is a very non-outlined area of the United States.

I'd love to offer you a franchise opportunity, but it's not an operation that wants to franchise. Some companies in this business simply do not want to franchise, such as Brinker, which franchised for a period, but then bought back all of their franchised stores, because they wanted to have that much more control over any operations carrying the name. It's always a big gamble, taking money for a location carrying the name, and then checking back in with a field representative, to see if standards are being held, in exchange for getting the name that brings in a certain amount of business. If I ever came up with a business concept that could be franchised, I'd be very likely to not go in that direction. It just adds too many variables.

I really just wanted to give this information so that independent business operators could take advantage of it, without attending Cornell, or other, very expensive, programs. If it's helpful to even one person, that would make me happy.

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Chains have corporate trainers and efficiency experts who can teach people to work in a certain way. It's interesting and all, but short of "obtaining" those training materials from a chain, how do the mom and pop places do it?

Many of them do it by getting experience from the larger companies, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. To speak for myself, I certainly appreciate gaining this information, and I will use it, if I ever open my own restaurant. In this market, I wouldn't even think of opening a new restaurant without that base, because this is a really, really tough market, which requires very fast service and extremely good, though basic, food.

I'd feel obligated to send them a thank-you note for all of that, if it weren't for the fact that I know the company doesn't give anything to me for free. I work for every bit of it, and I make plenty of money for them, while I learn. I'm sure they've thought out that aspect, too.

Nothing against the people who work for chains, mind you. But the little place down the street from me does just fine without computer aided ordering. There's no secret code of napkins at the table. It's good customer service and good food. Sometimes I think this stuff gets a little overthought.

There is no doubt that things can get fairly impersonal, but my experience with some of the smaller restaurants that own and operate in this particular market, where people spend upwards of an hour a day sitting in traffic, time is a huge issue.

Without some of the things we do to save time, we would lose a lot of business, and in fact, we do. We are very conscious of the fact that there's a Ruby Tuesday next door, and while people will be less satisfied with the food and service there, there is a certain point when the wait is so long that people are no longer willing to wait for food made from scratch.

But in different markets, things work completely differently. Here, we can't even enforce a rule against cell-phones, with people spending just an average of 45 minutes in the restaurant, on an average day. Sometimes, it gets ridiculous, but we just have to adapt to an extremely fast environment.

I wouldn't necessarily choose to live in an environment where people are constantly working, wearing earpiece cellphones all of the time, barely taking the time to order a meal, while still conducting business. I just wanted to convey a bit about where I work, and how we handle all of these issues.

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