Anyone who's ever worked in the restaurant business understands the terms "in the weeds" or "slammed." Both of these terms refer to being so busy, that you really have nothing else to think about except getting the job done. Truthfully, this is the ideal situation for many of us - the kitchen has got plates coming out and is screaming for the servers, the servers are placing their orders at the POS terminals, and the host is acting as a traffic cop out on the floor trying to get customers sat at tables. As a manager, overseeing this whole process is crucial to the success of your establishment. You've worked hard at building your business and maintaining the success of your operation; now it all hinges on one crucial function: Continuity.
Maintaining continuity during peak business hours can be a real challenge to many of us. Learning to do things "on the fly" or finding "short cuts" to get food out can seriously impact your continuity, which ultimately affects your customers' perception of their visit.
When examining your establishment's continuity, consider the following:
Training: Training in perpetuity is not unusual in our industry. Maintain your training procedures and identify areas of concern that are creating "logjams" in the Front of House (FOH) or the Back of House (BOH).
Forms and Checklists: Create and utilize your checklists and make sure all of your prep is fresh and ready to go for business. For servers, make sure all of the side work duties have been fulfilled and that they have plenty of condiments, silverware, napkins, and other items that they need to get their jobs done. Bartenders should always have beer coolers full, wine and liquor stocks full, and plenty of fruit cut for mixed drinks.
Forecasting: If you've been in business for a number of years, you should know what to expect on any given night of the week or month. A daily ledger of your business should be a natural part of your bookkeeping. Keep track of sales, head counts, the weather and other important events (such as parties or large reservations) to strategize the flow during business hours.
Ergonomics: Sometimes continuity can be greatly affected by the layout of your establishment. Analyze the flow of your restaurant and see if there are ways to reduce congestion at POS terminals, the host area or your bar. Your customers should always feel welcome and comfortable, and by all means, your FOH employees should not appear to be stressed out, overworked or "in a hurry" to get things done or turn tables.
Reducing the amount of confusion and congestion you have in your establishment during peak business hours will greatly benefit your bottom line. Minimizing the risks associated with your menu and service during peak business hours comes from carefully analyzing the routines and procedures you have in place. Sometimes it's a matter of a simple adjustment, other times it may take an overhaul. Either way, you should always build for the future growth of your establishment and expect that things can change in time.
Every successful restaurant operator knows and understands that continuity is what made them successful. Continuity not only comes from the food and beverage that you sell, it also comes from the service. Your customers arrived at your restaurant to have a great experience, and they deserve it. Maintaining your establishment's image, menu and service will turn your customers into regulars. In turn your regulars show up consistently because they are comfortable with the food, beverage and service that they get on each repeat visit to your establishment.