It is said that information is power. Well, I’m not sure power is what we’re after, but we are after a smooth service where everyone benefits. First and foremost, the guest has a great dining experience. The kitchen has fun, and a sense of accomplishment. The service staff has an enjoyable time, and makes more money. The restaurant does more business.
Recently, a server walked into the kitchen during a busy service and said “Chef, I screwed something up.” I calmly said “Ok, what was it, and what do you need to fix it.” As it turns out, two entreés were delivered to the wrong table, but only one was returned to the kitchen. The error was very fixable, and the slight lapse in service was repaired quickly and professionally as both tables involved were served fresh plates quickly, and were able to enjoy their dining experience. The significance here is that the server owned the error and told the truth about what happened, and was able to let me know exactly what was needed to make things right. And, truth be told, the server was not the one that delivered the plates, but took the responsibility anyway.
On the same night, another server fired the second course on a table (to fire a table is to let the kitchen know they’re ready for the next course). It seemed too soon, based on the time written on their ticket when the first course went to the table. The rule in my kitchen is that you fire the next course when you have cleared the plates from the previous course, fire it, reset the silver, and there’s never the possibility that the entreés will come out when their table is still eating their appetizer. Some servers try to anticipate how long it will take the kitchen to cook the next course, so they fire, hoping their timing is right. Also, we’re not a place that’s trying to turn tables at the expense of spoiling our guests’ dining experience. There’s no need to try to get the food shipped out immediately following the previous course. People are out to relax, and enjoy their meal, not get fed, and sent on their way. In almost twenty years I have never seen a server who can consistently anticipate the speed of the kitchen accurately. When I questioned the server, and asked if the plates were cleared and they’re ready for their next course , the server said “yes chef.” I could have sent the entreés within minutes, but instead I had someone else look at the table and report back. They were still eating their duck prosciutto. I’ve been doing this a long time, I knew the server lied, then lied about lying. In a case like this, as opposed to the case when the server was honest with what was happening in the dining room, my ire was made clear.
The three people cooking in my kitchen have a cumulative total of seven years in said kitchen together, we’ve served a lot of plates together and have a system that works. We know each others ability, and can time things very well. Ya gotta trust that and let us do our work. We wont let ya down.
Any smooth-running kitchen needs a clear picture of what’s happening in the dining room, and what’s happening at each table. Clear, concise communication from the service staff is more important than they think. We do a lot of things that go unnoticed, and a lot of things that don’t need explaining. What we need is the information we ask for, that we know when new tables are sat, how many are in the party, and that the information on the ticket that comes to the kitchen is complete and accurate.
When the information we receive isn’t clear, or lacks detail, then I will have questions. For example, if a server tells me through the POS system that there are four people at a table (each ticket tells us how many people are in the party), and three meals are listed, I will have a question, which means someone will have to let the server know that the kitchen has a question, and that server will need to make a trip, taking them away from service. More often than not, the number of people listed is wrong, and the order was accurate. But, there exists the possibility that the number if people was correct, and an entreé is missing, which would be a problem.
The bottom line is, people who are out to do a great job, and be part of a well-functioning team need as much information from all other parts as possible. We as a kitchen will use that information to make things run smoother, and make a servers life easier, and more profitable.