Prioritizing helps streamline service

Every employee at your restaurant has different roles and responsibilities that make the restaurant successful. Throughout the day, especially during the busy times, your servers may find themselves running around, haphazardly juggling those tasks. It can seem overwhelming to them at times, and overall efficiency at your restaurant suffers as a result. However, as I often talk about in my training events, as a manager, all you need to do is bring it back down to the basics and think about what’s important. This is the power of prioritizing. By taking the time to step back and think about each of the things that needs to be accomplished during a typical shift, the seemingly overwhelming work load not only becomes more manageable and your employees will be more efficient.

For any given shift the server will have certain restaurant-wide duties along with certain responsibilities to each of their tables. All work must get done even while there might be some things going on in the restaurant that are out of their control: problems in the kitchen, a particular menu item might be unavailable, etc. How do you get ahead of the game and make sure servers are working as efficiently and effectively as possible? It’s a simple two-step process: Make a list, then prioritize that list. By making a list, you are creating a finite universe of what needs to get done.

To increase your servers’ efficiency at work, encourage each of them to follow this procedure:

• At the beginning of the shift, take five minutes to write down every task that he needs to accomplish that day.

• Next, separate the tasks into two categories: static and variable. Static tasks are items that need to get done regardless of how many people come in the door or how many tables the waiter manages throughout the night. Variable tasks are things that may come up over the course of the shift depending on the guests.

Now the server should take a look at the list. First, look at the static tasks. Is there any way to break up these tasks throughout the work shift in order to make them more manageable? Think back to when you were in school. If you needed to read a 200-page book in two weeks, it was much easier to read 20 pages a day than to read all 200 the night before. When I waited tables, one of the things that I needed to do was build 50 silverware rolls before leaving (rolling up the knife, fork, and spoon into a napkin). In this example, if a typical shift is 5 hours, I focused on building 10-15 rolls per hour so all of that work wouldn’t be looming over my head for me to complete at the end of the shift.

For the variable tasks, think if any of the things that will come up can be combined. For example, refilling drinks at tables. Each server knows that she will need to refill sodas and waters throughout the night, so it would benefit her to combine efforts. Rather than looking at one of her four tables, seeing that they need refills, then going to the soda machine, filling their drinks, bringing them back to those guests and then checking the status of his next table, she should scan all four of her tables at the same time. Then, she just makes one trip to the soda machine to get everyone reset.

Lastly, at the end of the shift, I would recommend that you have your employees personally evaluate what was accomplished. Was each person able to complete every task they wanted to today? Is there some way they could have worked more efficiently? Even figuring out a way to save 5-10 minutes means that tomorrow, the job will be that much easier. A lower stress level for everyone (including the manager) and each of your employees will be optimizing their performance.

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Allan Barmak

Allan Barmak is a national speaker and author of The Accidental Salesperson. He also leads a sales consulting and training firm which leverages his 20 years of sales experience. Over the years, he...
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