Sunday, July 11, 2010

Waiting ...

I have never owned a restaurant before, never worked in one either. Heck, the closest I ever got to restaurants was from a customer perspective. For those of you who don't know it, I am a computer geek, I have been since age 15 when I got my first computer (a Sinclair ZX-81 with a whopping 16KB, that's K like in Kilo!!!). The interest in all things computers eventually led to a Masters Degree in Computer Science.

Flash-forward: It is July 10, 2010. I own a restaurant where I am responsible for the front-of-the-house (restaurant lingo for the staff that you see running around, as opposed to back-of-the-house, which are the people who actually prepare your food, clean your dishes, etc.).

Today we were one server short, and I couldn't find anyone to cover the shift, and that on a Saturday night, when we were destined to get busy. To make it short, we decided to call up E!'s sister to play the hostess-with-the-mostess (thank you Amy), so that I could be out on the floor waiting tables.

I was admittedly nervous, as I usually am when I do something I haven't done before, but I also knew that this was a great opportunity to walk in my staffs' shoes, and do the things I preach them to do.

We had a busy night, but it was a steady flow instead of a mad rush, and that made it easier. I let my two servers wait the tables, keeping an eye on the floor to ensure our guests were tended to in a timely manner, bused tables to take the load of the servers and have them concentrate on our guests.

All this went very well until a party of eight arrived. Larger parties always pose a challenge to wait staff and kitchen alike, taking orders and getting the food out all at once requires more time and ties up the server and kitchen.

That is when I heard my calling: This table was mine!

The party arrived in two groups about five minutes apart, which gave me time to prepare: Mark up the guest check with seat numbers, so that I could remember which guest is getting or had what to eat and drink, get water glasses out, make sure there is enough silverware on the table.

Although I thought I was prepared, I instantly failed to write down drink orders by guest, which meant I had to go back later and peek at the table to figure out who had ordered what drink. I avoided that mistake when taking food orders, and didn't have any problems that the table ordered food in reverse order of my seat numbering.

When the food came out, every guest got exactly what they ordered, without having to ask around who ordered what (it's these little details that make the difference when serving guests).

I continued keeping an eye on the table, refilling water glasses, removing empty plates, taking beverage orders, while making sure the rest of the dining room was taken care of by my two servers.

After my table had finished their entrees I offered desserts and got an order for three Schatzies. I placed the order with the kitchen and started tallying up the bill so I had the check ready when the guests had finished their desserts.

We don't have a POS (point of sale) system yet, which puts some strain on our wait staff, as they have to manually add up the numbers for guests checks. I hope to change this soon, but it all takes time. Baby steps, baby steps.

Fully prepared I went to the table asked if they wanted anything, and when they declined whipped out the check. Splitting the bill five-ways (four credit cards and cash) was not a problem.

After the guests had left and the table was cleared I felt very satisfied: My first waiting experience, and I think I did a pretty good job. I would rate myself at a C+, because I made quite a few mistakes, which I would criticize my staff for, but I am learning, fast, very fast.

Dirk