• Mike Hughes

The next 120 minutes!

So when I last left you, I had finally joined my friends at the table and have managed to get a drink order to Mary…

Mary was the one who will soon be managing this place.

(She will decline this offer)

As she is waiting in line at the service window, out of the corner of my eye, I see a gentleman peer out of the kitchen door…He had a white shirt, a tie and was holding a clip board. I could see his eyes get very wide immediately, and I was 40 feet away.

This is our MOD and he starts surveying the bar and then he darts into the other dining area. Is this finally where this visit takes a turn?

He comes back 30 seconds later with 2 wait staff members. He starts pointing and talking when he realizes that he has a napkin tucked in his shirt, which indicates to me that he was dining while the guests were not. Each of the 2 servers grabbed the2 most annoyed looking tables while the MOD ran behind the bar and started filling window orders so the bar tender could take the open menus at the bar. If you count wonder woman, there are now 5 people in the bar where one employee used to be.

I am now forgetting about the light bulbs, trash in the parking lot, crappy host service and the men’s room.

The men’s room you say? No I haven’t been there yet, but something tells me it’s trashed.

Mary comes back and delivers our drinks and decides we would be better off if she takes our order. The rest of my group could recite the menu verbatim by now, and we are starving. I ask Mary how the kitchen is holding up through this night so far…She replies; “Oh yeah, our kitchen always rocks”…I am now 7/8th through the pint of Sammy she dropped off 32 seconds ago, but I am now encouraged. I couldn’t help but wonder though, how can a kitchen staff perform at such a high level, while the FOH is so loose.

Knowing now that the food is good and flying out of the kitchen, we load up on apps and a couple French Onions soups. In the spirit of time and space, I will NOT enter into a full on food review, although I absolutely love doing that.

Out of curiosity I poke my head in the dining room and it looks…Well…Controlled.

The divide and conquer move by the MOD was working. Basically each server got one more table each, so now they have 7 tables. (That still hurts to say).

Now remember the clip board that the inventory taking, service ignoring manager had in his hands? It is on the back bar and acted as a great sponge when the bartender accidentally knocked over a full pitcher of strawberry daiquiri’s…That is going to really set his night back…

So now that things are starting to fall into place service wise, Mary bends down and asks me the question I hate to get…”You’re in the business, aren’t you?

You see Mary is smart. Mary gives a shit. Mary is like so many other hourly employees in a restaurant that could literally fix our restaurants problems, if management allowed it. Go ahead managers and have a meeting and ask your hourly team what WE can improve upon as managers…See what happens. Just wear your armor because you WILL get an hour of earfuls. We as managers sometimes think we have all the answers and a server’s job is to wait tables. That is an arrogant and ignorant way to look at your team. Servers and bartenders WANT to be led and they WANT leadership and direction from their managers. They are lying if they say otherwise…But more than anything they WANT to be heard.

The only time where I don’t always listen to servers? When they are begging to cut the floor, because they aren’t making money and they are closers and deserver to split a 100 seat dining room in half with 2 hours till closing. Yeah I’m talking to you.

Solid and consistent systems from management, along with providing direction to their staff are 2 of the most important things we can do. Share the goals and the results. I have never protected the restaurants financial results from my staff, in fact sharing them, and going over opportunities with your army, can usually fix those things. If the restaurant I was sitting in that night had consistent systems, engaged management and leadership, NONE of those series of disasters could have happened. It’s almost impossible.

Why does the kitchen “rock”, in the opinion of this restaurants best server? I guarantee they have more than one BOH employee who owns their department and even a KM who has done his or her job.

The moral of the story, (yeah there is a moral to the story here), is this;

Make sure that proven restaurant systems and operational best practices are alive in your restaurant.

Never lose sight of your obligation to be engaged in your business.

Resist the urge to save your P&L by crazy staffing reductions, and there are tools available to help with this. Listen to you key staff (most of the time), if you really want to know how YOU are doing, and for Christ’s sake, save admin stuff (inventory, safe audits, opening and closing check lists and so on), for when the doors are locked!

Thanks for tuning in and please stop back next week where we discuss decision making 101.


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