Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Attention to detail in a restaurant is not just about how a dish looks on a plate, spotting a dirty napkin under a table, or making sure you’re opening the correct bottle of wine a table ordered.  It can, and does go a little deeper.

Our job requires a high level of attention to detail, we are expected to not only see what we see, but what our guests see too. However, things our guests don’t see could be something that they should be made aware of.

Prevention is better than cure:

Prov. It is better to try to keep a bad thing from happening than it is to fix the bad thing once it has happened.

What sparked the inspiration for writing this post was a situation I was recently in while on shift. We were coming into the rush period, and within a short amount of time, the kitchen had a full board of orders. While I was out on the line looking at the mass amount of orders lining up, I checked to see where down the line my tables were, they were close to the end.

An earlier post I wrote titled “What are your kitchen times” will help you with this situation.

So after I saw what was going on in the back of the house, I decided to take initiative and speak with my tables (I also informed my manager of what I was going to do). Despite that one of my tables ordered just 4 minutes ago, another table 5 minutes ago, and yet another table 7 minutes ago I went to each table and told all of them the same thing:

Sorry to interrupt, I just thought I would give you a heads up, there are a lot of orders in front of you because of some parties we have in the restaurant now, so your meals may take longer than expected, or they may not.  I’m sorry but I will do everything I can to get your meals out to you in a reasonable time.

So here’s what this did for me:

  • It gave me a starting point, which from then on I could keep my tables in constant communication to how long their meals would take, reassuring them that I would do what I could to get it out to them.
  • It allowed the guests to be mentally prepared for a potential wait, and not letting it get to a point of them having to ask impatiently “How long for our food?”.
  • It gave me some time to help bus tables, run food and drinks and do whatever I could to help quicken service.
  • It demonstrates a level of care for the guest.  It lets them know that I am paying attention and doing everything in my power to make sure they have the best experience possible.

The important thing you must do is to keep your tables informed constantly, check in with the kitchen to see how things are coming along, then go out and give your tables an update. 

Out of those three tables I told that there would be a wait on food, one of them got their meals around the normal time it would take, the other two tables took an average of 8 minutes longer than usual, all three of them thanked me for keeping them in the loop and as a result tipped very well.

I will say that not everyone you tell this to will react with such acceptance, but in all honesty, I think it’s better they know sooner, and not later.

One last point about telling your tables about possible delays is to only tell them if there may actually be a wait. Don’t just throw it out there in a hope that when they get their meal in the normal time it comes off as if you were the hero that made it happen. Guests are smart and if you get caught out in your lie it doesn’t look good.