This should be a question that you can answer. I don’t mean what time are your kitchen’s hours of operation, I’m talking about how long everything takes to be prepared and put up for it to be taken to a table. A well-done rib-eye will obviously take longer than a club sandwich with fries.
A lot of the time in restaurants there’s a sort of segregation between the front of house staff and back of house staff, not meaning that they both don’t get along but the bond can be a bit stronger because you spend most of your shift with each other. I like to get right into the kitchen and get to know everyone who works in there, it also gives me a chance to ask a bunch of questions and bug them a little.
I like to be prepared because I hate the feeling of being asked a question by my guests and not being able to answer it without tapping on another server’s shoulder, or running out the back and asking “Hey what’s the dressing on our arugula salad?“.
The kind of things you should know is how long the average times are for appetizers, mains, sides, desserts. The kitchen should be able to give you a ranged number, for example:
- Appetizers – 6 to 12 minutes
- Mains – 14 to 18 minutes
- Sides – 4 to 7 minutes
- Desserts – 4 – 8 minutes
This is just an example, every place is different.
So what this means for you is that you can keep a mental note of when you should ask the kitchen to start on table 22’s mains because they are almost finished eating their arugula salads with citrus vinaigrette (see I knew the dressing :)).
You also should be aware of things on the menu that may take longer than usual (hopefully the kitchen made you aware of them when you asked about timing). For instance, I worked at a hotel which had a restaurant with a great seafood selection. One of the items on the menu was a seafood platter for 2, I believe it was around the $180 mark and it had a preparation time of 40 minutes, this thing was epic!
At first, it may take a little bit of getting used to, but the more you work you will start to build a natural sense of when it’s appropriate to call for a table’s next course.
Sometimes you will have a table tell you that they want a break in between their meals, take note, do not wait for them to ask you that they are ready for their next course because in their mind their meals will be coming out in a few minutes where in reality it could be 15 to 20 minutes. Just ask them when they tell you this how long they would like between courses, then then you can gauge it from there.
Don’t be afraid to ask the kitchen any questions you’re unsure about, but be sure first they aren’t busy and try not to ask the same question over and over and over again, a few times is okay.
For some other advice on restaurant time management check out a post a wrote titled “6 Tips for Time Management“.
Enjoy your day