This whole business, like most businesses, is all about anticipation. I have worked for way too many bosses who just sit back and react as things unfold. You are not going to be successful if you spend all of your time putting out fires.
You don’t have the luxury of sitting in the office and managing things from there. Owners, managers, chefs, need to be out on the floor watching as things happen. Take a look at that reservation book and see what you can expect on any given night, and prepare accordingly.
There are many versions of mise en place
I remember my days at the front desks of restaurants, and I could always get an idea of what to expect on a night based on the reservations, and what might be going on around town, or around the restaurant that night. BUT, it meant taking the time to look it over and soak it all in.
Plan better. Train harder
Take a look around. Is a waiter slammed? Don’t seat him again! At least not right away. Have the host go fill water in his station. Have the busser focus on his station for a bit. How about you get off of your butt, and you go open up a bottle of wine for the guy?
Is the bar busy? Get behind that bar and wash glassware. It’s the least you can do.
When I talk to my students on this subject I like to use a baseball analogy: If I am the shortstop on a baseball team, and there are runners on first and second with one out, I have several options if the ball is hit to me. The point is, however, that I should know what I am going to do with that ball before it is hit to me. Am I going to throw to third? To second? To first? Am I going to try to tag the runner as he runs by?
Okay, I imagine that analogy was lost on those reading this post, but, trust me, the point remains valid. Think ahead! See what the night is about to give you and plan ahead.
Is it slow? Send a server home. Save on labor. Maybe you know it is going to be slow before the night even begins, and you can actually call the server before they iron that shirt, use up gas driving to the restaurant, pay for parking, etc… You can actually anticipate and take care of it the night before if you really are good at your job.
Maybe it’s going to be crazy busy. Get some extra staff in to help handle the load. I know you want to save on labor, but you will not have anything to save after you pissed off a bunch of customers because you didn’t anticipate the rush in the first place.
This business is all about anticipation. Anticipation leads to better food cost controls, labor cost controls, happier employees, and yes, happier customers. Anticipate!