How to Seat a Dining Room

It is amazing to me how many restaurants don’t understand this all-important concept. You get to decide the success or failure of your restaurant at the front desk. So learn how to do it properly and then train your front door staff on how to do it properly.

Don’t bury your servers!

It is important that you rotate seating so all of your servers have a fighting chance on surviving the evening. Not to mention the fair earning opportunity for the servers–another concept that we will visit on another occasion, (keeping morale positive is the by-product of that). Seat one server, then the other one, then the other one, and so on. You should never, whenever possible, give your servers three, four, five tables at one time.

Imagine you are the customer

What chance of having a good time does that customer have? Let’s see now. A waiter gets five tables at once. How many tables can they go to at a time? That’s right, one!

By rotating through the sections you are giving your customers a pretty good chance of having a pleasant experience. And that is what you want–remember it is all about getting them to come back.

Not always possible

Of course I realize this is not always possible. Sometimes you are going to just have your you-know-what handed to you and you are going to have to deal. In my Spago days, we would do over 400 dinners, get no support or thought from management, and just had to figure it out. Full station seated at 6:00, again at 8:00, again at 10:00, and if you were the closer, again at 12:00. Those were the days.

But, we do have a choice most of the time. If a waiter just had three table seated in their station, there are some options when another table comes in that is plotted for that server’s station. How about you use your imagination and don’t just look at the reservation book and go to the table that those customers are plotted for? Instead you decide to seat that table in another server’s station. Or how about this: You tell the customers that you will be ready in just a couple of minute, let the waiter get caught up, and then seat them.


You notice the server just got a lot of tables so you: 1) Tell the customer it will be just two minutes, 2) Tell the host to go fill water and coffee in their station, 3) Ask another server to open the wine that the busy server needs opened, 4) Ask another server to go take an order for the busy server.


Imagine that. In just two minutes you took care of things, the server is now caught up, and the customer is now going to have a good time instead of looking around and wondering where his waiter is all night.

I just wrote about anticipation. This certainly qualifies. Make sure you are paying attention. Look around you. What is going on in that dining room? And then train the rest of your front door staff to do the same…


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