Want to be an effective leader in your restaurant? Be a presence on the floor, observe what is going on, and send help where it is needed.
Did you just slam a server with 5 new tables? Send someone over to help get a drink order, say hello, get wine glasses for that bottle of cabernet they just ordered. Maybe even open the wine for them.
In the old days at Spago, we would all get 5 tables right at six o’clock. Everyday of the week. Slam! We did not have the support, it was kind of the school of, ‘figure it out, or move on…’ However, most places are not like that. Most places you do have the luxury of sending over some support.
You watch that door
You stay at that front door to greet guests or answer the phone while you send the host on through the dining room to fill up water glasses, coffee cups, clear a table, bring out hot food. It isn’t really brain surgery, it is just common sense. Note where people are buried and send in the cavalry.
Or the opposite
You instruct the host to stay at the door, and you float–wash glassware behind the bar, set tables for the busser, restock the waiter or bus station, go slice bread for customers.
Train and communicate
The key obviously to all of this is to make sure your staff is trained. You can’t send the host over to do things, if you never showed them how to do it in the first place. Not only do you need to show them how to do the work, it is also important that they understand that these things need to be communicated.
It is one thing to do the job, it is another to make sure that it is communicated to the person they are helping. It doesn’t help a server out if you bring wine glasses to a table, if you don’t share that information with them. The server could be in the dish room looking for wine glasses when it was already taken care of.
I also think it makes a lot of sense (depending on the restaurant) to cross train your employees. A cross trained employee is a valuable employee. They understand everyone’s job, they see the big picture of what needs to be done, and it will help bring some flexibility to scheduling. My favorite part. however, is that once an employee starts seeing the big picture, they start taking ownership.
And then you have a well-oiled machine at your disposal. employees who understand all aspects of the business, and are willing to do what ever it takes to get the job done.
So, step in! Help out! Look at those dirty tables in your dining room and do something about it. Besides the fact that they look bad, they aren’t making you any money because no one can sit there.
If you find business slowing down and you see an opening to get a jump on your paperwork, fine. Just make sure that your staff knows that they can call you out on to the floor if the need is there. Don’t have a staff who is afraid to bug you when you are in the office. Be approachable.
Train that staff. You want to send support, not have people who are just in the way. And then remind them about what they learned during their training. Again and again. It never ends…