June 08 2014 – Robert Fiumara
It is 6 o’clock and your lunch hour prices just ended. You’re on a clock now; you know that within the next hour, your restaurant and staff will be flooded with customers coming in for the dinner rush. The seats will fill up fast, and you know it’s only a matter of time until the tickets pile up and you have customers waiting. At this point, it seems like you only have two options; look inept in front of the customer and say we are on standby for tables, even though there are seemingly empty tables, or sink the kitchen and deal with the unenviable and terrible fate of complaints over wait times for food.
Lunch and Dinner Can Be Hectic Times in the Kitchen.
But is that really your only option? Aren’t there better ways to handle the line, from door to kitchen? When the only solution to your problem seem to be two very negative conclusions, there has to be a third strategy to root out, even if it’s not the most obvious. There are absolutely some investments you can make to help service along. A dedicated kitchen expeditor experienced in high volume dining, or additional kitchen equipment/staff are obvious quick fixes, but there are other more cost efficient options. Consider instead mixing up your menu. Instead of relying on foods that need to be ordered, fired up, and picked up several minutes later because of their lengthier cooking processes, you can move over to a lot of hot held items, such as stews, soups or braised items that can be quickly plated. Alternatively, you can go with cold or room temperature food, that takes little time or effort to get out to the guest.
You Can Reduce Wait Times!
In this vein, you can go with menu items that are batch cooked or prepared. A pulled pork barbeque sandwich, potato salad, and chips are a full meal that is sure to satisfy, and all of it can be prepared well in advance and held. Then, when ordered, will take only moments to serve up and plated with very minimal training or dedicated staff. Items such as these will definitely pull away some demand from longer or more challenging meals to prepare while simultaneously diversifying your menu.
To further address issues with wait times, you can pay close attention to the habits of your dining staff. Watch closely and identify the items or processes that can muck up the line process. Ask questions, as there’s little doubt that your cooks won’t be able to point to certain menu items that figuratively grind the gears.
As always, there are ways to get outside of the glut of long wait times and hectic service. Focus, buckle down and focus on your what your staff and kitchen can do, and you’ll find that those dinner rushes will get much easier.