Ken Burgin

Restaurant Efficiency

How to Get Better Results on the Busy Days

Being busy is great, but chaos is not – it leaves customers frustrated, staff upset and a real loss of potential profits. Here’s a quick checklist to prepare front and back of house so you maximise results, contain costs and avoid drama.

Be well organised

Anticipate the Busy Days. Based on the other factors, like weather, day of the week, TV and sporting events. Over time these have predictable results on customer numbers – check Smarter Forecasting to Boost Sales & Stop Cost Blowouts.
One Central Calendar. Is there one list of all the events coming up, centrally located and referenced by everyone? Paper-based systems don’t cut it if you’re usually busy or have multiple rooms – a Google Calendar can be a good solution.

Prepare your systems

Quickly Modify the Menu for Busy Occasions – modern POS systems allow for multiple menus, and if your menu is set up for online (app) ordering instead of a printed document, you can turn items on or off as needed eg in busy times, a few complicated food and cocktail items temporarily disappear. Less stress for the kitchen and the bar, and no-one will notice that the food menu is 18 items instead of the usual 24.
Fix the POS layout for Speed. How many layers down do I need to go to modify an order or include add-ons. Get feedback from staff and modify as needed — many POS layouts are a bottleneck and encourage staff to use the wrong key.
Fix the Bar Layout for Speed. So many venues have something that was NOT designed by an experienced bar person. It needs wells in the right place, commonly used bottles within reach and glassware that’s easy to find. It may need some money spent to move things around – do it.
Reserve Stocks of Table and Glassware. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for plates or beer glasses to be washed and cooled. It has to be replenished regularly for breakages, so have extra boxes on hand for the busy times.
Improve Payment Options. Are your card machines and payment systems state of the art? Here are 10 Ways to Make it Easier and Faster for Customers to Spend Money.
Better Queueing and Wait Systems. Is now the time for a buzzer system, or ropes to keep the line orderly? Or a headset to connect the host with a supervisor on the floor — “table of 6 just leaving and will be ready in 3 minutes”. People understand a queue if it’s organised and moving, but many people turn away if it looks hopeless. There are excellent waitlist systems available as part of booking systems or standalone eg Waitlistme.

Prepare your staff

Train for Speed and Accuracy. Think ‘drilling not just skilling’ – new staff need to practice the moves over and over so they can do it with their eyes closed. To many training sessions demonstrate once, but never check back and insist on practice. Competent tray service is an important part of speedy floor service.
Work out your Signals. When the rush hits, a snowfields operator I know tells the staff they’ve now on ‘Level 2′ — code for using some shortcuts and a slightly different workflow. It’s an efficient game that everyone can play – what’s your version of this?
Pay More to the Best Staff. Can you afford something extra for the best staff? They’ll be on the busiest shifts – let them know their hard work is recognised, with a higher pay rate and greater share of tips. And there’ll be a staff thank-you party in January!
Division of Labour. Small operators don’t usually have someone who clears and busses, but when it gets busy, this is a special job that helps everyone else give good service. It’s a good job or a trainee or junior – clear, wipe, reset and deliver. Next!

Keep Building your List. In peak times, you may have a lot of new customers. Encourage them to check in on Facebook, join your email and birthday list, and post photos on Instagram. It’s easy to give these activities a miss when you’re busy – upgrade the signage to give plenty of reminders.

🤚 Check the weekly discoveries on Hospo Reset – information & inspiration for restaurant, cafe & foodservice operators.

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