The restaurant business is not for the weary at heart. It is a business which requires flexibility, the ability to make decisions under pressure and catering to someone’s else needs. What sort of night would it have to be for a restaurant worker to say, “I’m having a great night!” Each position in the restaurant has a completely different perspective on what makes a great night. It is incredible to see when a restaurant is running smoothly and all parts of the machine are functioning in unison. The outcome will most likely be a great night for the guest.
I want to dissect each position in the restaurant to see what it means to each when they say “I am having a great night tonight!” It is all relative. However, what it really comes down to is the individuals outlook and their own approach and demeanor to the night. Below you will see the inner thoughts of each employee, but what each one will need to understand is that in as much as outside forces might have an effect on their performance, it all comes down to that individual’s outlook and frame of mind. No one can ruin your night unless you let them.
Many times I catch myself on the floor thinking, “Gosh, this night is going really well!” I then start to analyze why I feel like this. I am walking from table to table chatting with guests, and all the while they are singing our praises. I am opening wine for tables and people are really digging my recommendations. I see the food coming out in a timely manner and there is a hustle and bustle but no one is too “weeded”. Reservations are all on time and guests do not have to wait at the door. The guests are happy with the tables they are seated at and the window tables are not their primary desire; they are here to dine. I see the support team, the bussers and food runners on the floor, helping the servers and staying aware of the guests’ needs. The servers are in good spirits and are excited about the nightly specials and have friendly competition amongst each other, each striving for the perfect check. As the guests walk out the door they mention that they had great food and service. From my perspective, as a manager and sommelier I am having a great night.
A server might see the night differently. A server might be having a great night if when they get to work, the manager says hello and they realize that they are working with their favorite co-workers. They are working with a group of servers and bussers that are hardworking and help each other out. The server goes to the front desk and sees that there is a busy night ahead and they are in the section which is easy to seat and work. When they approach the tables the guests are out to have a good time and welcome recommendations. As the night progresses it just gets better. Their sales are high and the gratuities reflect their sales. The night is on the verge of spectacular because not only are the guests having a great time, but the heart of the house, (the chef and cooks in the kitchen,) are communicative and sending out stellar food. If everything keeps going in this direction, then the server is having a great night. To top it all off, several guests comment to the manager that the service was outstanding.
The chef has a completely different perspective of what a great night is. The chef’s night starts in the morning when the fish order arrives and the seafood company drops off the freshest Opakapaka. Then the chef checks the invoice and notices that the prices have come down a little bit. This gets the Chef excited. He has this special that he has been concocting for days now. He goes to the prep kitchen and everyone is working hard for the night’s prep. As he explains the prep for the special, the cooks are excited and interested in creating this new dish. Once the night starts, reservations start arriving on time and there is an even pace to the tickets that are being sent to the kitchen. He looks at his line and he knows that he’s got his A team. The guys are working hard. They are organized, the mise en place is filled, their stations are kept clean and dishes are looking great. The staff is excited about the special and are selling it. Nothing is being returned to the line and all the guests seem to be enjoying their meals. The night is running smoothly. On the way out, one of the guests stops by the line and says, “thanks man, our meal was amazing”! The chef is having a great night.
The cooks are the heart of the night, they keep the pace and it is non-stop. A great night for a line cook is not necessarily a night that is moving smoothly and coasting along. Line cooks are different breed. They are working in a hot kitchen, tickets are piling up, chefs are yelling, servers are sending food back and the manager is putting pressure on them to get the next table out. It is stressful. What might seem a horrible night in all actuality, is a great night. Many line cooks live for this. They love problem solving. The reward is at the very end when that last ticket is put in the window and there is a feeling of accomplishment. Now it’s time to break down the line and joke around with their co-workers re-visiting the night’s events. They probably called each other every name in the book 1 hour ago, and now they have this unspoken sense of unity and felling of survival and nothing is impossible. The line cook is having a great night!
THE BUS BOY
What about our support staff, the bus boy and the food runner? What is a great night for the bus boy? The bus boy and food runner can go unnoticed by the guest, however not by the server. They are an essential part of the team. The bus boy arrives and is greeted by the servers, he looks around and notices that he is working with a team that doesn’t complain. Many servers will complain about their bus boy and tonight the servers are working with him and communicating properly. The restaurant is busy and the pace is steady. He never runs out of silverware nor glassware to reset the tables. The servers have high sales and they are not being demanding. The manager lets him know that table 26 mentioned that he is doing a great job. After filling waters, bringing bread, re-setting tables and assisting the server for 6 hours straight he is exhausted. In a way it is similar to the line cook in that a slow even paced night is not a challenge. The bus boy and food runner live for the pressure. They do not appreciate the name calling, but they do want a challenge. It is important for them to feel a sense of accomplishment and the busier the night the more they have succeeded. At the end of the night, servers give him his portion of the gratuities received and it is a lot more than the previous night. The bus boy is having a great night!
Each position has a different role. Each is essential to the guest experience. No matter what the perspective of what a great night might be for each person, it really all comes down to their frame of mind. If a manager, server, chef, cook or bus boy arrive to work without the desire to be there, it doesn’t matter how the night’s events transpire. The guest can be singing their praises, the food can look emaculate, but if the worker does not have a positive attitude, it does not matter. We create our own reality. Everything does not always go as we wish; that is reality. How we react and let outside events effect us will determine how our night unfolds.