Restaurant Service Procedures
Dining experiences depend on ambience and service as well as food. Quality restaurant service involves treating customers well, creating a pleasant atmosphere, delivering enjoyable food and responding to feedback. Restaurant service procedures should include protocols and systems that ensure customers get what they need when they need it and are comfortable enough to fully enjoy the dining experience. To implement effective restaurant procedures, develop a thorough employee manual as well as a training system, and observe the performance of your servers over time, providing tips and encouragement for servers to continually improve their performance.
The hostess is in charge of greeting customers when they come in, letting them know whether there will be a wait, assigning them to a table appropriate to the group size and the workload of the servers on the floor and then taking them to their tables. The hostess manages seating by creating a seating chart with information that can be erased and re-entered. Keeping a chart allows the hostess to integrate information such as reservations with the flow of customers entering the restaurant.
Servers who take orders should have as much information as possible about the food on the menu, including ingredients, so they can help diners with allergies or aversions avoid inappropriate foods. They should take appetizer orders first and deliver these orders to the kitchen immediately. If customers have already chosen their entrees, the server should take these orders at the same time as the appetizer orders. If diners need more time to decide, the server should come back for entree orders right after placing the appetizer orders with the kitchen. He should start taking orders at the same point at each table, going around the table to the left as he takes orders and writing down each selection in corresponding sequence. This will help him deliver plates to the right diners.
A skilled server finds a balance between attending to customers' need and hovering intrusively. She should glance at each table as she is walking by to see if the diners need anything -- if their water glasses are low or their plates are empty and need to be cleared. She should return to a table shortly after serving food and ask if everything is OK. Keeping a running list in her head of customer needs and requests helps the server prioritize these tasks in terms of timing and urgency. For example, if one customer's steak is undercooked and another customer requests ketchup, she can return the steak to the kitchen before delivering the ketchup so the cooks can begin recooking the steak properly while she performs other tasks.
Different types of restaurants have different payment protocols, and these procedures may also vary depending on a restaurant's volume and pace on a particular evening. For example, at a fine-dining restaurant, servers may delay bringing a check to a table so customers can sit and savor a meal, but if every table is full and customers with reservations are waiting, servers should deliver checks more promptly. They should inform customers of payment procedures when delivering the check, for example by saying, "I'll be your cashier this evening."