When you think of efficiency in work, you often consider the minimal physical effort at a minimum amount of time for someone to accomplish it.
Not so much on something tangible as communication, and yet when this is established in a workflow, it can make a procedure function like well-oiled machinery.
Teamwork involves effective communication. Doctors and nurses do this at the Emergency Room, where precious time is crucial when saving lives. And it should be definitely applied in the business of cooking and serving food, where the relationship between the two ends of food service – Chefs/cooks who handle the back of the house and servers/ frontliners who handle the front of the house- can be tension filled when pressure is up.
Often the cause of this tension-filled relationship is the manner of communication.
Therefore you need to have a reliable dynamics to get messages across correctly, quickly and most importantly, without emotions getting the better of everyone.
Clarify and establish responsibility
Firstly, your kitchen team should already know the fast-paced nature of the job before they got it. They should also know the crucial balance between serving dishes at the expected time and keeping customers contented as they wait.
I know first hand how relationships between servers or the front of the house (FOH) and Kitchen Team or Back of the house (BOH) can get tricky and sensitive because there is a limited understanding of the challenges that each end encounters. They both have a lot on their plates, and they experience pressures specific to their tasks. If both ends do not understand that, then that misunderstanding spoils the workflow altogether.
FOH team is expected to be friendly, courteous and quick thinking at all times. They are the ones who commit to the customers what time their steaks will be served. They are the ones who will make sure that the drinks are refilled when the steaks are taking longer than usual. They are the ones who, while being rushed, will have to give honest feedback if the steaks that the kitchen team passes are just as how the customers ordered them. They are the ones who will bear the brunt of complaints if the customers do not like the steaks served to them… And I am just talking of one customer! All this should be accomplished, while maintaining friendliness, politeness, and composure!
On the other hand, the BOH team are the ones expected to deliver that perfectly cooked and appetizingly presented dish while juggling several other orders at the same time. This gets complicated if there are runouts of ingredients or if manpower is down even by one person. There are also many potential issues that can affect the delivery of quality food and the kitchen team has to rise above them all.
It’s not personal
When pressures are building, it is almost usually expected for someone to slip up, throw expletives or flash a finger at each at another.
In the intensity of busy-ness, sometimes all you hear are grunts or annoyed quips. It is vital that each team knows that complaints from both ends add additional pressure, leading to stress, distraction, and mistakes.
As a chef, I know that servers can question the quality or appearance of a dish. When this happens, the kitchen team should control the knee jerk reaction of being insulted and seriously take an honest look at the plate! It is possible that there is an honest mistake or that things could have been done better. A professional chef will consider serving quality food over his pride anytime.
Use short and to the point messages
A busy person can get annoyed by excessive talk. Servers should relay the message that needs to be said in short sentences as possible and then allow the chef to resume work. If kitchens have an expeditor, the servers should communicate to that person. Additional words are distractions and these are usually that one that annoys chefs/cooks.
Mutual respect in words
When communication is respectful, a stressful situation becomes calmer.
It also displays a person’s character and professionalism.
When servers make a follow up in the kitchen – the kitchen team should avoid saying along this line-
“It will be ready when it’s ready.”
“When it’s in the window, it’s ready.”
On the other hand, the servers should avoid using expletives, or insulting words when following up orders.
Some people intentionally resort to insults and harassments, thinking that these words can motivate someone or because they think the acts are funny.
As the business owner or manager, you have to do your best to nip this in the bud. It breeds a dangerous and toxic environment in the kitchen that will set a precedent or model for others, especially the new people in the kitchen to copy.
I say this because many food businesses now get services of short term chefs when filling in for an absent staff or if they need additional skilled hands at the ready to support their kitchens and food events. A toxic communication dynamics between kitchen and servers can be confusing for the new staff or temporary people in the kitchen which can affect their performance.
This is why we ensure that our chefs at Anytime Chefs are professional, respectful and courteous. We know how to adapt to various working environments and we understand the need for quality over anything.
Provide the closest estimation of food readiness
For servers, ask once and then leave. Leave so that the kitchen team can resume work. You don’t expect them to entertain lengthy questions when they are carefully monitoring if something is burning or getting overcooked.
For their part, the kitchen team should avoid vague responses such as “It’s coming!” when they know that it will take time. You don’t expect a server to actually wait for it. There are so many things to do within the aspects of their responsibilities, such as assisting or appeasing customers. And it is for the best of the business when everyone is on top of their work.
What the kitchen team should understand is that when servers make a follow up, they just want to scope or get a feel of the timing so that they can make informed decisions on how they are going to handle their part of the service.
If the kitchen team fails to deliver what is promised at the expected time, it is the servers who face the customers and handle the situation to save everyone from the mishap. So be kind.
An additional tip for servers: If the chef says that a dish will be done by 3 mins, then don’t follow up after 2 mins. But if 3 mins are up and food still isn’t ready, follow up politely.
As the owner or manager, get some feedback on the workflow to determine the cause of why food is taking a long time. After getting the feedback, ensure that you address them to avoid or limit it happening again.
Note also that one of the reasons that a kitchen is bogged down in orders is that many customers are seated all at once. Unfortunately, this is a problem that is often blamed in the kitchen. As the business owner or manager, review the management of seating so that systems can be put in place.
No time for finger pointing
If the kitchen receives a complaint on a medium rare steak ordered as well-done, then fire that steak right then and there.
Focus immediately on solving the issue and do not waste time in drama.
The mindset that everyone should have is to have the situation resolved immediately and that the cause doesn’t matter right now. Focus on the solution instead of the problem. Everybody one day will make a mistake, because we are humans, the focus should always be on back up each other and go through the service in the best manner so that the customers can have the best experience possible.
the causes of mistakes during the service It is something for the manager & head chef to figure it out later.
Sometimes, when you really have to flare up and express annoyance, allow yourself a 5-second meltdown then get back to work!
The right communication dynamics improve work efficiency by removing the unnecessary actions that promote annoyance and aggravation. Words are powerful. They can motivate and uplift just it can very well crush and cause pain.
I just have to say that restaurant kitchens truly aiming quality food will delay the serving of food to achieve that perfection. This should be understood by servers so that they can effectively express this to customers. The game is all about expectation that’s why communication is the key for it.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,