So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Shrinking the restaurant

I don’t remember which of my managers over the years made me aware of this phrase, but I think it’s a great one.

I posted last time regaring closing, and the smart closer will try to “shrink the restaurant” as much as possible.

Shrinking the restaurant means reducing the areas that are getting used and getting rid of all of the excess stuff that’s needed when the restaurant is in full swing. Basically, what you want to do is to try to “close down” as much stuff as you can without impacting the guests. For instance, if there are three wait stations for things like glasses, tea, coffee, etc., once the initial sidework is done, you want to start using only one of those side stations as much as possible. I know that this seems like a no-brainer, but non-closers don’t always think about this. Make you co-workers aware that they’ll be redoing the sidework if they mess up the areas that have been cleaned and can be shut down entirely.

Try to think of it as doing a mental shrink wropping over an area. If it’s been cleaned and you don’t need it, don’t use it. Why clean something twice.

I also like to look at it as a big dirty circle. As the night winds down, you erase parts of the schmutz until you have a nice, bright shiny clean circle. In your mind, of course…

I don’t know if that manager invented that phrase, but I think it’s a marvelously evocative phrase.


3 responses to “Shrinking the restaurant

  1. Jake July 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    BOH does something similar, too, but it’s a quick, slippery slope that ends in really poor customer satisfaction. Sometimes it gets pretty ridiculous, like the mid guy who cooks on baking trays placed on the flattop so he doesn’t have to clean it again, or the broil guy who refuses to put any more of his clean broiler back together, even though he has half a cow and a dozen cuts of chicken all crammed together on the same section of grill. I assume the FOH is subject to the same tyrannical urge to close as quickly and painlessly as possible?

    • teleburst July 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm

      Actually, in my experience, it’s more the opposite. People either try to skate without actually doing their sidework, or they wait until the last possible moment. When I close, I like to close as I go rather than turn around at the end of the night and knock it all out. Of course, sometimes this does bite you in the ass if you put up things that you end up needing – Murphy’s Law says that if you put all of something up, the last table will need it.

      Some closers don’t care one way or another or they might think that they are doing more work if they “shrink the restaurant” than if they just knock everything out at once. In my current restaurant, we actually have two closers so I always have to know which kind of closer I’m closing with so that I don’t end up doing everything as I “shrink the restaurant”. Sometimes, if the other closer is notorious for dragging things out, I make sure they know what I’ve done and make sure they know that that’s all I’m going to do – that I’ll leave the rest for them and they can check out with the manager.

      • Jake July 31, 2010 at 9:10 am

        It was precisely Murphy that kept me from doing 90% of pre-close work in my early years, but I quickly learned how stupid it was to be there—and keep other cooks there with me—until like 3 in the morning just because I didn’t want to put something away that a guest could possibly (conceivable or not) want.

        BOH, purposefully skipping things entirely and waiting ’til the last moment are pretty uncommon in my experience. Naturally, there’s always some stud (read: idiot) who thinks that he can get away with a massive surge of work for the last 30 minutes he’s there, and the dishwashers always LOVE (read: passionately hate) getting his trickle of dishes in, especially after they’ve closed the dish pit. Cooks that fail to do their BOH-equivalent(s) to sidework aren’t cooks for very long, at least not at the places I’ve cooked. Those two groups are thankfully the minority in the places I’ve been.

        I like to look at everything that needs to be done before I leave and think, “Okay, how many times am I possibly going to use this in the next X hours?” If it’s, say, 5 or less, that shit is getting put away and done with. If it’s, like, between 5 & 10, I’ll come up with a handy-dandy substitute, like using disposable ramekins for dressings and putting a few portions of sauces into plastic bags so the rest can go to the fridge. If I’m going to use something, meh, more than 10 times before we close, I keep it out, often begrudgingly.

        I’ve never had any manager ever tell me my using half-cent ramekins and quarter-cent baggies is being wasteful, although I certainly wish we could recycle it all. To them it’s more wasteful to the establishment to have me there for an extra 15 minutes at night un-fucking what could have been handled with maybe $0.50’s worth of plastic.

        But that’s BOH; it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of “shortcuts” you can really pull up front and get away with. If I were stuck using only either of the two approaches you mentioned, I’d have to go with cleaning as I go. It’s much, much more thorough and less manic stress at the end of the night. That it’s thorough helps out when you come in for your next shift and no one hates you for stupid shit you forgot to do or did poorly because you were in a rush.

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