What is it Like on a Busy Night in a Restaurant?

What Really Happens on a Busy Night in the Restaurant?

The thrill of a busy night is incredible, especially when the guests are spending money.  Depending on the market you are in; it can be Saturday night or others it can be a Tuesday with a tech conference in town. Excitement, anxiety, optimism and a bit of trepidation.  It is normal for these days; they are going to be crazy, how crazy is a good question.  Sometimes it is a bluff and others it leads to dysfunction and chaos!

A busy can happen any night, even when not predicated.

A busy night to those outside of the restaurant industry sounds like a nightmare.  This is complete with horror stories from veterans of the business.  These include; drinks being spilled on guests, entrees coming out before apps and even the guest cursing out the manager.  Does this happen, YES!  It can happen any night, not only on a busy night.

During a busy night, it is as likely to be total chaos as there is to have serenity; chances are on the floor of any restaurant that is what is going on, the crazy thing about this business is that it can happen at any time.  There times it is slow in a restaurant and server or bartender is very busy; others it is a busy night and employees are twiddling their thumbs.

What determines a busy night?


Causes of Volume:

A large party or two

Sporting Events

Homecoming (post on its own)


Special Event


Other causes of a busy night:

Sudden rush

Weak staff

The other causes of a busy night are most concerning, they are the most unpredictable.  It is hard to say when suddenly a rush of people will come in for no apparent reason at all.  It does happen and yes, there is nothing that can be done about it.  Making a schedule is an art in its own. Not everyone is created equal, however they have the same potential.  In the information age, the #1 reason people do not reach their full potential, including myself is technology.

What does this have to do with a busy night?


Getting shelled by a random group of guests happens and usually when people spend too much time on the phone (they shouldn’t) while working, it can happen quick.  When there are 3 servers on and randomly 10 tables walk in on a Wednesday night bad things can happen.

Equally so on a night with 6 servers on and 350 people that want to dine at the restaurant, it can turn disastrous.  That is what makes this business so unique.  In most retail situations, customers can help themselves or get what they need with little to no employee interaction.  Other retail, this is not the case.  These business end up in the same situation as the restaurant business.  Imagine an electronics store on a busy day; customers needing help with computers or items locked in a display case.  Good luck!

Why is the Restaurant Business Different on A Busy Night?

Food has to be prepared!

In retail, once the item is taken out of the display, it is done.

When a car is purchased it needs to be cleaned and paperwork needs to be filed.

Order dinner in a restaurant, it needs to be prepared!

On a busy night in the restaurant business, the kitchen can only speed up so much.  At a certain point there is no more room to prepare food.  Then there are no dishes to put food on and no knives to set a table.

It happens and when it does, not one is safe on a busy night.

This results in guests not being able to sit down!

Further this creates unhappy guests, who have to wait to sit and wait again.

Busy Nights Can Be Pretty Bad and Expensive?

Like one can imagine, they get expensive…expensive in comps.

A manager’s least favorite thing to do is have to buy food and/or drinks for guest recovery.  It means someone is really upset and most likely the manager wasn’t involved early enough.

Birthday and special occasion desserts are one thing to buy.  Desserts, in most cases are cheap to make.  However, buying a steak or cedar plank salmon can be quite expensive.  Also imagine when it is an entire check!  Coming from the world of fine dining, that can be expensive to the tune of $75+ a person!

So, on a Busy Night What Happens to Servers?

Ever see the classic “I Love Lucy” episode where she works in the candy factory?  As the line speed picks up she doesn’t know what to do.  She finds herself at a loss on what to do next.  That is how a server feels on a busy night.  They are so busy every little task feels like a tooth is being pulled sans medication!

Busy Nights are responsible for the stories people of servers crying and people walking off during a shift.  These days when the S hits the fan are also what separates the mentally and emotionally strong from the rest.  Working in the restaurant business is not easy and sure is not fun.

Ever consider the concept of multi-tasking?  We think it is nonsense and have read too much research to think it is productive.  Building one brick at a time is how every self-made millionaire and billionaire got to where they are, why should working stiffs be any different?  On a busy night multi-tasking becomes its own beast.  Walking and chewing gum at the same time is for amateurs after a few busy nights in this business!


Really? On Busy Nights How Does One Handle It?

Yes, a server might have six or more open checks at the time, all at different stages of their experience.  Welcome to multi-tasking hell!  Nights like this are why alcoholism and drug use are prevalent in the restaurant business.  These nights also being service teams closer together by force.

One handles such busy nights any way they possibly can.  An experienced person in this game has seen it from every angle and uses judgement to determine their next move.  It is an art and a science.  The science is what creates the chutzpah to do it again and again.

A busy Night means lots of guests.

Conclusion of a Busy Night

They are not fun by any means, but they end.  One great thing about this business is it ends.  In the corporate world, what doesn’t get done today, has to tomorrow.  Well, in this world when it ends it ends and the story lives on.

Until the next busy night…tell us your stories here

Spread the word with the whole staff!

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