Why Should Servers Execute Service at a High Level?

Execute Service “Perfectly”

In this business it is easy to think one can execute service at a high level. Once a group or individual has achieved success they feel invincible. This both cocky and ignorant: one might have a great American Bistro concept, however, opening a fine-dining restaurant focused on French food, that might be a stretch.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Great question, allow for an answer. See someone might be great at operating pizza parlors, but going to a full-service Italian restaurant is a different ballgame all on its own. Imagine the logistical nightmare of that! Best of luck with that business, it might be an expensive mistake. Profits in this industry are already slim, why attempt to execute service at a high level or have excellence in execution of a service style you are not familiar with.

THE VALUE OF AN EXPERIENCE

I was inspired by a revelation a friend recently shared with me about an experience that he had recently. There is that word experience again. Experience is everything in this business as far as I am concerned. Have an idea in mind of how you want the service to flow and then build from there. Squeezing in that extra table in the corner might mean more revenue and profit, but at the cost of making it difficult to service, is it worth it?

Well enough of the service on to the story…

This friend, who I might add has a firm grasp on this industry had an awful experience, on top of that, he had awful food. Good food can only go so far, but bad food and terrible or bad or even slightly substandard service can be a disaster and that is what happened.

WHAT NOT TO DO, EVEN IF THE RESTAURANT RECENTLY OPENED

Every new restaurant goes through a few growing pains, especially if it is independent. Franchises and chains (Chili’s and the like) have support teams to help with the opening and do not really change menus. But the independent restaurants, even those from multi-concept operators may change a little and even have personnel changes early on. It is the nature of the beast.

This does not give any excuse for what happened to my friend on a recent dinner with his wife and another couple.

KNOW YOUR CONCEPT AND EXECUTE IT WELL

The concept is a rodizio also called churrascaria. This is where various meats are cooked over an open fire on metal rods and then cut to order at the table. It can be a very delicious, if carnivorous meal. In the past my friend has enjoyed a rodizio…until now.

This place happens to be adjacent to a restaurant that he enjoys and wanted to check it out. They made a reservation and were looking forward to a great meal. Unfortunately for this group, not a single thing went well except the fact that they were greeted.

Upon being seated, they proceeded to wait nearly half an hour to get their experience started. This was after speaking with several servers and bussers. Chalk this up to opening confusion. We grant this a pass, one mistake is normal in execution of service at a new restaurant. Their food begins to come out and then things start crash like the stock market in 1929! Don't let poor execution ruin the experienceAs mentioned earlier, a rodizio meal is served on what looks like steel skewer with grilled meat on it. A wonderful concept for the carnivore in all of us to enjoy! However, at this establishment, meat was brought out:

  • By someone that didn’t know what it was
  • Served already sliced on a plate
  • Overcooked

We are by no means experts in this style of cuisine, however through patronizing them, usually they offer more than one temperature for red meats. At this restaurant that wasn’t the case.

It continued for about 7-9 different meats, all dry and overcooked, tasteless with the exception of one thing: SALT. Yes, salt. Every dish was heavily salted and the dominate taste.

When asked about the saltiness my friend only received a reply of, “This is a rodizio everything is supposed to be salty.”

When asked about why, the food wasn’t served on a skewer or something closer to a stick or anything for that matter, my friend received the following comment,”That is the way we do rodizio”.

Well it is great to know that you are reinventing the wheel of rodizio! Next time please the paying public know!

The Poor Service Continues to Execute the Experience

Execution on the floor

This is how Rodizio is classically served!

As this terrible experience went on, with each dish more blasphemous than the next my friend grew irritated at the poor service and food (attributed to execution). The manager seemed to stand by the low quality product and service, agreeing to refund his $35 or so for the meal. As a whole we do not agree with comping a meal as a means to making a guest happy, invite them back for a free meal. HOWEVER, in this case it was probably warranted and if he only got his meal free, the restaurant should consider themselves lucky. My friend also learned that the restaurant was owned and operated by the same people that own the attached establishment. This restaurant happens to be a cuisine that in no way resembles a rodizio or is from the same continent.

That is scary, to make it worse both rooms share parts of the same kitchen and chef. While it may be possible this chef has the training to execute this, I do not believe this is possible. I am referring to a neighborhood restaurant, more than likely not a restaurant that has a chef with formal training, only training in the kitchen. There is nothing wrong with this, many great neighborhood restaurants thrive with this situation, nor does it require a chef have formal training to be talented. Running two kitchens at the same time, that can be tricky when they are serving incredibly different cuisines. That is poor planning and even worse execution.

THE EXCELLENCE OF EXECUTION

If any readers followed WWF back when it was still WWF or grew up in the 90’s, they remember a wrestler by the name of Bret Hart. He called himself the Excellence of Execution for his technical wrestling abilities. The guy was a legend, whom also wasn’t afraid of anyone, including the guy who wrote his paycheck.

Go check out some clips of him wrestling, it is truly amazing. He was very entertaining in the ring and his moves are executed flawlessly. Are there a few things working in his favor while he performs and produces an experience for fans? Yes, he comes from a family of wrestlers and grew up around it. But, that alone didn’t make him good. The guy was good and to this day is considered on of the best wrestlers ever.

THE VALUE OF EXECUTION

What can Bret Hart teach us on the value of execution? Well much like any employee in a restaurant, he is performing in front of an audience. That is what nearly every employee in this industry does on a daily basis. The value of this performance and it being done in a manner that allows for a great guest experience is incredible. Employees that perform well in this manner are invaluable. These are the leaders, not in a dollar sense, but those that can explain how things get done. They are the people that are the calm in the storm of a busy night.

Execution in a restaurant is paramount to success. Poor execution is the reason an overcooked steak reaches the guest. It is also the reason entrees hit a table while guests are still eating apps or salads. Ever experience this? It doesn’t matter if it is at an unnamed chain restaurant or Michelin 3 starred restaurant.

When done right, execution is a perfectly cooked steak hitting the table, food prepared properly and to the guests liking. Execution is what makes guests feel like the only people in the restaurant. Executing on service and in the kitchen are what make a restaurant successful. Imagine the execution it takes to get through that busy, chaotic Saturday night.

What about perfect execution on Saturday night?

Keep dreaming, this is a restaurant, there are no unicorns around to help with 500 on the books! Perfect is a word used to describe the way food is prepared not the way it reaches a table. A piece of swordfish can be cooked perfectly, however how it got cooked, well that is a different story all in its own.  There are always going to be bumps in the road, excelling in execution is being able to navigate any impediment that prevents guests from served and enjoying their experience. They do not know that their pasta was dragging in the kitchen and the sauce was made “al a minute”, however it tasted amazing! Perfect execution on Saturday looks different than perfect execution on Tuesday. Keep that in mind and find the best way to execute at a high level on Saturday night and make sure it is consistent with your concept.  Keep in mind, this excellent service and execution of it has an upside, Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization.  This is a book from one our favorite authors on service and the value of executing at a high level, Micah Solomon.  He blogs frequently on customer/guest service at Forbes.

DEFINE YOUR “EXCELLENCE OF EXECUTION”

Execution is about recovering after a mistake and being consistent, consistently excellent. The best part is that excellent is in the eye of the beholder. Great executors in the FOH are great readers of guests and can pinpoint their needs. These are the people that always look forward to a busy night or the difficult guest.  They are not afraid of things going wrong, nor do the miss a beat on the floor during the rush.  They execute flawlessly!

Execute well or guests will know

Get out and make yourself the “excellence of execution” at your restaurant!

Spread the word with the whole staff!
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