What To Do When SHIT Hits The Fan?

What Happens When [email protected]%T Hits The Fan! (and “it” will)

It happens in every restaurant, some more frequently than others, but it does happen. What is this “it”? This “it” can be a multitude of things that may occur during a shift. They are mistakes and they from time to time pile up; usually a precursor to a bad night. If hindsight is 20/20, well it might be 20/10 in the restaurant business. Generally instances when [email protected]%T hits the fan, it isn’t one instance as in many other businesses, it is a waterfall of awful. When retracing the steps at the end of the night, one usually finds themselves not being surprised when things turn out the way they did.

What are these instances when [email protected]%T hits the fan?

The truth is the chain of events start casually with something small like a forgotten soda or a missed glass of wine on a pass through a section or a missed liquor such as triple sec in a Long Island. It also takes the form of onions coming on a dish that was requested to have no onions.

Well, these are little errors that have no effect on what is to come next, TSW why are you lamenting on this? Good question, many times this is an isolated incident with only minor effects that can usually be corrected easily. However, on occasion this is where the can or worms gets opened and all hell breaks loose. Who are you going to call? GHOSTBUSTERS?

S@%T hits the fan

We wish!

If [email protected]%T hits the fan, one knows, because shortly after a dish goes, another guest doesn’t like their food. On top of that their appetizer never came cause it wasn’t rang in. Also table 23 is missing a drink and table 34 well they have been sitting looking at menus for 10 minutes without being greeted.

Wow! That did escalate pretty quickly and know the weeds are about 10 feet tall and the machete was replaced with a pair of safety scissors.


Now it appears that [email protected]%T hits the fan pretty quickly and one is stuck with no where to go! “It” happened and now help is needed. FAST! The thought process goes something like this: (TOO VULGAR TOO PUBLISH), You get the point!

In reality, the questions should be more along these lines:

  • What kind of help is needed?
  • Who should be asked?
  • What is needed to get out of this awful situation?


These questions would lead to a solution and/or turn the night around from a disaster to at minimum something more manageable than a climb up the south face of K2!

Do not forget, it is always important to be a professional of the Restaurant Life.

Now to get off of that mountain or hack the weeds down and find a ship to sail from the island of doom or whatever “it” is called today.

S@%T hits the fan, climb down

What Kind of Help Is Needed?

This is the question of all questions! Getting this question answered allows for the recovery, especially since the help might be something simple, such as clearing a table or filling a glass of water. The traditional first mental response is normally involves dropping the apron and walk out cause “I hate it when [email protected]%T hits the fan” and this isn’t happening again cause tonight is the last day in this forsaken job, I’m going to get a “real job”.

Stop with that attitude, a real job isn’t always the answer. What is a real job anyway? Working in an office is not for everyone, nor is the culture. Maybe the real objective is to escape. These thoughts are a separate conversation for another day.

This attitude does not lead to getting out of the situation, nor does it ensure any problems will be solved. It has hard to avoid these thoughts especially as problems pile up and stress levels rise. There is a form of [email protected]%T hitting the fan in every job and business. Now that this has been established, get it done and get on with the night, humans can be incredibly sympathetic and understanding. Plus, there is money to made out there.

Back to the problem at hand, work backwards and go against that instinct to keep on moving that plagues the restaurant industry. Do not immediately grab a manager or colleague to help, instead take a few seconds and do the following:


  • Take a deep breath (MOST IMPORTANT) and yes relax!
  • Make a quick mental list of what needs to be done.
  • Determine what someone else can do, what has to be done by you.
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Deep breath #2, it is all going to end soon!
  • Seek the help!


Here the most important point is determining what has to be done solo and what others can do. Refilling N/A bevs, getting a side of ranch, running an app/salads or dropping a check can be done by someone else. It can, even grabbing a drink at the bar. A great task that can be done by someone else is open a bottle of wine; it is a time suck when busy. Think of the little tasks first (preferably time consuming) and save the most guest interactive tasks for yourself or a manager.S@%T hits the fan, find the path

It seems very quickly an escalating problem was taken care of! Great job! NOW go get the manager and/or colleague to help get out of this mess and put an end to this!

Make It All End and Reflect!

Execute it! The hard work is already done, the thinking part that is. With a plan and people aboard to help out, get ready for the easy part, the physical work. After all, it is only waiting tables! Shake off the chaos and switch gears the night is about to get better, much better! Get new guests greeted, orders in and unhappy guests out!

There more than likely are new happy guests waiting to sit down that didn’t know how tall the weeds were! Give these new guests a great experience and the unhappy guests/tense moment will be a thing of the past.

Once the shift gets back to normal and the recovery is history, it is time to reflect on what happened. Then take mental notes on how to react when it happens again…it will, [email protected]%T hits the fan quite frequently in this business and well there isn’t much one can do about it. Stay positive and mentally sharp and it shouldn’t be a problem!

Get out there and make some money!

Spread the word with the whole staff!

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