As defined by Webster’s, to expedite is to execute promptly or to speed up the process or progress. In a restaurant, progress is the key to a successful meal period. One of the many aspects of what is known as restaurant magic is the expediting of food. For guests at a chef’s table in the middle of the kitchen, their first question inevitably is, “How do you get all that food out?” An evening of watching a kitchen operate with the back and forth of dishes and service staff certainly is an eye-opening experience. On a good day it can look like a synchronized dance, but on a bad day it looks more like a scene from Hell’s Kitchen. To ensure many more good days than bad, you need a well-conceived plan for how all your great food will make it to the dining room in a timely manner.
Know whom you are serving.
Is your restaurant a fast-casual, upscale-casual, or fine-dining establishment? The more casual the atmosphere, the faster customers want their food, so writing a menu that fits your restaurant style is important. A fast-casual restaurant’s emphasis is simplicity, not complexity, but in a fine-dining atmosphere, it is possible to have dishes that involve multiple steps in their preparation.
Set the optimal number of minutes between courses. This may require a team decision in a restaurant that serves many complex, multicourse dinners. Remember to account for time for the server to both serve and clear the table.
Ensure that every plate leaves the kitchen just as the chef intended.
Brennan’s of Houston, has a 40-year history of serving the highest quality of food with the utmost of care. Their system is one with many facets that, together, allow staff to get the plates out of the kitchen and into the dining room with ease. Starting with a POS system that creates an order with all the information the kitchen needs, including seat numbers, table numbers, server’s name, special instructions, and time the ticket was printed. The time on the ticket is necessary so the expediter knows exactly how long the customer has waited.
A three-copy ticket is printed near the appetizer section, where the expediter resides. He or she then calls the order, and the cooks begin to prepare what is needed. At the same time a single-copy printer located near the meat station prints the items that have a long cook time. This allows the cooks to begin to prepare their dishes while the appetizers are cooked. The appetizers are sent to the dining room with a ticket while the other two copies are punched on a time clock and taken to the hot line.
At the hot line another expediter (usually the chef) orders the entire ticket, including the meat items from the meat-station printer. The cooks then repeat each order to the chef; this procedure helps verify that all items have begun to be cooked. While constantly watching the clock, the expediter picks up the order after the set amount of time has passed. This time will vary depending on your style of restaurant and the number of turns necessary.
Communication is vital to a speedy and organized service.
The waitstaff must properly place the order with any pertinent information for the kitchen, such as a late table that must be rushed because they are going to miss their show or a guest with special dietary needs that requires a longer preparation time. With this information, the expediter can then make adjustments that will satisfy the guests’ needs. Communication between the expediter, cooks, and food runners help with organizing the complex flow.
The expediter sets the tone of the entire service.
If he or she is frantic and unorganized, then the meal period will reflect the expediter’s demeanor. When the expediter is confident and prepared, the kitchen can run smoothly and in an orderly manner. An expediter’s number-one responsibility is to make certain that the kitchen is successful at putting out all the orders in a timely and organized manner.
And the owner’s or executive chef’s responsibility is to create an efficient system for the expediter. Remember, no matter how good the food, it must reach the table expeditiously and as it was conceived.