Streamline Your Steps of Service: 7 Ways to Reduce your Labor Cost
For many years I worked with new restaurants by creating their service systems and writing out their steps of service. For some clients the sequence of service was often comprised of 20+ steps including presenting the menu, serving bread, clearing courses and delivering the check. But when your service experience is comprised of so many steps this puts a burden on your servers and requires that they do more for each table. This means you need more service staff to deliver all these steps, which impacts your labor cost and the bottom line.
With labor at an all-time high, here’s some small changes you can make to limit your steps of service in order to streamline your service and reduce your overall labor cost:
1. Make Menu Placemats: Paper placemats printed with your menu have a two-fold benefit: they remove the step of menu presentation while also making table reset a quicker and cleaner moment of service. The folks at Jack’s Wife Freda have made their unique placemats a signature of their dining experience.
2. Put Bottled Water on the Table: Like the Smith restaurants do so well, bringing filled water bottles to the table puts the duty of water pouring on your guests and removes this step of service from your bus-person or server.
3. Limit Marking: instead of using a step prior to each course to mark the table, send the proper silver out with the course. Present the soup spoon with the soup, the steak knife with the meat and the dessert fork with the chocolate cake. This requires a proper utensil setup at the pass but it removes up to 3 steps of service at the table.
4. Eliminate marking: If you have a casual concept: pre-set your utensils at the table. Put roll-ups on the table in a basket or large mug. This allows people to set themselves up for their meal and streamlines the step of reset as well!
5. Put bread on the menu: We all know people love free bread, but it is an additional step of service. Many new restaurants offer a house made bread as a menu item that is delivered with the appetizers; this has the dual impact of eliminating a step of service and increasing the check average. The bread at Frenchette is memorable: house-made, hot and served with French butter.
6. Serve only Espresso: Drip coffee is great for many reasons, but the free refills take up a lot of time and require numerous trips to and from the table. By offering only espresso drinks you’re limiting coffee service to only 2 steps of service: taking the order and making and delivering the coffee. This keeps your servers focused on service, not on coffee refills.
7. Eliminate Dessert: This is a risky suggestion since dessert is a great way to maximize the check but if you have a high-volume concept, dessert service can prevent table turns. Instead, follow the lead of the Mermaid Inn: they serve a demitasse cup of chocolate pudding to each guest when presenting the check. This eliminates many steps of dessert and coffee service (taking the order, marking, serving, refilling and clearing) and increases your ability to get more people seated in your restaurant without feeling like they are missing out on dessert.
Of course, all of these suggestions must work with your concept; that is essential for success. But no matter what, examine your steps of service and see what moments of service you can streamline. If you intelligently limit your steps, then you may need less people to deliver the full experience. And delivering the best guest experience you possibly can is the name of the game.