How to improve speed of service: Part 2

waiter waitress busy speed


What training can I give my team to improve their speed of service? I am new to the position and need help to improve them, as we have twenty minutes to deliver the food, and time and time again it’s over that.

– Michael Edgar, Kitchen Team Leader, Greene King, Worcestershire, England


In Part 1 of this question, I encouraged managers to think about what structures are in place that may be in the way of fast and efficient service. Sometimes I consult with a restaurant and solutions as simple as adding a garbage can or hand-washing sink in a key location, making sure POS items are logically organized and print to the right place, or cutting a low-margin labor-intensive menu item can do wonders.

In Part 2, let’s assume that your system is as tight as it can reasonably be. What are some things you can do to simply get employees to move faster?

  • Be a model. Energy is contagious. Just as morose colleagues bring everyone down, a high-energy manager can spread the upbeat feeling to staff, getting them moving.
  • Constant but gentle nudging. I noticed as a manager—and still as a culinary educator—that often my greatest success in building a sense of urgency is, especially for repetitive tasks, to say, “Hey you’re doing a great job with that. Keep doing exactly what you’re doing, but now do it twice as fast.” It sounds cheesy but it actually works.
  • Set goals. Train employees to budget time for a task in advance and self-monitor progress. For example, if you and an employee agree that a menu item should have a two-minute pickup, set a timer and actually try to get it done. If you feel a bag of onions should be able to be peeled and sliced in 30 minutes, use the clock and check in on progress. “It’s been 15 minutes; about halfway done?” Then encourage employees to gauge their own progress.
  • Drills and contests. Make speed a game—how quickly can we get through some mundane tasks to take a slightly longer break, win a dessert to take home to your family after work, or have first choice of duties from the prep list?

The adage that the amount of work expands to the time allotted has some truth. Every operation needs to instill a culture of urgency that’s constantly reinforced, celebrated and made into high-energy fun. More on speed of service here

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