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Line cooks are from Mars, servers are from Venus

Line cooks and waitstaff can sometimes butt heads.  How can they be taught to cooperate more effectively?  How can communication between the two sides be improved?  Try this simple tip.

The battle lines have been drawn, and the only thing separating them is a 15-foot strip of stainless steel known as the pick-up line.

Tensions often run high on the line. On one side line cooks concentrate on a board full of tickets. Kitchen temperatures top 100 degrees, and perspiration is heavy. Meals must be served fresh and hot and timing must be perfect. It's a non-stop pressure cooker that can last for five hours without a break.

On the other side a different drama is being played in the dining room. This is the stage, and the servers are the performers. Each guest wants and deserves a personalized dining experience. They are demanding, critical and fickle, and servers must be gracious and accommodating.

It's no surprise then that priorities conflict. A dissatisfied customer at your restaurant, an incorrect order, a malfunctioning POS system or a misplaced ticket can lead to flaring tempers, bruised egos or the dreaded "stonewalling." The results can be disastrous — long waits, cold food, poor staging of courses, incorrect items and servers showing the stress and frustration on their faces as they approach guests in the dining room.

It's every manager's nightmare, but there's a simple and effective tool to encourage teamwork between the kitchen and waitstaff. It's called the Cross Evaluation.

The idea is to let the kitchen staff rate the waitstaff on their performance, and vice versa. Start by making a list of some of the biggest gripes you hear being made about each group. Then turn those gripes into objective questions or criteria for rating on a one to five basis. Distribute the "Cross Evaluation Forms" to your line cooks and servers and ask them to rate each other, and then compile the results.

Have some fun with the results. Highest rated employees could be eligible for a bonus, rate increase, the best shifts and sections, or even an annual award for "The Best Server" or "The Best Line Cook." This recognition becomes a major statement by the owner or manager that excellent service begins and ends on the pick-up line.

In the end, you'll see morale soar, communication improve, mistakes diminish, and customer satisfaction increase.

Feel a bit unimaginative? Use our cross evaluation forms for your first round of evaluations, and encourage your staff create their own criteria for subsequent evaluations — we recommend you conduct these quarterly. Good luck!

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