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please read what my crazy restaurant wants to implement

I work at a fine dining steakhouse which used to use trays to serve food. Our manager has decided that we are going to serve the food in the "classic steakhouse style," in which we do not use any trays. I think he means the kind in which a server will hold one plate in each hand, followed by however more needed servers, and put the food in front of everyone all at once. Sounds great, but we have a staff of five servers, one busboy, no food runners, and an expo who also delivers room service trays to the attached hotel, all for a restaurant which has 30 tables not including large private rooms. Management will not allow us to hire more people. Each server has a section of ~8 tables. We are expected to serve in this style with a total of 6 people on the dining room floor. For 30 tables. We end up piling dishes up our arms. We have to make multiple trips to and from to the kitchen to get a whole table served. We are not allowed to use a tray to bus the table either, so it takes multiple trips to clear the table instead of having the table cleared all at once. So please tell me your opinion. Which would you prefer, me using a tray or serving you with the dishes on my arms. Oh, and the sides are served on a separate plate from the entree.
So far (for two days) it has been fine because we were slow. I;m concerned about when we have a busy night though. What do you think?

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  1. I think you will probably get used to it. I can't think of any nice place I've been to in years that uses trays. And now you don't have to deal with the tray stand and where to put it or cleaning the trays, or the possibility of dropping the whole thing. Sounds like the manager wants to be more fine dining and less chain-y. Treat this as a learning opportunity.

    30 tables and 5 servers should average a 6 table section, not 8. Do you have a particularly high percentage of large parties, or mostly 2s and 4s? The side dishes being extra could be a pain, but maybe you drop the entrees first and come back with the sides on the second round. Teamwork, coordination, practice - there will be a learning curve, but hopefully you will be fine.

    3 Replies
    1. re: babette feasts

      I'm all for improving service. My point is they want to do this with five people. Five.

      1. re: bookworm977

        And yes, 6 is the average for 5 servers, but sometimes we run with 4 people. By the by this symbol, ~ , means approximately. Some people will have 5 tables, some 6, some 7, and yes, some 8.

        1. re: bookworm977

          I think you'll be disappointed to hear that I agree with babette. Fine dining might have included trays in the past, but for the most part I don't think that it does any more. It will take teamwork, it will take practice, and there will be some hard times, but eventually you and the restaurant will be better for it. I worked in a restaurant recently that was semi-fine dining, and we had to hand carry all the plates, which were so hot we needed linens to carry them. To carry a plate on your arm you needed a linen or your forearm, but we still managed. If you think you have it bad, consider that some of the fine dining restaurants here in LA always serve all the dishes simultaneously to each guest. They all hit the table at exactly the same moment. That meant you can only carry one plate, and you need six people to carry six entrees. Just as you and your team will need to do, everyone just has to think of food running as a team job. When food comes out, anyone who is available picks it up without asking anything other that where it needs to go. No asking if someone needs help, or if you have time to do something else, or blah blah blah...you see food come out, and everyone picks it up it and runs it out immediately. That is the key. If anyone does not participate as a team member it will not work.

          I have been in your shoes before, with changes that were difficult, or that I resented, but I realized that ultimately, IMHO, almost any change that betters the restaurant is a good one even if there are some bumps in the road in the short term. The difficulty comes from the fact that things were easier before, but the easy way is rarely the best way in fine dining. Once you do things the right way, you will look at the old ways and laugh. If you really can't handle things when it's busy then maybe you will need a food runner, but don't give up before you really, really try your best for a while. A good front of the house staff can do amazing things if they approach things with the proper mindset.

    2. The no trays for serving is one thing, but not allowing the busboy to not use some sort of tray is ridiculous. It is asking for stuff to fall on the floor. A busboy's job is to clear a table fast and to get it ready for the next diners without to much intrusion on the guests at nearby tables. How is the new requirement supposed to help with that?

      7 Replies
      1. re: John E.

        If the server is on top of things there should only be glasses on the table when it is time for the busboy to clear the table. Maybe a couple of spoons & coffee cups. No one should be going to the BOH with empty hands. Everyone helps run food and everyone helps clear tables. At least that's what mgmt will tell you. Fine dining isn't about turn & burn... it's a slower, more controlled-paced dining room (most guests have reservations).

        We all have a hard time with change. To the OP,don't knock it until you try it for a while. I'm sure you will adapt and a few months from now you will have forgotten about your difficulty with this new policy.

        1. re: lynnlato

          I understand what you are saying. My point wasn't about 'turn and burn' it was about being the least intrusive on neighboring guests and if some sort of tray helps to accomplish that task, why not use it?

          1. re: lynnlato

            Well, then how does the server remove all of the plates without a tray?

            1. re: dmjordan

              Apparently they remove the plates, stack a couple with the flatware and make several trips.

              1. re: dmjordan

                Well then, guess you don't know much about the business. Depending on the rules of the dining room they can either stack and utilize their arms or, many dining rooms require bussing be a group effort - all servers pitch in.

                1. re: lynnlato

                  Guilty as charged. I've only waited tables in casual restaurants, never fine dining.

            2. re: John E.

              I can't remember the last time I saw a table bused with a tray instead of by individual plates.

            3. If mgmt is really on top of things, they'll change back quickly if this isn't working or if it negatively impacts the diners' experience. As others have said, trays haven't been used in years in most fine dining restaurants, so you'd likely be faced with this wherever you worked. If you really are shortstaffed, they'll realize it quickly because it will affect service.

              1. Sorry, but I don't give an At's Rass if my server brings my meal by hand or on a tray, neither defines whether it is "fine dinning" or not.

                1. There's no way one server can give truly fine service to 8 tables at once (or 7 or 6, likely not 5), especially when you're partially responsible for running food to everyone else's tables. It's going to be a shit show.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    Thank you. All of you, its not really a tray vs no tray issue! It is they want us to do this with 5 people. At maximum. Sometimes 4 people! I described what they wanted from us in such detail so you could see how much work it will be. And they want this to be done with 5 people, no food runners, one busser, and now tray for anything. I think I need to post this on a server board

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      I could not agree more. And from diners' perspective, it sucks too. We were recently in this very situation (at a high end steak house, attached to a hotel, hmmm...). The server brought what he could carry by hand, and made several trips back to the kitchen for the remaining entrees and sides. The other servers were all rushing around, no one was available to follow, and it seemed like chaos. So half of us had to sit watching our food get cold while waiting for the other half to be served.

                      When the entire table is served at once, by a team, it's a beautiful thing. But if there's not enough man power, don't even go there.

                      1. re: Whinerdiner

                        Yes! I want my tables to have good service, to be happy and pleased. In fact, my livelihood depends on my guests being happy. You're not happy, and express your unhappiness with the tip, my power doesn't stay on. And yet, I feel my restaurant is binding my hands together and expecting insane things.

                        1. re: bookworm977

                          Have you only ever worked at restaurants with trays? When you go out are there trays more often than not? Are you willing to find another job if you really hate it?

                          Give it a chance but start working on your resume. You don't have to work there if you don't feel you can give the service you want to give or if your income is not meeting your needs.