Being in the middle of Denver Restaurant Week might feel a bit surreal. Most of the time you might be wondering when the light at the end of the tunnel will appear. Hopefully our tips leading up to Denver Restaurant Week helped you feel prepared to tackle these “10 Saturdays in a row.”
But now, you’re in the middle of restaurant week, and you might be wondering what’s next.
During this time it’s so important to keep staff positive and motivated. Negativity within teams can fester, and ignite, until it becomes a raging wildfire that’s tough to eradicate; that negativity will undoubtedly affect the quality of your food and service, and could pose terrible damage to your brand reputation.
At a recent ‘Bootcamp’ event for Denver Restaurant Week participants, restaurant veterans shared their insights for making it through the busiest 10 days of your life. Here are some ways to make this year’s restaurant week successful.
Lead With Style
Nothing makes a busy service more challenging than when tensions are high. When front of house and back of house start snapping at each other, orders get lost or confused, the food doesn’t taste as good, and overall service just goes down the drain—not the best way to make a great impression, is it?
When you keep your staff happy, motivated and positive, your restaurant shines. But it’s up to you to set the example, “Good service starts from the top,” says Beth Gruitch, owner of Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Stoic & Genuine, and Euclid Hall (part of Crafted Concepts). Gruitch adds that taking some time to prep staff ahead of time can help set a positive tone around one of the busiest times of the year, “Marketing dollars are expensive, and this is a great opportunity to highlight an important opportunity for the restaurant.”
Staff will look to your energy and optimism to keep moving. “Make sure your ‘A-team’ is there, and that they’re excited to be there,” Gruitch says. Good leadership starts at the top, and having hardworking staff members to echo your attitude in the kitchen and front of house can do wonders for a high performing team. Ultimately everyone’s role is important in the restaurant, and it’s your responsibility to enforce that. Gruitch says that Crafted Concepts excels with one primary rule that’s followed 365 days per year, “There is absolutely no talking about money on the floor.”
I’m going to borrow a term coined by Owner and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey of the popular Frasca Food and Wine. When it comes to providing service, choose to be a hospitalian. To be a hospitalian is to “think of the other person, making them feel different or changing how they feel.” Don’t overlook restaurant week participants as guests that don’t matter because it’s the first time they’ve walked through your door. Instead, as Chef Daniel Asher of River and Woods says, consider these guests as “an amazing opportunity to engage guests you may not have seen before, or will see again.” Whether these guests are walking through your doors for the first time, or you know them as seasoned regulars, don’t let your servers become dismayed by those who “might be eating in a restaurant for the first time—ever.”
As Chef Asher likes to echo to his team when it comes to offering genuine hospitality, “Here’s your chance to engage that person in a brief, fleeting moment with an incredible dining experience.” The foodservice industry is about rocking people’s worlds—so go on, rock it.
The best thing you can do to keep your staff happy and motivated during restaurant week is to ensure your staff feels appreciated every step of the way, “You want to make sure that wellness is being honored and respected at every point,” says Chef Asher. Treat employees to a mini yoga session to stretch the body and put staff in a calm state of mind before the chaos begins. You might also consider ordering food in, like sandwiches or pizza, to give the kitchen a break from making the ‘family meal’ for a few nights. Supplying healthy, energy-fueling snacks like granola bars are also a great way to keep the momentum going during service.
Also, remind your customer-facing front of house to speak often to the back of house. Encourage them to share customer compliments (Table 10 is loving that gnocchi!) and to thank kitchen staff for accommodating tough dietary restrictions or substitutions. Those acknowledgements give people the support they need to know they’re doing a great job. Restaurant week is like having 10 Saturdays back-to-back, and that exhaustion is very real both physically and mentally. As a manager, don’t be afraid to hand out plenty of high fives and encourage your chef du cuisine to do pep talks to keep kitchen staff motivated. Sometimes great feedback and praise is the greatest medicine you could give!