Serving Control Point
The serving function is critical from a cost control standpoint because menu items change departments. It also has an essential impact on the level of guest satisfaction. This activity may enhance or detract from the quality of food products. Manv factors affect the quality of service in a food service operation. They include the communication and cooperation between kitchen and dining room personnel, the flow of products, -the menu, the design and layout of the kitchen and dining room, and the style of service. Standards of service vary greatly with the type of establishment. Management is responsible for standardizing ordering procedures, abbreviations, serving procedures, sanitation practices, and personnel requirements. As with the other control points, the serving function requires sanitation, quality, and cost controls.
Food service assumes many forms today. Besides the traditional forms of table service found in lodging and food service operations, other types of service are becoming more popular in hospitality establishments. Each type of service requires slightly different standards. For example, special functions and banquets are served differently than cooked-to-order meals. Also, when food products are prepared and transported to a catered event off the premises, product holding becomes a critical control point. Similarly, hotel room service can be both profitable and safe if designed with sanitation considerations in mind. Temporary food service (e.g., outdoor functions) and mobile food service (e.g., pushcarts) also require standards for safe food service.
Traditional Table Service
This section focuses on traditional table service, as found in establishments other than fast-food restaurants. However, some of the standards presented in this section are also applicable to other types of food service establishments.
Serving and Personnel
'The term ;server may be used to refer to any person directly involved in the service of food or beverages. The server is responsible for serving the customers. Many operations use either waiters or waitresses exclusively. The image and size of the establishment generally determine whether other positions are included in the service function.
In most cases, the positions of host or maitre d' (sometimes assisted by a captain of service), busperson, and cashier are needed in addition to servers. The host or hostess greets and seats customers and supervises dining room personnel. In some large or formal dining rooms, a maitre d' supervises service and is assisted by a captain. The busperson assists the server in the functions of setting up clean tables and clearing soiled tableware. A cashier is frequently assigned the responsibility of handling all cash and noncash payments from customers.
The number of employees at the serving control point is influenced by several variables. First, the size of the business affects personnel requirements. In general, establishments that are relatively large in size and sales volume require more people in the serving control point. Second, the hours of service have an influence on the number of servers needed. Third, the operation's menu affects personnel requirements, as well as the standards of service. For example, a menu with tableside preparation of salads, entrees, and desserts requires more servers than a menu with more self-service on the part of customers. Fourth, the skill level of servers influences the personnel requirements. All of these variables should be evaluated when determining the number of personnel needed at the serving control point.
Characteristics of Good Servers. Although the skill level and capability of servers vary according to the needs of the operation, several characteristics are desirable in all servers.
The server is, first and foremost, public relations agent for the establishment.
The server spends more time with the customer than any other employee of the
operation. Therefore, a genuine desire to please customers must be reflected
in the server's work.
Second, the personality of the server is important to the serving function. A genial person is more likely to succeed than an argumentative individual.
Third, it is critical that servers be dedicated to their work and interested
in improving their work performance. When a server does not care, customers
can sense this apathy.
Fourth, initiative on the part of servers is important. Most managers prefer to have employees that are self-starters and do not have to be told what to do every moment.
Fifth, servers must be honest to protect the operation's security and cost control systems. Honest servers charge correct prices for all food and beverage products served. They do not waste the establishment's resources because they recognize that these resources are alternative forms of money.
Sixth, servers must be dependable workers. Absenteeism puts a strain on those servers who do show up for work, so a good attendance record is important. Dependable servers come to work on time. Supervisors depend on servers to prepare themselves and their stations for service before service begins, to follow the supervisor's directions and suggestions, to restock stations near the end of the work shift, and to complete closing duties before leaving. Finally, I al in servers, as well as other personnel, is critical to the success of the business. Loyalty embraces pride, adherence to the establishment's standards and procedures, and a willingness to cooperate with other personnel.
All of these characteristics contribute to a person's aptitude for serving. Aptitude is simply the capacity to learn. It may be difficult to assess a person's aptitude for serving during an employment interview. A person's ability to learn might be indicated by the highest level of education the person has completed. Generally, applicants with a high school diploma or the equivalent are preferred. However, some managers 'judge the aptitude of newly hired employees by how well they respond to the demands of the job. These managers should not assume, however, that a new server who is not performing satisfactorily lacks aptitude. In many cases, service employees simply need to be properly trained in order to realize their potential.
Besides traits such as confidence, calmness, and alertness, some professional skills are desirable in servers. Professional skills add to the efficiency of the staff and may increase customer satisfaction. These skills, which often improve with experience, judgement, dexterity speed and carefulness. A server's dexterity, or ease in using his or her hands improves with practice. Dexterity is related to manual work methods. In light of the tremendous number and variety of duties a server performs in the course of a single shift, it is clear that increased manual skills and improved work methods are crucial to the operation and its customers alike.
While speed is essential, carefulness in the performance of service duties must never be sacrificed. Professional servers achieve a balance between speed and carefulness, while amateurs try to work rapidly and become careless. Carelessness in service raises the sanitation and safety risks. Carelessness may be evident in any service activity from writing orders to handling equipment to following directions from the supervisor.
Before Food Is Served.
The server is responsible for several duties before the customer arrives.
The tables, linens, and chairs in the dining area should be checked for cleanliness.
The tabletop setup including flatware, dishes, and cups must be correct. Menus
should be inspected daily to determine their condition. Any unacceptable menus
should be discarded. If daily specials are offered, the servers should be made
aware of the specials, their ingredients, preparation methods, and selling prices.
If clipons are used to advertise daily specials, they should be on the menus.
Side work is the server's preparation before customers arrive and closing duties after customers leave. Side work is all of the other duties a server performs besides waiting on the customer. (More information about side work will be presented in the next section.)
Once the customer is seated, the server should approach the table promptly with a friendly smile, greeting, and introduction. It is important that the server have a genuine interest in customers. Some servers view customers are nothing more than an interruption in their day and treat them accordingly Most of these customers never complain or tell management that they have been treated shabbily. However, these customers do express their dissatisfaction with the second-rate service. They simply never return to that establishment. The attitude and actions of a server are indications of that person's interest (or lack of interest) in the most important person in the establishment, the customer.
Prompt attention from the server is an essential component of good service. Customers expect their presence to be acknowledged soon after they are seated. If the server is busy at the moment, it is acceptable for the server to stop briefly at the table and explain that he or she will be back as soon as possible. When customers are seated and left waiting with no acknowledgment by the server for 5 minutes, this wasted time may seem more like 20 or 30 minutes to the customers. This is important when serving customers, both for personal and monetary reasons. Courteous personnel not only make the dining experience more enjoyable for customers, but they also make more money in tips.
Customers often ask servers additional information about the operation, its menu, and its methods of food preparation. Most of the time, customer questions are triggered by the menu. For example, customers mav ask how menu items are prepared. Are they fresh or frozen? What brand is used? Where does the operation buy these products, and I what is their geographical point of origin? How long w III it take the kitchen to prepare this entree? Servers are expected to answer the customers' questions or, if thev are not sure, to obtain the answers from the food production department or the manager. It is important that customers be given correct answers to their questions; servers should not simply guess. Truth-in-menu requirements dictate that all information provided to customers be factual.
The order is then placed with the kitchen using standard ordering procedures and abbreviations. The order may be placed orally, in writing, or by entering it into a computer terminal that simultaneously prints out the order in the kitchen. The kitchen processes orders in the sequence in which they are placed by servers.
In some operations, an expeditor acts as a communication link between the kitchen and the dining room staff. The expeditor who calls orders to the various stations in the kitchen, thus minimizing communication problems between the kitchen and the dining room. The expeditor also aids in quality control by checking finished food products before they are delivered to the customer.
Timing of orders is critical to the rapid flow of products from the kitchen to the dining room.
When an order is assembled at the pickup point, the server's tray should be carefully loaded to reduce the likelihood of accidents. Time and money are wasted when food is dropped or otherwise rendered unservable; production personnel have to begin all over again. Some operations require servers to participate in part of the production and portioning of orders for their customers. For example, servers may be responsible for portioning beverages or soups, adding dressings to salads, cutting and/or portioning desserts, garnishing plates, and obtaining food accompaniments such as sauces. In these cases, servers must be taught to follow the establishment's sanitation and portioning standards at all times.
After Food Is Served.
Once the food is served, the server should check back with the table to see
if the customers need any additional items. Prompt and proper removal of dirty
dishes, refilling of water glasses, and emptying of ashtrays are essential for
good service. When all the customers at a table have finished eating, a properly
totaled guest check should be presented. If the server is required to take the
customers' money and guest check to the cashier, this should be done promptly.
Then, the server should thank the customers and invite them back.
After the customers leave, the table should be cleared and reset with clean tabletop items. This may be done by the server or a bus person. In either case, the person's hands must be washed after handling soiled tableware and before resetting the table with clean items. After the table is reset, the server should check to be sure that the chairs are clean and properly arranged for the next customer.
Occasionally a server may have to handle a customer complaint. The complaint mav stem from customer dissatisfaction with the food, beverages, prices, or service. But how should a complaint resulting from unmet customer expectations in other areas be handled?
Service and production personnel should be trained to recognize acceptable
quality levels in food products. Servers often perform the final quality control
check for finished menu items immediately before they are served to customers.
The operation's quality standards should be maintained at all times. It is the
manager's responsibility to set quality standards for all products. Without
tasting food, its quality can be judged on the basis of appearance, texture
and consistency, and temperature.
Appearance components of quality vary with the product. The customer's overall
impression is formed based on color, spacing, neatness, and garnishing of the
food items being presented. Appearance is an important aspect of quality, because
the old adage "customers eat first with their eyes" is still true
today. For example, fruits and baked products that are served moist are more
tempting than dried out products. The appearance of foods should always match
the pictures of the items on the menu.
Color is a component of quality when judging soups, sauces, and beverages. A bright yellow, artificial-looking chicken gravy is unappealing to most customers. Golden brown bakery products have good eye appeal. Casseroles are more appealing when they are evenly browned. Fruits, vegetables, seafoods, meats, and poultry products should possess a natural color.
The size and shape of food products contribute to their appearance. Broken, misshapen, or ragged vegetables destroy the appearance of the entire plate of food. Portion sizes should fit the plate so food items are not crowded on the plate or hanging over the edge.
The neatness of the food presentation makes a statement about the establishment's standards. Food in liquid form should not spill or run over the edges of tableware. If two foods with sauces are to be served at the same time, one should be served in a side dish. Similarly, if a food has a runny sauce, it should be served in a side dish. Gamishes are artistic touches which complete the picture "painted" with food on a plate. Some garnishes (e.g., parsley, spiced apple rings, orange wedges) are overused to the point of being ignored by customers. Several up-scale establishments use a variety of in-season fresh fruit garnishes that are relatively low in cost and are not labor-intensive. For example, melon wedges, strawberries, kiwi fruit and mango slices are interesting and edible.
Texture and consistency. These are also important components of food quality. Dried out breads and rolls, broken breadsticks and crackers, wilted or discolored salads, lumpy gravies and puddings, and runny custards are examples of poor food quality. Several operations display photographs of standard food presentations in the pickup area in the kitchen. Servers and production personnel can easily refer to these photographs when questions arise.
Product temperature. Temperature contributes to the overall quali of food products. As previously noted, hot foods (e.g., cooked cereals, soups, appetizers, entrees, beverages, vegetables, desserts) should b served on heated tableware. Cold foods (e.g., appetizers, dry cereals, salads, entrees, beverages, desserts) should be served on chilled table ware. When assembling orders, the server should first gather room temperature products, then chilled foods, and finally hot foods.
Serving and Success
Success in the serving control point depends on standards. Standards for each style of service used should be established and monitored by management. The standards for service vary greatly depending on the menu, the location (dining room versus room service), the skill level of personnel, and the expectations of customers.
Excellent food service and lodging operations realize the importance of timing at the serving control point. Winning managers continually reevaluate their service system. The system evolves as the operation's resources change and as customers become more sophisticated. Winning businesses design their service standards to meet or exceed customer expectations. Each time the service style changes, the techniques of service are reevaluated and upgraded.
The purpose of the serving control point is to deliver food products from the production department to the customer in a way that is safe and satisfying. Resource levels influence the success of service. Personnel skill levels dictate the style(s) of service an operation can use successfully. The equipment used during service depends on the style of service. Equipment should be cleaned, maintained, and stored so as to prevent contamination.
Control of the display and service of food inventory during service is critical. The last opportunity to assess product quality is immediately before the menu item is served to the customer. Facilities must be clean and maintained in good repair. A pleasant environment enhances the customer's enjoyment of the entire dining experience.
Several styles of service are used to deliver food to customers. The options for table service include plate service, tableside preparation, family-style, and platter service. Each style has its advantages and disadvantages from the standpoint of sanitation. Regardless of the type of service used, two goals must be given priority: protection of the product and customer satisfaction.
To complete this Topic successfully, please complete the following activities in the order shown below:
ACTIVITY: Reflections on Food Service Control Points
ACTIVITY: One Minute Paper
Go on to Restaurant Business Plans
Go back to Food Service Control Points
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