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The Expectations Grow Daily

April 30, 2013 | Frank Bonanno


For years, I didn’t have training manuals for the restaurants. There was only Mizuna, after all, and I knew that staff intimately. Then we grew to Luca, and we were all still friendly peers. I used to say “If you’re here, working with me, then you’re an adult and a professional. You know what’s expected.” That sentence was enough.

Bones was the first training manual, the first time I worked with relative strangers in my own kitchen and on the floor, so the first item of business was to form a list of expectations. Not don’ts–everyone has those–but “do’s.” This Is What I Want Always.

Each opening gives the management team an opportunity to amend the list, nurturing it in a way, and so it grows as we do, defining us in bullet list.

I wanted to share it, because businesses create these tools, and it strikes me that it’s important to pass them around.

Good reading,


P O I N T S   O F   S E R V I C E (WHAT WE EXPECT ALWAYS–in the form of a list that grows daily)

1.       Every light bulb should be illuminated, every frame dusted.

2.       Create a perfect, polished, aligned table setting.

3.       Polish every piece of glassware before and during service; assure that tables are level and firm.

4.       Know the menu, food, wine and alcohol. 

5.       Know the bar brands (rum, vodka, etc,) and food origins (what kind of pig, goat, cow.)

6.       Maintain your hands and nails. Maintain your uniform.

7.       Be clean & beautiful; fragrance-free and odorless.

8.       Wash your hands (and face, if you smoke) regularly throughout service.

9.       Offer to take coats. Offer to bring coats back

10.    Open the door for arriving & departing guests. Say “welcome; say “goodbye.”

11.    Listen.  To the guests, to the chefs, to one another.

12.    Listen.

13.    Maintain eye contact.

14.    Every item on the table is a thoughtful part of the dining experience—no corks, wrappers, extraneous silver.

15.    Pick up anything you see on the floor.

16.    Provide service in order of tables’ arrival.

17.    Serve all food from the left; all beverages from the right.

18.    Serve ladies and clearly older patrons first.

19.    Be careful with the dishes and glassware; handle only what is comfortable and graceful.

20.    Throw love and smile, even when a guest is surly.

21.    Pay all clients the same high level of attention and service. Socialize in a limited, professional manner.

22.    Provide a place for all debris (shells, wrappers . . .)

23.    Provide all necessary condiments with food.

24.    Remove food from the line within 30 seconds, whether it’s “your” table’s or not.

25.    The only thing you should have in your hands when talking to a table is, perhaps, a pen; the only thing in your mouth—a tongue.

26.    A professional server writes the order down and calls it back to the guest.

27.    Use position numbers.

28.    Bring the entire course to the table at the same time, even if it requires two or three servers to do so. 

29.    Keep all fingers and thumbs below the plate or at its edge.

30.    Keep hands at the very base of the drink-ware.

31.    Identify each item by name and list at least 3 components of the dish as you set it before a guest.

32.    Serve hot items hot and cold items chilled and firm.

33.    Wait until a client swallows before asking questions.

34.    Maintain a steady, quiet, brisk pace in the dining room.

35.    Apprise patrons of hot beverages or plates.

36.    Direct your guest to the bathroom by walking him there.

37.    Appear to be cool, even when you’re weeded.

38.    Point your ass and your elbows away from guests.

39.    Delegate.  Distinguish your excellence by asking for help; help without pause when others go down.

40.    Be happy.  Don’t whine, pout, shout, gossip, flirt or guffaw.  If you aren’t happy, act happy until it takes.

41.    If a plate doesn’t look right to you, gently, kindly, ask the chef.

42.    Refill waters regularly and consistently.

43.    Provide fresh glassware with each drink.

44.    Replace a disgusting water glass with a fresh one.

45.    Polish stemware, flatware, and plate rims.

46.    Communicate with the kitchen.

47.    Get the order right the first time.  If you err, say”I sincerely apologize” and correct the problem immediately. (If you say “I’m sorry, you will, indeed, seem like a sorry server)

48.    Get permission before clearing plates, and make sure all diners are finished with the entire course.

49.    Clear a table in one trip even if it takes several teammates to do so; clear everything from the right

50.    Listen to a client’s complaint.  Sometimes listening is the solution.

51.    Present checks two bites into dessert.

52.    Thank the guest when they leave, by name if possible.

53.    Glance at guest checks only in the wait station, and only at the end of service. The tip is not a topic for discussion.

54.    Telephone taxi service or hotel for guests who arrived by such.