Chapter 10

Taking the "wait" out of waiting tables: sequence and timing of service

This chapter addresses the crucial points in the meal at which the service team should make contact with the diner, and details specific time frames for each point of contact. The chapter sets guidelines for the sequence of events during the meal and suggests verbiage that should be used and actions that should be taken by the service staff. The instructor should use this chapter as an outline for the timing and progression of a meal and for teaching trainees the particular significance of the initial and final contact between the service staff and the guest.

After reading this chapter, the trainee should know the order in which service should be provided to guests and the timing guidelines set forth for each task. He should understand why it’s particularly important for him to be present at the table at specific intervals and points throughout the meal.


Acknowledging A Guest - In restaurant terms, acknowledging a guest not only means being aware of their presence, but letting them know that you’re aware. Preferably, this is done verbally ("Hello. Someone will seat you in just a moment.") But, even if you’re not in close enough proximity to speak with a guest, be sure to make eye contact to indicate that you know they’re there.
Menu Presentation - The act, by the hostess or server, of handing the menu to each guest. Open the menu before giving it to the guest and take a quick glance to be sure it’s right side up.
Upscale Restaurant - A fine dining venue in which the prices are generally high end, the décor usually quite elegant and the atmosphere sophisticated.
Soufflé - A light, creamy dessert into which whipped egg whites have been folded. Usually baked, but some soufflés are frozen. May also be made as a savory, rather than sweet, dish.


Feels like an hour to me! - Have all of the trainees remove their watches. Cover the clock if there’s one in the room. Have the group sit, without talking for a set period of time (maybe 5 minutes). When the time’s up, ask them to guess how long they’ve been sitting silently. Discuss whether it seemed like a short or long period of time and how a restaurant guest might feel if they’d been left for that long without being acknowledged, or having something to eat or drink.

Hey, I want a table! - Have a volunteer leave the room. Tell him that, when you ask him to return to the room, he should wait by the door until someone greets him. While he’s gone, instruct the rest of the group that, when he comes back into the room, they should all be moving around busily, but should not speak to, look at, or in any way acknowledge the person who just came in. Ask the "guest" whether it made him uncomfortable to be ignored. Discuss how this can affect a restaurant’s business and reputation.

The swoop, sweep and serve - Set up a table of four diners and have them pretend to be eating an appetizer. Get three of them to gobble it down, and one to eat it slowly. As each person finishes eating, have a busser clear their plate from in front of them. Ten minutes after the first plate is cleared, have an entrée served to the guests. Discuss how the slower eater feels about being left eating alone, whether each thought the delivery of the entrée was properly timed or whether they thought the pacing was too fast or too slow.

 Sequence and Timing of Service Quiz

1. At what four points is timing the most critical in table service?

2. Guests should be acknowledged within _____________ of their arrival and seated within  _____________

3. Someone from the service team should greet guests within __________  of the time they’re seated

4. What is the first order that should be taken by the server?

5. If guests have only ordered entrées, approximately how long should they wait before the order is delivered?

6. What might you say instead of asking, "Is everything OK?"

7. A guest should never sit for more than _____ minutes without food in front of him

8. If you don’t know who the host of a group is, where should you leave the check?

Answers on page 112 of Instructor’s Manual

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