In this article: 3 tips for FOH restaurant staff to keep their service/side stations organized during a busy shift.
Oh the service stations...
There’s at least one in every restaurant, maybe more, and maybe even a few different types. They tend to provoke some emotion from everyone on the team. While highly necessary and functional, keeping service or side stations organized and clean during a shift can be quite the task.
We’ve all been there - an hour or two into a busy shift, and already the service station has been torn apart. Not only does it make your job harder, because now the station is less functional and you can’t get what you need, but it also looks bad to guests. If you can’t keep your stations clean, what makes them think your kitchen would be any better?
Today we’re going to dive into 3 pro tips for keeping your service stations clean and functional throughout your shift, no matter how crazy things get.
Let’s start by defining the different types of service or side stations:
Depending on what type of restaurant you work in, you may have any of these types of stations, or a combination of them.
When it comes to keeping stations organized, a lot of the same practices will work for the different types of stations, but some will require specific attention, which we’ll outline here. Keep in mind that you may have stations different from the ones listed here - these are just the basics.
Server stations are (you guessed it) for the servers to use. These stations may or may not house a POS system, meaning a computer or tablet where servers can ring orders in and process payments
At a server station with a POS, the POS is the priority. This means that the counter should be clear, with nothing blocking the use of the POS.
Any tools that would be helpful while using the POS may also be here, including printer paper, check presenters, a calculator, a stapler or pens. Depending on the size of the server station, it may store other things besides the POS - extra menus, trays, linens, cutlery, side plates, water pitchers, coasters, glassware, or wobble wedges.
Server stations are almost always located on the floor, and often within the guests direct line of sight. Make sure that there are never dirty dishes or personal items (cups, purses, your vape pen…) sitting out here!
The water station or bussing station will mostly be used by the support staff during a shift. This includes server assistants, bussers, food runners, or the expo.
The water station holds water or other beverage pitchers for easy refills. It may also house trays, glassware, coasters, linens, serviettes, and a sanitizer bucket.
Sometimes a water station will also function as a bus station. A bus station will have a tub for dirty dishes, tubs or trays for bussing dirty tables, rags, and a sanitizer bucket. There might also be cleaning products for wiping down tables or other surfaces.
With these stations, it’s important to follow the guidelines provided by your cleaning supply provider for safe storing and handling to prevent contamination and illness.
A coffee or other condiment station may be on the floor and visible to guests, or it may be in the back of the house. Either way it’s important to keep it tidy during service to increase efficiency.
Your coffee station will have everything you need to serve coffee - Drip coffee machines, hot water dispensers for tea, mugs, saucers, spoons, creamers, sweeteners, lemon, and napkins. These would be the most common in a diner or breakfast restaurant.
The condiment station might be combined with any of your other stations, but it will house any other condiments or fixin’s that your guests could need during service - Sauces, sugar packets, bread baskets, salt and pepper,
Ok, now that we’ve broken down the different types of stations we can look at our 3 quick tips for keeping them organized, no matter how crazy of a shift you have!
The key here is to simplify things (surprise, surprise, lol) as much as possible. Can you skip a step somewhere? Use one less item in a process? Save room by installing a hanging shelf? Think outside of the box to get the best results, custom to your restaurant.
The first tip for organizing a service station is to prioritize the items in order of how often they’re used.
Get clear about the purpose of the station (you can refer to the different ‘types’ of stations listed above) and decide what needs to be the most easily accessible by your team in order to fulfill that purpose. If
Note: You may be working with limited space - maybe one counter is functioning as multiple stations, with multiple purposes. This can make prioritizing a bit trickier! Do your best to section off the space into segmented areas, and assign each area with a priority task. Within each of those areas you can organize the items in priority of completing that task.
Once you’ve prioritized the items in the station, you may be left with some items that are very low priority, or not related to the task at all. That’s where tip #2 will come in handy.
This is my favorite part!
Time to get rid of anything that doesn’t belong on the station. Now, before you get too crazy, I’m not saying you have to throw anything away! Simply find another area to keep it so it’s not in the way of your team
However, if you do find that you’re left with a bunch of clutter, don’t be afraid to get rid of things (if you’re not the owner of the restaurant - check with them first of course!). There is a huge benefit to working in a clutter free environment, so letting go of all of those little knick knacks, or broken things that you may use one day can really pay off.
Now that you’ve cleared out what doesn’t belong at the station and made way for the priorities, it’s time to move on to our last pro tip.
The last tip for keeping any service station organized is to overstock it, and then keep it stocked throughout the shift.
Overstocking starts with pre-opening sidework. Once the stations have been wiped down, they should be stocked with their priority items, and backups should also be stocked - overstocking.
Overstocking helps during a shift because it reduces the amount of time that a team member could potentially spend going somewhere else to find that item. Plus, the “fuller” a station is, the less likely it is to become cluttered with things that don’t belong there!
Start training your team to refill the backups the second they get moved to the front - meaning that there’s never a time where there isn’t a backup in place. Think ahead to set yourself up for success.
The service stations in your restaurant are crucial for your team's success during a shift. Ringing in orders, preparing a tray of drinks, boxing to-go food, and a million other things happen at these stations, so keeping them in tip top shape is very important.
If you’re ready to cut out the extra clutter and chaos during those busy shifts, follow these tips to get organized, and stay organized moving forward.
See you on the floor!