In this article: Why organization is a challenge for restaurants, why organization is key to restaurant success, and tips to become more organized.
Running a restaurant is hard work. There are a million moving parts to pay attention to, and staying organized can quickly become the last priority. Even with the best intention to keep systems in place, the second that dinner rush hits everything seems to go out the window, and survival mode kicks in.
Part of the lack of organization that is so common in the restaurant industry has to do with the kind of people we are. Even if you may not like to admit it, we love the fast-paced environment and some of us even get addicted to the chaos. Having everything extremely organized could almost make things too easy!
Another reason organization can be a challenge for restaurant teams is that getting everyone on the same page about where things belong, or how to clean throughout the shift is difficult. Communicating these standards is one part of the challenge, and then holding people accountable to them is another. Often the best server or bartender is the most disorganized, and trying to get them to meet new standards is a battle that managers will surrender to.
In my own restaurant experience, I had to accept that disorganization was part of the job. There was always a dry storage room, or host stand drawer, or server station that was just an absolute catastrophe that we were expected to work around. I had to learn to accept that no matter how many ways I cleaned, arranged, or labeled things, after I had been gone for a few days I would likely come in to find things back in their original mess.
Managers often ignore disorganization in the restaurant once it becomes a challenge that no one seems willing to work with them on. However, organization is the key to success that too many restaurant teams overlook, because being organized can streamline every other system within the venue.
Why is it important for a restaurant to be organized in order to reach new levels of success? There are a few main reasons why, but the overarching theme of them all is that being organized just makes everything easier! I like to think of it from the perspectives of different people within your four walls, starting with your team members and ending with your guests.
Your team members are the ones whose jobs will benefit the most from an organized venue. Knowing that there will in fact be printer paper next to the ticket printer when it runs out mid-shift reduces the chance of them getting behind. Having space in the server station to pack to-go food without having to clear off clutter that’s been thrown down reduces their workload, making the job easier. Having a clearly labeled sidework checklist that makes sense helps them meet your expectations without confusion.
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As a restaurant manager or owner, having an organized venue allows you to clearly see what’s happening during service without being distracted by the chaos. Don’t get me wrong, I think that we will always find some source of chaos to entertain ourselves with! But instead of having an anxiety attack over the messy stack of linens piled up in front of your desk, you can have a sense of calm and control running a venue that is efficient and organized.
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The most important person in your restaurant is the guest. The entire purpose of your existence is to make sure that people who walk in your doors have a great experience. How do you feel when you walk into a restaurant, head to the host stand, and look over to see a huge mess in front of the host? Not great, right? Now what if you see a huge mess every time the kitchen doors open? You might be a little wary about your food! Being organized is most important when thinking about your guests.
Now that we understand why organization is crucial to your restaurant's success, let’s take a look at a few ways to get organized.
Keep in mind that especially if your restaurant is highly unorganized, this change is not going to happen overnight! Think of it as a culture shift for your team that everyone is going to have to adjust to. Three simple tips to get started with this shift are to get rid of things you don’t need, innovate with systems, and to delegate and hold your team accountable.
This is the fun part! Think of it as a spring cleaning for your restaurant. I say fun, but I know this is actually the hardest part for many restaurant operators. For some reason we like to hold on to things just in case we might need them one day! While that sounds like a reasonable idea, most of us do not physically have the space to store (in an organized way) all of that extra stuff.
Take a solid inventory of what you have. Ask yourself if keeping that set of half-broken mason jars from that one event is really serving your venue. Do this in every space of the restaurant, from the host stand and server stations, to the kitchen and even the bathrooms. If you open a drawer or cabinet and it’s a mess, it’s going to hinder someone on your team at some point.
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In places where you can’t get rid of something, but it’s disorganized or bulky, try to innovate with different systems or solutions. Is there a stack of training papers that your team has to move around all of the time? Try making that digital with an app-based training and communication system. Do people leave their aprons all over the break room? Install a coat rack and inform your team that they can hang their aprons up during their break.
Get creative with this! You know your restaurant best, along with your team. Ask your employees what would make their jobs easier, and then make it happen where you can.
The final and probably most difficult part of getting organized is getting the rest of your team on board. No matter how much you clean and organize, if you don’t make it clear that this is the new standard for the venue, you will quickly find yourself at square 1.
While working to reduce clutter and innovate your systems, make sure you aren’t doing it alone. Get your team involved! Delegate tasks to them and ask for their input so that they feel a sense of pride and ownership for the revamp. Then, communicate clearly and repetitively that organization is now a high priority for the team, and hold people accountable when they don’t meet your expectations. Try to explain to them that the goal isn’t to get them in trouble, but rather to make their life easier!
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Hopefully this article helped outline why organization is so crucial for restaurants, for the teams that work in them as well as for the guests that experience them. Remember that big changes take time to implement, so be patient with yourself and with your team as you work towards your shared goal. Once you see how much easier it is to run a smooth service in an organized venue, you will never want to go back!