Managing dinner services during the holiday season can be challenging. Not only do dinner services at this time of the year tend to be busier, they also tend to coincide with nightly private events. How can front and back of the house teams work together to get through the season with their team (and sanity) intact?
“Sometimes it’s pretty tough but it’s all about being organised, knowing what’s coming and getting ready for it,” says Mary De Nicolo, private events manager at Christopher’s in London.
Below, we talk to her about how she manages private events and works with the kitchen and dining room during the festive season.
Reiterate that management is there to help
Making sure that everyone is on the same page is key and that includes making sure that staff knows when to ask for help from management. “The staff is aware that during December, time is always tight between events, however they are constantly reassured that the management team is there to help them,” De Nicolo says.
She makes sure that her team knows that they can come to her when they need help and that they don’t have to fix every problem themselves. “Experienced management is always on hand to oversee the running the restaurant throughout the day.”
Be clear about offerings
“We try to prepare as much as possible well in advance, so everything can go as smooth as possible during the busy period,” De Nicolo says. That means making sure that the staff is well versed on the menus for the holiday season. The restaurant and martini bar also shares the menus online so guests know what to expect when they come in for dinner. “We ensure we know everything about the menus so we can convey to the customers why the dishes are so special.”
Keep the energy up
Don’t forget to create a festive atmosphere to get guests and staff in the mood for their event or a celebratory dinner. Decorating the room is a good start, says De Nicolo, but you’ll have to go beyond that to make sure that the festive atmosphere can be felt. “Decorations and the music are just the beginning of it,” she says. “It’s Christmas and we love the festive cheer, while the working together as part of such a lovely team really gives it a family feel.”
The only way to make sure that everyone knows what’s happening is to talk about it. Communicating before, during and after an event or dinner service helps get everyone in the same frame of mind. “It is so key for front of house staff to have clear communication with the kitchen,” she says.
The temptation to just put your head down and get through the shift is strong, but it won’t equal a better dining experience for your guests or a great work environment for your team. Keep everyone in the loop about menu changes, reservations or whatever comes up during service. “Making sure the kitchen knows about events and special guest requests well in advance gives them time to prepare,” De Nicolo continues. “During dinner service the kitchen staff needs to know what they are preparing and for which table, while the waiting staff needs to be kept informed on what meals are being served when, along with (in particularly busy times) knowing when to hold on taking orders to stop the kitchen becoming overwhelmed.” Keeping lines of communication open during these busy times is crucial to creating a great dining experience and managing private events and dinner at the same time.
Finally, De Nicolo says managers need to remember to have fun during the festive season. “My suggestion is don’t forget to smile, have a good time and keep calm,” she says.