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Restaurant Running Side Work

running sidework
The Importance Of Running A Smooth Shift!

Running Side Work Plays A Huge Role In Restaurant Success

I know that many servers, food runners, back servers, server assistants, bartenders, and busboys and busgirls don’t think that this is very relevant…but it can make or break your shift that your trying to conduct.

You, as a manager, are a conductor and trying to compose a symphony to create this harmonious music of a great shift!  It’s a huge pain in the buttocks in trying to keep everyone on top of their job roles & duties throughout the course of shift, but it’s essential!  The biggest part is trying to combat with your employees in staying on top of this.  So, how do you get everyone to do their duties?

From my experience, I have always given everyone ownership!  Ownership of their nightly duties gives you, the manager, a great advantage.  It helps hold the power of receiving the “better sections” or privileges throughout their shifts that you schedule them for.  BUT, you have to give the appropriate running side work based upon their sections, and the their in/out times.  For example, those that came in early to do the setup side work or the closing side work should have a bit of an easier task throughout the shift than those just coming on board for a quick in and out shift.

If you’re new to this, here are some duties that are essential throughout a shift:

  1. Ice throughout the shift.  Sometimes, especially in higher volume restaurants, you should have at least 2 people in charge of getting ice throughout their shift.  Depending on your staff capacity, I would use 3 servers in charge of ice on Fridays and Saturdays.
  2. Brewing coffee.  This a servers biggest nightmare area!  Believe it or not, the dessert and coffee course can really put the server in the weeds.  Some simply are not experienced enough (or strong enough) in multi-tasking this area.  Some servers, as well as S.A.’s and bussers, will stack coffee filters already pre-made with regular or decaf coffee in stacks with an appropriate label by each stack.  This will definitely cut out a few crucial seconds during service.  Have a garbage can readily accessible for your staff to “chuck” out the old coffee and espresso/espresso pods into.
  3. Coffee cups and saucers.  During the course of the night, a server is bound to go into the kitchen for something.  Without thinking, they tend to just grab 1 coffee cup and 1 saucer or 1 creamer to put cream in.  This is an educational moment.  Teach them to grab more than one.  Someone else is going to need it for another table.
  4. Silverware.  This is an employees BIGGEST gripe.  There is never enough silverware, for some unseen reason.  Whether it’s from them (or busser) accidentally throwing them away.  (We all know that those magnetic strips are only but so good in the trash cans!).  Your employees will do the same thing as they do with the coffee cups.  They will grab JUST ONE!  They’re right there, they might as grab more for others to use.
  5. Roll-ups and Napkins.  This is normally designated to a busser, depending on what kind of restaurant you’re running.  Though, if you have a cocktail server, than you usually designate them this job.  Mostly because they are closer to the area and are in and out the kitchen during the night…multiple times!  Those bar patrons love appetizers.  Between the bartenders and cocktail server, set a plan into action to make sure it gets done.  They are not always THAT busy to do this.  If they’re swamped, then get a busser to start doing them.
  6. Bread/Dinner Rolls.  I leave this up to the food runner.  They are always in the kitchen, and should be able to periodically ask for more bread, or put more bread/rolls into the bread drawer.


These are the main components to worry about during a shift.  All the other things, whether it’s sauces, lemons, and other things…should be done in excess before the shift starts for their opening side work.  The biggest thing that you have to get across top your staff is that they are a TEAM working together for a successful shift.  It all goes back to the old adage, “There is no I in team.”  As a manager, you have a harder job.  You have to be the multi-tasking kind or queen.  I have had to carry a server/servers through a shift before.  Silvering tables, watering glasses, mise en placing tables…it’s your job to make sure things run smoothly.

Yes, you are supposed to be the dictator to your staff and move them in the restaurant as you would chess pieces…but there comes a time when YOU will have to step up and say, “I’ve got the water, you go greet that table and then come back to silver the other one for their next course.”  You have to take ownership of the whole restaurant…and you have to smile the whole time you’re doing it.  You can never let the guest see you stressed, haggard looking or confused.  You have to create this huge facade that everything is running perfectly according to plan for the guests dining experience.

To keep the shift running smooth, always have a positive approach and demeanor.  You have to be accessible to your staff on every level.  This will encourage them to stay positive, and you will have a great shift!  If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to write me an e-mail or leave a comment behind.

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