A conductor pulls all the nuances from finely tuned instruments and combines notes and melodies to create a masterful rendition of breathtakingly beautiful music. Music without a conductor is disjointed at best and a rambling disarray at worst. This is the essence of your expeditor. A good expeditor is the line of communication from the waitstaff and runners to the cooks on the line. A great expeditor blends your FOH with your BOH in a seamless flow that appears derived from a greater design.
An expediter calls the orders and organizes the flow of food so that all guests at one table are served simultaneously. They ensure there is adequate time between the appetizers, entrée and dessert. They keep an eye on quality and portion control, clean and garnish the plates before handing them over to the runners or servers. It’s their responsibility to catch any items that may be subpar and send them back to the appropriate line cook—who may then yell, depending on their temperament—but that’s okay. Why? Because they take nothing personally. Depending on the size of your establishment you may have more than one expeditor. In a large operation there may be one for to-go orders, one for banquets and one for the bar.
The Secrets of a Great Expeditor
- Never let them see you sweat. The grill station is backed up and a server has just handed you a rare sirloin that’s supposed to be medium. Without missing a beat, you expedite the order and yell re-heat to the grill station. The chef eyes you with disdain which you miss because you’re busy garnishing a set of plates that are going to the window.
- You are the one and only. You are the only one that talks to the line and the only one that talks to the servers. The waitstaff and runners see you as the keeper of the plate.
- Bold and readily heard. Notice that did not say loud. An expeditor that shouts and yells is an expeditor that is out of control. It is your leadership and smooth demeanor that keep the pace. If you crash, the line crashes. Don’t resort to quick fixes when the kitchen is backed up. Guests would rather wait a bit longer than be served substandard food.
- Water off a ducks back. A good expeditor takes nothing personally.
- Communicates with servers in specific one-word phrases. “How long on table 2?” Respond with the exact time, not an estimate. The servers will respect you and can better serve the guest. Never call a runner until the food is ready to go in its entirety.
- Timing is everything. You understand how to pace the courses. You have vision and precision. All the orders for one table are delivered at the same time and in the same impeccable fashion and the hot dishes are just that…hot. You communicate with the different stations so that the 7 minute dish from the sauté station arrives at the same time as the 15 minute steak from the grill station. You have a group of appetizers ready to go for one table while at the same time garnishing and wiping down the dinner plates for another. You know how long each meal takes to prepare and are deft in your automatic calculations as to which ones supersede the others. Sounds daunting? It is. Being a great expeditor is one of the most demanding jobs in the restaurant industry.