Whether it’s an unexpected power outage or a blizzard or hurricane — sometimes, tech goes dark. Technology has incredible power to streamline operations and hospitality, but in the high-touch restaurant business, you have to be prepared for anything and everything that might come your way.
Enter the Restaurant Crash Kit, a set of tools and systems designed to get operators through a busy service if any tech systems go down — without guests being able to detect a thing. Though they all look a little different, plenty of restaurants have some version. We tapped experts on our Restaurant Relations team, who have collectively spent thousands of hours working every position in the dining room, for tips, tricks, and insights. Here’s how to get prepared.
Stock your server and host stations.
Keep every host and server station socked with legal pads for taking notes and making reservations; pens; credit card swipe machines (the old-school ones that record card imprints); calculators; and mini notepads with carbon copies for taking orders. (That way one copy can go to the kitchen and one can stay with the server to give to the guest — great for when your POS goes down.)
Other good tools for the host stand are a stopwatch clock and sticky notepad. If you have to start a manual waitlist, the host can write down the time they took the guest’s name and the time they were seated, and he or she can use the timestamps to keep track of how long guests have really been waiting.
Create a code word.
Come up with a code word that your team can use internally to communicate when there’s a crash. A code word helps for a couple of reasons: first of all, you don’t have to spend time explaining what happened to the whole staff, and secondly, you can keep the issue private from guests. Train staff so that when they hear the code word, they should go get their crash kits and break out their back-up tools. For hosts, the code word might indicate to wait 10 minutes before seating the next guest. The key is to communicate the code among the whole staff and make sure everyone knows how they need to respond for their individual roles.
Print out your reservation sheets.
Whether you crash or not, it’s a best practice for hosts to always print out a list of the reservations for the night before a shift. Print out two copies: one for the kitchen, so they know when to expect peak time, and one for the host stand.
Do a fire drill.
Well-organized restaurants will run tests and fire drills to make sure everyone’s practicing the right protocol and can work seamlessly in an outage. No one should freak out — and good training ensures that they won’t.
Make sure everyone knows where to find the crash kit, so the guest never feels any panic. Practice writing out orders and communicating them in a streamlined, consistent way that makes sense to the kitchen (including seat numbers, depending on the type of restaurant). The more it’s standardized, the more likely your team is to get food out in a timely manner, without having to chase down a server to decipher a guest’s order.
Be proactive with guests.
If a tech outage slows down your door or host stand, be proactive with guests who are waiting for a table. If it’s going to be longer than what you quoted, let them know. Get them a glass of bubbly or send over an appetizer once they sit down. Often, people are willing to forgive if they feel like they are being taken care of. Similarly, make sure all managers and staff know about any issues so they can touch tables directly.
Weather the storm — literally.
In a true emergency when you may face loss of electricity, keep mini flashlights, fresh batteries, small votive candles, and lighters on hand. Buy ponchos for guests to wear on their way outside (you can find inexpensive ones at a discount store). Ideally, they’ll remember those little meaningful touches from your staff and not whatever chaos may have prompted them.
Tip: If you anticipate being closed for a significant amount of time, call 1.800.OpenTable and we’ll help you block online reservations for the duration of the outage!