Providing food and beverage service can sometimes be a challenge; customers can be a delight to serve or they can be difficult and a food attendant must be able to deal with the unique needs of each customer. A good food and beverage attendant can turn a difficult situation into a positive one.
The proper preparation of a food and beverage outlet is vital for the efficient and successful running of any service period; things need to be checked, stocked, positioned and cleaned before a restaurant opens to the public, and if a restaurant is unprepared, service may be slow, inefficient and seen as unprofessional by the customer, who then may decide not to return.
Whether it’s a small café or a fine dining restaurant the basic concepts of food and beverage service and customer needs do not change; you still have to prepare the dining space for your customers, take orders over the counter or at the table, serve and clear food and beverages, farewell your customers, clean the dining area and so on. What does change are the standards and procedures of how we go about providing that service within different workplaces, the technology used, food trends and the cost of what we eat and drink.
It is important, too, to remember that food and beverage service is not just a job while you’re waiting for something better to come along; it is a profession which, given the right attitude and some hard work, can set you on a career path that can see you managing not only the restaurant you work in, but climb to upper management levels in hospitality establishments around the world.
Prepare for food and beverage service
Service of food and beverage begins long before the customer walks through the door and places their order. Premises must be checked, cleaned and set up in line with the service being offered; equipment must be checked and maintained; tables must be set up for the correct service type and, most importantly, you yourself must be familiar with the food and beverage menu and other products on offer.
In this section, we will look at the skills and knowledge needed to:
Discuss and clarify table and room set-up, menu and style of service as required
Check furniture and fittings for cleanliness, stability and condition prior to the service period
Adjust furniture placement to meet service requirements and allow safe and easy access for service personnel
Prepare and adjust the environment to ensure comfort and ambience for customers.
Check and prepare equipment for service according to manufacturer instructions and clean or replace items as required to meet service standards
Prepare and display food and beverage items according to organisational standards.
Clarifying Requirements for Set Up
How a venue will be set up depends very much on the type of establishment, the menu style and the service style and period involved; fine dining restaurants will need a different set up to a local café which, in turn, is different to a conference or function set up.
So before the service setup can begin it is important for you to be aware of and have answers to these issues. Understanding the menu is particularly important as customers who order from the menu may ask you questions about how the dish is prepared and what ingredients it is made from. You must be able to answer these questions as fully as possible – particularly in regard to ingredients. Some people have food allergies (in some cases very severe ones) that could cause them distress and in the worst case scenario they could go in to anaphylactic shock and die. So understanding how the food is prepared is vitally important.
Menu style, and therefore the way in which you set up for service, will vary greatly. The two main types of menus offered within a hospitality establishment are A la Carte and Table d’hôte.
A la Carte (is a French term meaning ‘off the card’) is used mainly in restaurants, bistros and cafes. It offers a choice of different menu items and each dish cooked to order.
A la Carte is generally more expensive than Table d’hôte menu styles and requires more staff, for service, with – often – higher levels of skills.
Table d’hôte – is used mainly for functions and anywhere where set menus apply such as on airplanes, trains, boats etc. The function or conference host usually chooses what dish is to be served and there may be a set number of courses; a set entrée, main and dessert for example.
There will normally be a set price for the menu and, depending on the venue, this may be a ‘per head’ cost which makes this type of menu service very cost effective when there are large numbers of people to feed. The food is, often, pre-prepared so less staff may be needed and service can be accomplished quickly, as meals are not made to order.
In brief, other types of menus include (but are not limited to): … continued in learner guide …