Although you may not realize it – and you may not even know what “it” is – your restaurant can definitely use an expeditor. If you find that the service in your restaurant is sluggish and the kitchen-to-dining process isn’t flowing smoothly, an expeditor can help alleviate the problem and turn your restaurant into the efficient establishment it has the potential to be.
What Does an Expeditor Do?
Expeditors are key members of a restaurant’s staff; they are responsible for maintaining the efficiency of the kitchen by ensuring that dishes are brought to tables in a timely and competent manner. An expeditor is not a waiter or waitress and expeditors don’t take orders from customers; however, expeditors may bring items to the tables when they are ready, reinforcing the wait staff and keeping a constant flow of dishes from the kitchen to the table (and back).
The expeditor is essentially an intermediary between the front of house (the servers and wait staff) and the back of house (kitchen staff, such as chefs and line cooks). In a busy restaurant, the expeditor is there to convey information between the two inter-related sections of the restaurant, and to ensure that orders are prepared quickly and correctly. And, once the food is cooked and ready to be brought out to the dining area, the expeditor ensures that the presentation is just right and that the plates are garnished and perfectly assembled.
A good expeditor controls the pace at a restaurant; they are like pilots, tasked with keeping the plane steady and flying at the right speed so that it can reach its destination safely and on time. Expeditors are over-seers who can look at the big picture of a restaurant and see where something may be out of sync, why the pace is out of rhythm, how it can be improved, and what can be done to prevent blunders. An expeditor is the captain of the ship that is your restaurant; his or her job is to look at what is happening now, and to see what is about to take place, all in the name of good service and efficiency.
What Skills Does an Expeditor Need?
As you can see, an expeditor has to be everywhere, without stepping on anyone’s toes or infringing on anyone’s territory. The expeditor is like an orchestra conductor, leading both the kitchen staff and the wait staff so that the result is harmonious and balanced. To be this type of go-between, an expeditor needs top-notch leadership and communication skills, and the ability to get along with people. In addition, because time is of the essence in a busy restaurant, expeditors need excellent time-management skills. Without the ability to manage time and people, the food will not be properly prepared and the staff (and customers) will never be happy.
Ideally, an expeditor should have a background in the restaurant industry; back-house and front-house experience is essential, but, in particular, expeditors must “know food.” The buck stops with the expeditor, so to speak, and, moments before the food is brought to the customers, he or she is there to ensure that the dishes are just right, taste-wise and aesthetics-wise. Expeditors must be on top of food safety rules, as well; they must be alert and aware of factors such as cross-contamination and the temperature of the food that is ready to go out to the customers. In fact, the best expeditors need to have a food handling certification or qualifications from the health department.
Expeditors must have a heightened awareness of the importance of customer service; frequently, they will be handling customer complaints and queries, and the right attitude and all the answers are vital. Finally, an expeditor needs mental and physical stamina and outstanding organizational skills. The hours in a restaurant are long and expeditors are constantly on the move. They need to stay organized throughout the day, even during slow periods, to avoid becoming overwhelmed during busy times. The ability to multi-task is essential, as they will be coordinating many levels of a restaurant’s operation.
When are Expeditors Needed?
An expeditor’s role is especially important when restaurants are busy, such as during the lunch and dinner rush. At times like these, when bottlenecks are almost inevitable, expeditors can fill in where things are busiest and help overworked staff fill and deliver orders. In full-service restaurants, the expeditors check the orders for accuracy so that pressure and stress don’t lead to mistakes. In fast-food establishments, expeditors can pick up the slack by filling drinks, wrapping sandwiches, or heating food items. In other words, the old saying, “top cook and bottle washer” applies to the expeditor – he or she is whatever is needed, when the need arises.
Expeditors must be blessed with the ability to stay calm under fire. When the going gets rough, expeditors must keep a cool head, remain unflappable and laugh (or at least function) in the face of chaos. Expeditors are the nuts and bolts of a restaurant’s operations, in that they hold everything together; if they fall apart, it all falls apart, and if they stay cool and collected, the operation will run smoothly from beginning to end. To control the madness is the expeditor’s ongoing challenge; it is a high-stress job that only the strongest and most resilient person can do correctly.
Expeditor: Team Leader
In an article entitled, “The Quarterback of the Kitchen? It’s Not Always the Chef,” The New York Times discusses the challenges of restaurant expediting with experienced personnel. One expeditor says, “Everything could be crumbling around you, but the expeditor has to be able to stay calm under pressure. No matter what’s happening, you’ve got to be the exact same temperature: very cool.” And, as another expeditor explains, “I like to stay really organized, but also work with a kind of intuition.”
Experienced expeditors must know the tricks of the trade. They should make it their business to memorize the names of all the staff members and be able to comfortably address each one personally. An experienced expeditor must also know that their job is not a job for softies; they have to be assertive without being aggressive and confident without being antagonistic. It’s a thin line, and a great expeditor will be able to walk it assuredly and effectively.
Hire an Expeditor… Now
As a restaurant owner, the biggest favor you can do for yourself and your restaurant is to hire the right people who can give you the support you need. Your restaurant expeditor is as integral to the smooth running of your establishment as the manager is, and hiring a good expeditor to review the orders that are coming in, organize the orders, oversee the cooks in the kitchen, give the finishing touches to the dishes, and ensure that the servers pick them up and deliver them to the right tables, is essential to the success of your business. An expeditor who is in control can ensure that the food meets your restaurant’s standards so that your guests continue to be happy and continue to return to your restaurant.