6 Common Problems Faced by F&B Staff and How to Solve Them
Written by Chrissabel Kum
Working in the F&B industry can seem daunting. Work can become hectic at times, long hours, over-demanding customers are just some of the reasons why people shun from working in F&B.
But if you like meeting and interacting with people, joining the F&B industry will let you meet people of different personalities and learn how to cope with them.
Whether you’ve been in F&B for some time or you’re looking to join, here are some common problems faced in F&B and tips to address them.
1. Peak periods
It is common knowledge in the F&B industry - Meal times between 11.30am to 2pm and 6pm to 8pm are the d-hours of the day. If you work at a fast-food restaurant or cafe, you may get crowds springing in for a coffee during breakfast hours.
If you work as a waiter, during this period adrenaline kicks in, you seem to have to grow more hands as you go on diner dash mode from kitchen to tables.
This is when teamwork and communication plays a crucial role. Do alert your managers or colleagues when you need help.
Let’s say you are in the midst of taking an order, but someone raises their hand for the bill. Catch your colleague’s attention and say - ‘Hey could you help me with the bill at table 5?’ The last thing you want is to keep the customer waiting or have a restaurant with tables full of uncleared dishes.
Well, the silver lining is, time seems to fly by and you get to catch a break in between those times.
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2. Large orders
Everyone customizes their order
One of the painful experiences of being a waiter is that sometimes people think you have the memory capacity of a 1TB hard drive. You get to a table of 8 persons and realise that everyone wants their food customised differently.
It may be food allergies, gluten-free, dairy-free, halal requirements, vegan, request for a salad without cheese, different doneness for the steak, request for additional sauces, cheese sauce on the side, drinks without ice etc…. Overwhelmed? Remember that the biggest priority is those who have food allergies and check with the chefs if their food can be tailored to their needs. Write down their orders and repeat their orders to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Do not be deterred as managing large orders comes with experience.
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3. Wrong orders
During busy periods, there may be a mess up in the order. Maybe someone took the wrong order, or perhaps the kitchen dished out the order to the wrong table, or there was a miscommunication.
Whatever the case, such scenarios happen as a result of stress, either on your part or others. What’s most important is to keep calm, do not start pointing fingers at others, try not to get emotional and solve the problem.
Firstly, apologize to the guests for a mix up in the order. Let the customers know that you will double-check on their order, then bring the dish back to the kitchen to clarify. Some customers might not be happy being served the wrong order after a long wait.
Apologize sincerely for the wait, seek their understanding that the restaurant is full house at the moment so there might be some confusion. Offer to refill their drinks or a free side dish while they wait.
It is always good practice to verbally clarify the order first before serving the food to customers. Some restaurants place the order chit on each table and tick it off once the dishes are served.
4. Problems with the food
Some guests might not be happy with the food that was served, as it might not suit their palette or they ordered something that was not what they had expected.
For example, the customer may not like sour food, however, they have been served meat in a sour sauce that they disliked. At times like this, say things like ‘I apologize for the unpleasant experience’.
Then ask the customer the kind of taste that he/she prefers, take the food and feedback to the kitchen. Discuss with your manager or chef on what can be done to change the dish for the customer.
If permitted, offer them a free drink, appetizer or dessert while they wait for the kitchen to prepare their order.
5. People ordering close to closing time
Sometimes you get people rushing in 5 mins to closing, wanting to order a coffee when you have powered down and washed the machine.
In such a situation, apologize to the customer, let him know the restaurant’s opening and closing procedures - for example, you start cleaning up half an hour before closing and suggest alternative drinks which you can make on the spot.
6. People who don’t leave after closing
This is a common scenario especially for food establishments in school campuses or those that sell alcohol.
For cafes in schools, students get in the ‘zone’ of studying, and might not be aware that they are holding up the closing time.
In this case, the waiter can politely announce to the floor that they are closing, whilst holding onto cleaning equipment such as a broom, mop or cleaning cloths. People will generally get the message and not stand in your way.
For a variety of reasons, people might get caught up in conversations, sometimes just a little tipsy or unaware of the closing times of the store.
Some restaurants go around the tables and alert people of their last orders, some waiters would go with checks to get customers to make payment first so that the cash register and settlements can be done first.
Each food establishment has different ways of alerting customers of their closing times, so it’s best to take instructions from your managers or ask them when in doubt.
In a nutshell
Working in the F&B industry can be stressful and challenging, but you can gain skills like problem-solving, multi-tasking, ability to work under pressure.
These skills can be applied to any job in the workforce.
It is a suitable job for those who are not afraid of challenges and constantly improve themselves.
Think you have what it takes to join F&B? Download FastJobs and search for “F&B”.