Your food runner is one of your most important restaurant employees. Choose the right food runner, server, waiter, and waitress to be the collective face of your business and watch sales and your brand’s reputation soar.

What Is a Food Runner?

With so many different jobs in the restaurant business, it might be a bit confusing as to what each one is supposed to do. The simple answer is that each job can be whatever you, the manager or owner, choose it to be, however, that’s not helpful when you need an answer fast.

Your kitchen staff will have chefs, assistants, dishwashers, and prep members. While maintenance keeps the building tidy and clean, the front staff is your servers and hosts. Obviously, a server is a waiter or waitress, but what about the food runner? The food runner is one of the most crucial restaurant employees, but also the most misunderstood. Perhaps it’s because the job description varies so widely from restaurant to restaurant, or because the job is very like a waiter or waitress. Whatever the reason, many people don’t quite understand what the job is, how to describe it in their job advertisements, or what to look for when hiring. This all means that the person hired for the job is probably just as confused

Simply put, the food runner helps the server team. They are responsible for making sure food gets to the right table promptly. They also help the waiter or waitress handle any extra duties, like refilling drinks or bringing customers napkins for example. Food runners are also tasked with clearing tables quickly and safely to help the host or hostess seat new customers without a long wait. The food runner is often the go-between for servers and kitchen staff, helping the restaurant to run smoothly. While not their main focus, the food runner should also be well versed in direct customer care and communication. Many food runners end up as a waiter or waitress, so it’s good practice to allow them to try different tasks.

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What Qualities to Look for in a Great Food Runner

  1. Top Notch Organizational Skills Much like a server, waiter, or waitress, a food runner needs to be able to handle a wide variety of tasks in a short amount of time. While it’s true they are there to help the wait staff with their duties; they also have some of their own they need to stay on top of. When they’re not bringing food from the kitchen to the proper tables, they need to keep track of which tables need to be cleaned and if there are any customers waiting for beverage refills. They also should be aware of any patrons attempting to flag down a server for assistance and be ready to jump in if the assigned waiter or waitress is already busy.

    2. Speed When You Need It Most Like a waitress or waiter, the food runner needs to be fast—sometimes they even literally run Whether bringing the food from the kitchen to the actual table or letting the server know when food is ready for them to bring, your runner needs to be on top of everything to prevent meals from sitting too long. This integral role keeps the restaurant running efficiently and helps bridge the gap between harried servers and hungry customers. This is one place where the overlap for a waiter or waitress and the runner happens, but it’s great training for a promotion to a server.

    3. Accuracy and an Eye for Details Unlike other wait staff, the food runner is usually responsible for the job of ticket reader, this involves helping the kitchen staff know which meals to prepare and informing them if there are any special requests. Once again, they prove invaluable as a bridge between two other staff sections, this time between the server and the chef. When a waiter or waitress takes notes, they don’t have the luxury of time to go over those notes with the kitchen staff when there are more tables and more customers waiting to be seen. The food runner must be able to read, understand, and communicate server notes to the kitchen staff quickly and without mistakes. When the waiter or waitress and the runner have great communication, so does the kitchen staff.

    4. Understanding the Flow Every restaurant has its flow, its own unique vibe, and it’s the food runner’s job to sense that flow and work within it. Knowing how long foods take to prepare and how long it should take to clean a table, for example, will help them to work efficiently and confidently. It takes a natural talent to keep an eye on all the moving parts of a busy restaurant, and the right food runner will slip into the role with ease. They help the waiters and waitresses maintain control of the front while helping the back and kitchen staff stay focused.

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Keeping Tabs on Everything

Your server team (including those in waiter, waitress, and food runner positions) will need to understand their roles and their shifts. One of the best ways to staff your restaurant is to include enough servers on each shift to cover the roles of waiter and waitress, as well as the food runner slots. Being adequately staffed can be a tough aspect to achieve using old style scheduling methods, especially when people call in sick or are running late.

Get a handle on your servers’ schedules with powerful, simple, and easy-to-use scheduling software, like that offered by Zip Schedules, that also allows your staff to communicate their needs to you. If a waiter needs a day off, they can easily switch with a waitress on another shift via a quick tap. If a server calls in sick, a food runner might be able to fill in on the spot.

Being able to coordinate all shifts in one place leads to great communication between your staff and no more shorthanded shifts. There are many ways to keep track of all your responsibilities and to help your staff stay connected by using apps like Zip Schedules by Hubworks’, the complete business management platform featuring a cloud-based suite of apps. To learn more about how Zip Schedules and Hubworks can help your business, check out the “Inventory Turnover Ratio | All You Need to Know” post on the Hubworks blog