Create a Dining Environment

Every member of the service staff should make sure that customers dine in an inviting atmosphere. An inviting atmosphere that includes good customer service can help restaurants to be more profitable. In this section, you will learn about some of the elements, or parts, that help to make a pleasant dining experience. From folding napkins to choosing centerpieces, there are many things you can do to make customers feel welcome.

The atmosphere of a restaurant refers to the textures, colors, aromas, lighting, and sounds that make up a dining environment. This can mean everything from the type of tableware used to the background music played. All of these elements work together to create a pleasing atmosphere. Elements of an atmosphere should be chosen carefully. This atmosphere helps determine the type of service and menu used.

Service is another important element in the dining environment. To be able to provide good service, the service staff must understand and properly use all dining room equipment. Managers must carefully train service staff on the restaurant's perferences.

Side Work

The first step to provide quality service is to prepare and place all necessary equipment before customers arrive. All service staff members have duties to perform before the dining room is open to customers. This is called side work. Side work may include cleaning and refilling salt and pepper shakers, sugar containers, and condiment containers. Service employees help stock bus stations with all the materials needed for service and perform routine cleaning duties, including cleaning the seats, table, table base, and floor, folding napkins, and setting tables.

Table Preparation Learning to set tables properly is an important skill. When should salt and pepper shakers be refilled?

Refill Salt and Pepper Shakers

Refill salt and pepper shakers before each shift. Be sure they are clean and not greasy.

Empty and clean them regularly. Here are some guidelines:

• Use a tray to collect the salt and pepper shakers. Take them to the kitchen and empty them.

• Wash the inside and outside of each shaker. Use a bottle brush to clean the inside.

• Wash the shaker tops to unplug them.

• Be sure the tops and shakers are completely dry before refilling. Otherwise, the salt and pepper will not flow properly.

• Fill the shakers. Use the right-size grain of salt and pepper.

• After you fill the shakers with fresh salt and pepper, tap them to clear out air pockets. Place the shakers on a tray and return them to the tables.

Sanitary Tableware

Check that all tableware is clean before you use it. To prevent food contamination, handle plates by the rim. Do not use tableware that has clearly visible cracks or chips. Bacteria can settle into these cracks and contaminate a customer's food.

CRITICAL THINKING How does handling a plate by the rim help prevent food contamination?

Refill Sugar Bowls

Some state laws ban the use of sugar bowls because loose sugar is not sanitary. Instead, restaurants often use individual sugar packets. If sugar bowls are used, however, clean the bowls daily. Check for lumps, and remove them with a dry spoon. Always check and refill sugar containers before they become empty.

Refill Condiments

A condiment, such as mustard, pickle relish, and ketchup, is traditionally served as an accompaniment to food. Clean condiment containers daily, especially the grooves around the cap. Never use a paper towel to dry or wipe off a condiment container. Safety and sanitation regulations state that original condiment containers, such as a ketchup bottle, should not be refilled. Condiment containers can be grouped together into a caddy.

Some sauces and most salad dressings are perishable. Refrigerate these items when they are not being served to customers.

Nearly all condiments served in individual packets are nonperishable. Nonperishable items will not spoil quickly when stored correctly. Nonperishable condiments include ketchup and steak sauces, mustard, syrups, jams, and preserves. Keep frequently used condiments such as ketchup and steak sauce on tables or within easy reach.

Paper product supplies also need to be constantly refilled. For example, if straws and paper napkin dispensers are used, restock the supply frequently.

Bus Station

The bus station is where supplies for meal service are kept in the dining room. Check with your employer to see what should be stocked at the bus station.

Before each shift, check the bus station to make sure that the correct server tools, such as spoons, spatulas, and carving knives, are clean and ready. Restock beverage areas with cups, glasses, coffee, and tea. Bring dishware and flatware to the bus station from the kitchen or dish room as needed. At the end of the day, clean and close the bus station. Return any perishable and nonperishable items to their appropriate places.

Fold Napkins for Service

The restaurant owner or manager decides how napkins are to be folded. (See Figure 6.3.) Use these guidelines when you fold napkins:

• Place linen on a clean surface.

• Be sure that your hands are clean before handling linen.

• Handle customer napkins as little as possible.

some state laws ban the use of sugar bowls?

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