Computer Overboard!

I live and die by my podium computer. I track reservation arrivals, incomplete parties, walk-in traffic, the wait list and more on it.

One Friday a few months ago, at 11:45 a.m., we were told we had five minutes before the reservation system would be down. I scrambled as best I could, but when my screen went blank and the foyer filled, I felt clumsy, at best, scribbling names and pager numbers to keep up with who was where and when and why.

Yesterday’s Black Friday event, however, took out the back of the house, and it wasn’t pretty.

Sometime between noon and 12:30 p.m.–the very peak of the busiest lunch rush of the week–the kitchen computer decided enough was enough, with 350-plus covers and counting at various stages of ordering, receiving, and paying for their meals. Not to mention those waiting for tables.


Our normal 20-minute wait grew to 45 minutes. Servers and bartenders frantically hand wrote and hand carried their orders.

One of the bartenders, normally the image of serenity, waved his paper orders about like a crazed trader on the commodities floor. When he caught Restaurant Gal Daughter’s attention, he thrust three slips of paper in her hand and told her, “Run them!”

Restaurant Gal Daughter scurried back to the podium, a look of semi-panic in her eyes, and asked, “What am I supposed to do with these?”

I had my own multiple crises brewing as unhappy patrons groused about how long it took to get their food, arriving reservations threatened to back up, and the wait list was growing long past earlier quote times.

“Grab one of the other hosts to show you how to take orders into the kitchen.” Truthfully, I didn’t have a clue what to do with those slips of paper, either.

Restaurant Gal Daughter’s description of the unfolding kitchen drama was fit for filming:

“Kara and I walked into the kitchen, almost holding hands because we knew it would be kind of scary in there.” (An aside–I find the kitchen line scary during any mealtime rush, much less when all hell has broken loose. I’d have clutched Kara’s hand, too!)

They were met by a virtual swarm of striped-panted, clog-wearing chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, prep cooks, and anyone else who fit the bill. One of the chefs saw the girls huddled together, slips of paper in hand. “What do you need?” he screamed over the din.

Restaurant Gal Daughter offered her handful of orders to him. “Great. Got ’em. Thanks!” he shouted as he snatched them.

“It was like every disaster movie,” Restaurant Gal Daughter smiled, many hours later. “Everyone was running in all directions, like they were grabbing their stuff to escape the ship before the lifeboats got too full. Only instead, they were grabbing plates of food!”

A visual, for sure.

In the end, patrons got fed, just slower than usual. Reservations were seated, only a little behind schedule. A few wait-list folks got testy, but no one was mean or nasty.

Because ultimately, pretty much everyone understands the phrase: “The computer’s down.”






8 responses to “Computer Overboard!”

  1. Ashlea Avatar

    Thank goodness we can’t live without computers.. or else they wouldn’t have been so understanding. ^^;

  2. Lobster Boy Avatar

    Sounds like time they hire someone with the technical smarts for a day to build some redundancy into your system for back up. Many servers can run parallel systems, where one is basically a back up, keeping the server online at all times. Yes, it costs money, but so does loosing the system mid rush! Peace of mind always has a price.

    Lobster Boy

  3. Restaurant Gal Avatar

    Lobster Boy–Since this is the first time I know of that this kind of glitch occurred (to this degree, thatis), I don’t know what backup systems are or aren’t in place. But you make a great point. I’ll ask on Monday what’s up. If only everything could just be Apple-based….

  4. Jerry Avatar

    “If only everything could just be Apple-based”

    Alas, even Apple-based systems can lose a disk and come crashing down. (BTW, I’m not suggesting that Friday’s problem was necessarily a disk problem.)

  5. Natalie Avatar

    Wow, that must have been something to see!

  6. with sprinkles Avatar

    When the network goes down, it’s like a snow day where I work.

  7. Ex-Restaurant Manager Avatar
    Ex-Restaurant Manager

    So, I abandoned the restaurant world to do IT support, and I can only say, “I feel your pain.”

    But I say it with cigar in hand, and with an Alabama accent, and I mean it: Computers should make our lives easier.

  8. Jen Avatar

    I was just thinking how nice it would be to run a restaurant with a computer system.