Tips on Improving Restaurant Service – Use the "86" Board Properly For the Waiters

In my last restaurant service consulting job, I had a discussion with the management and the waiters about the 86 board. Yes, it is a very simple topic, even trivial some may think. But, the improper use of an 86 board will hurt restaurant customer service, possibly leaving some customers dissatisfied, which in turn subtracts from the bottom line.

So, here is the story. In this particular restaurant that I was helping, the waiters were not even using an 86 board. The only way the waiters could be informed of any 86’ed menu items was through the computer.

The problem was that the waiters would find out about the 86’ed item from the computer only “after” the food order was taken from the customer. So, the waiter would have to return to the table and inform the customer that his/her desired order was no longer in stock for the shift.

The result of this system is wasted time and energy with a possible dissatisfied customer who had to take the time to pick out a different menu item. Technology is not solving this problem.

The very simple “old school” solution is that an 86 board, clearly legible, must be in sight for all staff to view. Otherwise, they will learn of 86’ed items through the computer– when it is too late. If it is a very large restaurant, then there must be a splurge for a second or third 86 board.

Basically, if a menu item is 86’ed, then all waiters must know immediately so they, in turn, can inform the customer “before” leaving the table with that food order.

Another important concept is the menu item countdown, where the most popular items get listed on the 86 board as they run very low. In other words, when there are 5 lobster orders left, it gets listed on the 86 board with a 5 count next to it. When one order is sold from there, then it becomes a 4 count of lobsters, and so on until 0 lobsters are counted down. This way, the waiters can inform diners of any popular menu items which may be close to running out for that shift.

For 86 board hardware, it should simply be a white board with a dark colored magic marker, and not a blackboard with chalk that gets a bit messy and is harder to read.

Yes, proper use of the 86 board will actually improve restaurant customer service, which enhances reputation and the bottom line.