For those who want to know everything.

The American

The American Restaurant

Kansas City, MO

For a good time, (make reservations): Here

Check out their website:  HERE

Key words: Coaching. Etiquette. Rules. Smart. Team

The American Restaurant in Kansas City is very unique. It’s one of the few that actaully teaches its people how to be better.  The team is skilled and schooled in proper service and they are some of the best I’ve ever seen.

A lot of restaurants try to hire “experienced servers” so they have reasons not to train them further, because after all, “they should already know how to serve.” Unfortunately though, most servers have not been trained longer than four days at their first restaurant job.  Then they work at that restaurant for two years and get another job “as a server with two years experience,” so they are trained even less extensively at their second job, and on and on it goes.

That’s why restaurants like The American are such gems in the industry. They have well thought out systems that are backed up with logic, and they teach their new staff the how, and more importantly, the why of their systems. Many restaurants do not do this. For example, I was once at a restaurant where the fork and knife pre-setting position was very close together. When I recommended change, one of the tenured servers said “that’s not how we do it.” I asked her why, she replied, “it’s just not.”

The issue is, the knife and fork are to be far enough apart so a plate can be delivered to the guest without anyone having to touch and rearrange the utencils.  The dingbat restaurant had a way of doing things that wasn’t backed up with logic, it was backed up with lazy and stubborn.

 

Rules and training

 

When you dine at The American you will notice that regardless of how busy the restaurant is, servers never bump into each other.

Never.

Why not? Because they have a strict traffic pattern which everyone follows so there is never a surprise move in the opposite direction.  It’s similar to a highway where the only regular traffic concern is merging or varying speeds.

Nick is a recent addition to the American team, and he told me, “That’s the first thing they’ll tell you when you start working here–you go clockwise.You’ll never see anyone going counter clockwise. You’re going to go clockwise around the tables and around the restaurant. That allows you to walk by every single table. Everybody is always reporting to chef, you become very aware of what’s going on.”

This is what I call having eyes for the room and it’s not a gift, but rather a server muscle that doesn’t come naturally but comes with practice. The team uses every piece of information to keep ahead of their guest’s needs and when the ball is dropped, it is not taken lightly. “One time I saw a guy from table one start to pour his own wine and Daniel sprinted over,” Nick revealed. 

You can bet though that these moments are rare. Jared made the point, “Ideally the wine would never get so low that the guest has to pour.” Jered is a Captain at The American. For those of you not familiar with Captain service it is pretty simple. The Captain’s primary job is orchestrating the entire dining experience so everything goes seamless. They are the main communicator with the guest and the rest of the service team.  They explain the menu, take the order, coordinate food running, wine service, bread service, drink delivery, all so the guest receives the best experience possible.

Captain service is one of the most ultimate forms of team service which I think Jered explained best, “Team service is about making every server look like a milion dollars.”

There’s no selfishness in team service. No bickering about tables. No yelling at the host. No standing around. Because the team must be equally strong to succeed, they make sure everyone possesses skill and will.  That’s how the General Manager, Jamie Jamison explained it, “Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean you can’t know. If you know, and you’ve got the skill but you don’t have the will, you need to go.”  Since you can’t teach will, there’s not a lot of hope for those that don’t naturally possess it. The entire team here is involved in helping everyone succeed.

Nick told me about the first time he delivered a drink to a guest closed handed,

“Someone actually ran up to me and said, ‘you do not deliver like that. You are always open to the guest.’ It’s little things like that and there must be hundreds of them. This is one of the few places  where you can learn proper service and etiquette. Most other restaurants, even the managers aren’t going to know. A lot of places are like, ‘promote the appetizer, push the fish,’ but they don’t really care about service.

 


How true. How unfortunately true. Some of you might be thinking, “Who cares? You don’t have to have so many rules. Let people serve in their own style.” I disagree. We all know that this world is running rampant with crappy service. And most of the time it is delivered by servers who serve “in their own style.”  Service is like any other profession, there is a way, a better way, and a best way; it is imperative that everyone start doing things the best way.

 

Management

 

This team is serious about doing things right, they are serious about taking care of the guest. Maybe that’s because they feel that they are taken care of by management. Jamison told me, “We want the staff to be happy and we know that that will translate over to the guest. Great service will happen if everyone is excited about what they are doing and it probably won’t happen if they’re not.”

Just to keep sharp the FOH team gets together every Saturday for a training session to go over service specks. This last Saturday’s training was about clearing plates from the table and how the plates must stay away from your body and your guest. Don’t use your stomach for balance and keep your arm extended and away.

Some service leaders echo sentiments of “servers should already know that,” but guess what? Some servers don’t and if the leader doesn’t teach them, that’s just poor leadership, not poor servers. Jamison said, “We’re not looking for fault here, we’re looking for reasons and there’s a myriad of reasons; lets figure it out. Patterns are a whole other thing. ‘I notice that every time you sell a steak it’s coming back. Do you understand the meaning of well, medium, rare?  Explain the meaning.’ ”

Follow up questions like “explain the meaning” contain the truth and leaders have to uncover the truth if they are going to help.  Jamison continues “I have to take responsibility and not just ‘What the heck are you doing? Don’t you know how to …[fill in the blank]’ ”

From the management, to the Captain, to the new guy, this team is in it together and as far as I am concerned, they’re some of the best in the business.

 

This restaurant team teaches us that we must work together to discover the best way to do things, and support one another to achieve excellence.

I would like to thank Jamie Jamison for allowing me to spend time with you and your most excellent service team. Your leadership is one of a kind. Thank you Nick for being so helpful and passionate. Thank you Jered, you are an exceptional person and have my unwavering respect. You’re one hell of a guy. Thank you Seth, Julie and every other member if this outstanding team!

3 Comments
  1. This article (and restaurant) warms my heart in so many ways! Thank goodness this place exists 🙂

  2. I like the organization by management

  3. It’s all about teaching the “why”. If servers understand the “why” they’ll be more likely to receptive. It’s really easy to fall back on the “we’ve always done it that way”.

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