3 Tips to Avoid Being “In The Weeds”

Chef wondering about cookSee that poor guy on the line in the kitchen? Yeah, the one with the glazed look in his eyes. He’s freaked out, and he’s starting to check out.

Maybe you’ve been there, too. He’s in the weeds.

For the unwashed, the industry phrase “in the weeds” refers to being so incredibly behind that there seems to be no hope of ever catching up. It can happen for a number of reasons, from poor prep and time mismanagement to fatigue or feeling overwhelmed.

In the kitchen, being in the weeds causes backed up tickets and chaos while cooks try to figure out how to get the flow back. Front of house, weeds grow in the form of agitated, waiting customers and requests that go unanswered — resulting in poor or absent tips.

For whatever reason weeds happen, it stinks. Here are three ways to avoid getting there in the first place:

1. Proper mise. Doing a thorough mise en place, or prep for your station, will avoid most problems that lead to a breakdown of the system and the desire to leap out the nearest window.

Most kitchen breakdowns occur when someone runs out of prepped food items. If a prep cook does your mise for you earlier in the day, it’s still your responsibility to check it and make sure there’s enough for service.

2. Use the buddy system. This works particularly well in front of house service, but can also work in the kitchen under most circumstances. Make an agreement with a reliable co-worker to have your back when things get out of control, and vice versa.

Stuck with a needy table? Have your buddy check on your others. Run out of mise on your station? (See #1!) Bring in your buddy (assuming his station is in good shape) to take your place while you recover. 

Don’t abuse the system, though…your turn is coming.

3. Know when to fess up. Your chef or manager might not like hearing you’re in trouble, but he or she will like it better than finding out from angry customers. When you see things starting to go south, let your higher-up know and back it up with a suggested game plan.

Honestly, your boss already knows. But he also knows that it happens to everyone at some point, even in the best of circumstances…and it probably won’t happen to you again for a while.

Industry pros, here’s where we want to hear from you. Have a story about being in the weeds? Tips on how to avoid it or hack your way out? Share your story below and help our up-and-coming industry folks.

Industry Tips

2 thoughts on “3 Tips to Avoid Being “In The Weeds”

  1. Sandra Ozaki on Reply

    Best practice número uno is to keep a cool head and smile. Whether you work in the front/back of the house, the minute you lose your composure & sense of humor, you’re burnt toast. You look bad & you stink up the place.

  2. Lauren on Reply

    From a server perspective, a way to stay out of the weeds is trip consolidation. It’s one of my weaknesses. I’ll make twenty trips from tables to the kitchen just to get little things like straws, boxes, checks, whatever for a specific table and that eats up all my time and puts me behind. One of my managers pointed it out to me that I should consolidate trips and it made a difference. Maybe that’s a really obvious one, but it helps me a lot 🙂

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