Why the Restaurant Expo is Critical to Your Kitchen

Why the Restaurant Expo is Critical to Your Kitchen

Are there days when your kitchen feels like it just can’t keep up even though you have enough cooks on the line? Have you ever found yourself as a front-of-house manager or owner jumping in the expo window trying to help, but only making matters worse? If either these scenarios sounds familiar to you, I want to show you how you can avoid them all together and why the restaurant expo is critical to your kitchen. Click below to watch or keep scrolling to read the 11 traits of a great restaurant expo and how they affect your restaurant.

A great kitchen expo, whether a front-of-house or back-of-house employee can make or break busy shifts. What type your restaurant is ultimately dictates which department your expo comes from. For example, a sports bar could easily use a front-of-house team member because most everything, every item you cook is an 8–10 minute ticket time. They all come up virtually the same time, whereas a fine dining restaurant is best served by a back-of-house team member because they can override those fire holds. It takes culinary knowledge and not every front-of-house person has that.

No matter what department they come from or what kind of restaurant you have, here are 11 things a great expo does on a busy shift.

Number one, the expo only communicates with the wheel. They cut all communication so there are no front-of-house people yelling back to the kitchen that they need this or that and they need it now. Nope, the expo handles it.

Number two, the expo knows fire times and line processes, which means they are familiar with your menu and know the steps it takes to prepare every item. They need to know that if a well-done burger is going to take a little bit more time, that they’re communicating with the team on the line and guide them. They know what’s happening and how to make it all flow.

Number three, they follow the pace of the meal. They need to understand when they look at a ticket, especially if there’s a fire hold, to time the apps to go out first, what the ticket time is, how long it might take the guest to finish that and when you should be delivering that way. That way the guest doesn’t get overwhelmed with one part of the meal arriving on top of another part of the meal.

Number four, the expo must be quick and deliberate because by doing so, they build trust with the servers and the cooks. The must be on their toes. They know what’s going on everywhere in the business, in each position, what the servers need, what tables are coming up, how many tickets there are, whether the timing is falling behind and so on.

Number five, they can anticipate orders. They need to be able to notify food runners and servers when to run things and when each table is coming out. The communication with the front-of-house is extremely important.

Number six, expos have to be confident because they must be able to refuse an item that’s not to specification. If that plate is dirty, if that portion is too large, too small, if it wasn’t cooked properly, they have to be able to kick it back to the kitchen.

Number seven, your expo is the eyes and ears of the kitchen and the voice of the service staff. They are literally that go between, the wall between front and back of house. The expo communicates and keeps it so that your front-of-house people aren’t screaming and yelling, that your back-of-house people are paying attention to the wheel. This gives you a nice, calm and quiet kitchen. It’s not chaotic.

Number eight, your expo must be clean, organized and calm under pressure. These people don’t get rattled. They keep everyone calm around them. You’ve been there, when things fall down, when you’re exposed, the kitchen’s falling down and there’s utter chaos. It takes a Herculean effort to get yourself back to a calm place (calm for a restaurant anyway).

Number nine, an expo must know table numbers, position numbers and server sections. With this knowledge they can direct people, or if they need to jump off the line to run the food. The expo is that quarterback making sure the food gets out to the guest properly.

Number 10, your expo must be a proactive person and a problem solver. Things happen all the time in the kitchen. When things go wrong, they need to be able to think on their feet and fix it with that kitchen/wheel person.

Number 11, the expo pushes your team to move faster to get the things done that are necessary. This is the quarterback again to your restaurant, ensuring the process is working between the kitchen and front of house.

Find the person whose personality fits that position, train them and test them under fire. Some people may or may not work in that position, but those that rise drive a smooth running kitchen and happy guests and happy team members. This is why your expo is critical to your kitchen.

If you would like to learn how to own a restaurant that doesn’t depend on you to be successful, watch this free video course that teaches you three key principles to running a successful restaurant. If you’re ready right now to make some serious changes in your restaurant, you can also book a 60-minute call with me where we talk about your challenges and figure out exactly what is holding you back from having a restaurant that doesn’t depend on you being in it to be successful. 

Be sure to visit my YouTube channel for more helpful restaurant management video tips.