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6 min read

This month, we are going to focus on basic restaurant fundamentals to help you and your staff know the systems, terms, and brands to help you appear more knowledgeable, work more efficiently, and become more profitable.

So, in our first post we are going to touch on a fairly easy concept to understand that will help you with all three areas above. We are going to walk through Pivot Point. Pivot Point is a seat numbering system used be thousands of restaurants across the nation.

It’s a system that allows any food runner or server that walks up to the table to know who gets what, without ‘auctioning’ off the food or drinks. It allows an easy system of organization that ensures every server has the same numbering system on every table.

So how does it work? Every table has a set starting point. For booths, it’s typically the end of the booth. For tables it’s the point farthest to one direction. For example: The point closest to the east wall; The point with your back to the kitchen; or the point facing the door. Decide which point makes the most sense to your establishment with the layout of your tables. This point will apply to all tables, except booths which are handled from the open end of the table and bar stools at a bar which are handled directly, or in a straight line.

Once you have your point you are going to start numbering each seat starting with the seat directly to the left of the point. This will be seat one. Now number the rest of the seats in a counter-clockwise direction until you meet the original point.

Do this with every table. With booths, start with the person front left and rotate around counter-clockwise just as you did with the tables. Explain where the starting point is on every table to all staff. If you picked a relative point above such as back to east wall, every server should know where to start even when tables get pushed together or rearranged.

Have servers start ringing in their orders using these seat numbers. The first guest order in the computer should be the person directly to the left of the pivot point. Many POS systems allow you to ring in orders by customer. I would strongly suggest using this if your system allows it. If there are 4 people at a 6-top table, still number your seats as if there was someone there. In this instance you may have orders for seat 1, 2, 5, and 6. When ringing in the POS, ring them in on seats 1, 2, 5, and 6. That way if guest 5 asks a different server for another drink there is no confusion as to which guest it is.

This system also allows any other server or food runner to run food to any table without having to ask whom ordered which entree.

This can further be aided with the back-of-house as well. First, having the entrees rang in by seat typically allows a touch of extra space between entrees, increasing readability. Second, as entrees come up, they can be placed in the window in order, eliminating the need for servers to ask which entree is which.

Depending on the size of your expo window, have specific spots for each seat.
This may seem complicated at first, but after the first day of using it, will actually increase the speed of service, get plates out of the window faster, reduce confusion, reduce questions, and lessen mistakes. For the kitchen staff, seat one is the farthest right position in the window. This makes seat one, front left to the expo. Seat two is directly behind it. Seat three resides next to seat one and seat four behind it.

As kitchen staff places completed entrees in the window they can place them in the spot of the proper seat. Therefore, if seat three comes up first it can still be placed in the seat three spot and everyone knows the entree goes to seat three and not seat one.

This can be carried through to the expo person as well. Each plate is always placed in order on the tray and seat one always starts at the same spot. On a tray this is the 9 o’clock position, or the first spot to the left when facing the tray. (Sensing a pattern here?) Entree two then is placed counter-clockwise from seat one at the 12 o’clock position. This pattern is continued around the tray.

Starting at the nine position helps keep things balanced with only two entrees as well, which is another reason why the 9 o’clock is used as a starting position over the 12 or 6 o’clock positions.

Now all together; the server takes the order from the guest and rings the entrees into the POS, by guest, following the numbering of the pivot point system. The kitchen staff then puts the entrees in order into the window, the expo trays them in order, and then the food runner sets them correctly in front of each guest without ever having to ask the guests what they ordered. Now your exceeding expectations.

The pivot point system takes just a short time to set up and explain to your staff. The first night is a bit rocky, but once everyone becomes comfortable, the entire restaurant will run more smoothly with faster service, less confusion, and fewer mistakes. This should help to increase server tips from better service and reduce restaurant costs from mistakes. That’s a win for the restaurant, the staff, and the customer. Now get to implementing it.