This is a job for the expediter, with help from the the front of the house. Sometimes the executive chef will expedite and sometimes he won’t. Expediting can go flawlessly some nights and terrible others. Once an order is placed a ticket is printed in the kitchen. The chef will determine which dishes need to be started first. He “fires” those tickets. Then as certain components are close to being done, for example a piece of fish, he will call for the garnish to be “fired”. In a perfect world the fish and the vegetable garnish will be finished at the same time, plated, tasted by the chef and sent out to the floor. It gets tricky when you are firing dishes for a table of 10. The chef/expediter must know how long each station (grill, saute, pantry) will take to finish a component as well as what they are already cooking. Typically, each station gets “crushed” as dinner progresses. For example, pantry where salads and desserts are plated, gets busy first and then again at the end of a turn. Grill and saute get busy as first and second courses get fired.
Problems arise when line cooks run out of “mise” or have problems cooking an item properly. That throws the entire system out of order. Sometimes the expediter will jump on the line to help a cook catch up – or the other line cooks will step in and help out. Servers in the front of the house also help communicate to the kitchen if a guest is away from the table or if a table hasn’t been marked properly (silverware put down), or if there is a delay with the wine pairings for a course. Between the bar, back waiters and kitchen staff, working in a restaurant is very much a team sport.
Some nights service goes perfectly and some nights it doesn’t. I have found that certain restaurants pay more attention than others. In my opinion Table 6, ChoLon, Fruition and Frasca Food & Wine do a nice job of ensuring that courses arrive in a timely manner – which makes dining so much more enjoyable.