What qualities make up a good food runner?

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Answered by: Benjamin, An Expert in the Tutorials and How-Tos Category
The first attribute a good food runner needs to have is organization. He or she is the last human element before the customer receives their food that can derail the train of communication and execution that started once the customer sat down, looked around and opened their menu, and nothing is more likely to cause a chef to lose their temper than to witness a team effort go wasted due to last minute human error. While it seems that a food runner does little more than simply take finished plates of food from the chef's hand and deliver it to the table, what transpires behind the scenes is actually quite a bit more complex.

On the food runner's seemingly nonchalant stroll from kitchen to customer and back, he or she is responsible for scouting tables in order to report back to the chef when to instruct the rest of the kitchen as to when to start the next course. A carefully timed succession of courses installs in the diner a sense of comfort and serenity, as well as a small sense of wonder, created by the feeling that the kitchen is actually attending to them, not just trying to manufacture their food as quickly as possible. In addition, the food runner needs to be able to field the most detailed questions as to what is on the plate he or she has just delivered. Few things reflect more poorly upon a restaurant than to have a representative not understand its own product, and few reflect more positively than a food runner that is eloquently and, more importantly, passionately, able to answer questions and supply information about the food. It serves to reinforce that the restaurant is passionate about their product, and that each rung of the restaurant ladder is dedicated to providing customers with the best service possible. For that reason, a micro-trend in smaller restaurants is to have kitchen staff work as food runners one night a week. Not only do they know the most intimate details regarding the preparation of the food in front of them, but allows them to share in the front of the house experience as well as their tip pool, and alleviates the all-too-present tension that exists in restaurants between the kitchen and the front of the house.

Finally, the best food runners are the ones that are able to act as the final extension of the kitchen, spotting any mistakes or omissions in plating, and helping the chef determine the correct operating speed of the kitchen as well as take on small, final garnishing duties. A good food runner can ensure that a restaurant runs with as smoothly as possible, while a bad one can bring a restaurant to a crashing halt, either by poor timing or, worst of all, taking food to the wrong tables. The best food runners are the ones that customers barely notice unless they choose to, but they serve an integral function in the operation of a well-managed restaurant.

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