chaos during our rush...any suggestions?

I own a pizzeria and have been open only a little over a week. I have a fairly competent staff but every time we get our rush it is chaos and tonight was really bad. I ended up having to refund 3 customers orders and that is no good. We did $911.00 in business between 4:00 and 7:00 I have 5 people plus myself on. We have done no advertising and I am scared to do so for fear of upsetting customers and losing them when we get even busier. Could or would someone give me a general overview of their operation plan during the rush and how they execute it. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you


During Our Rush period, the biggest thing is to remain calm. Everyone knows what they have to do during these times. 1 Phone person stays on the phone only. This person has to use their judgement to quote correct times for pickup and delivery. We bump the time up when it starts getting hectic. 1 pizza man. 1 Oven man. 1 Counter person. 1 pie cutter. 1 kitchen cook. 1 delivery coordinator(Routes the deliveries). and 3 drivers. Once you have your system in place, your ok. We’re all trained to help each other out when necessary.

Also, If your only open for 1 week. This is your honeymoon period. make sure your boxtopping everything going out and giving good service cause your sales will likely slide in the coming weeks due to people wanting to TRY YOU OUT. This site is loaded with tips and strategies to help you succeed.

Best of Luck.

You need to make sure you are organized. make sure everybody knows what there job is and they stick to it. everybody is given a position. @ phone people 1 front end person 2 pizza maker 1 oven person and 2 drivers. Drivers help out where evr needed in between deliveries. Phone and front end people get dough ready, sauce pizzas make salads wings etc in between calls and customers I am the floater I keep everything flowing sometimes that means I just observe and keep every one doing their jobs and sometimes that means I help them with whatever needs doing. All my staff are cross trained to do and make everything so that really helps out.

Thank you for your suggestions. I realize that this is our honeymoon period…we have done no advertising at all…just word of mouth. The fact that we cant handle it is scaring me into thinking we are not ready to do our grand opening. I think both of those are great suggestions and I will impliment them ASAP.


Like before. One person at their assigned station. If you yourself are not assigned a station be the floater that can back-up where/when needed.

Remain calm and remind yourself and your staff that “You’re not fast food”. Work quickly but remember that people will wait for quality.

I’ve had to remind staff so many times you “always” have the time to do it right.

Train the order taker to slightly over estimate wait times or call back to you or the cook for time. Man if I had a nickle for everytime the order taker was afraid to tell someone 20 minutes instead of 15.

For walk-ins
Give out your orders with a "Thanks for waiting, we make and cook “these” fresh to order. I put a menu in your bag (here’s a menu on your pizza box) with some coupons. You can call ahead next time if you’d like to just run in, pick-up and go!

You all will get faster and jive better every day, get that G.O. ready to roll out!

On Friday night, we have 3 counter people (phone orders, walk in orders, prepare salads & desserts, run food to tables), 1 guy tossing, saucing, cheesing (this person is critical, he is basically in charge of the shift. A good person here will keep track of the orders, bumping dine in or people waiting for take outs to the front; he also should know your delivery area well enough to “route delivery orders from the wheel” - for instance, you have 15 orders up on the wheel. The first one is a delivery going East about 2 miles. Then you have a couple pick ups an order going North, 3 going South, another one going East, some more pick ups, a couple of dine in orders, and one more going East about 2.5 miles. If all these tickets are done FIFO, chances are that each of the East orders will have to go out individually. If you bump the 2 in back up to the front, they can all go together. You may spend an extra minute or so organizing the orders this way, but it will easily save your drivers 45 minutes or more of drive time during your 3 hour rush.)

Next we have a topper, who often has time to help sauce & cheese, cut pizzas, help run food, & restock. Let me say here that you need a system for how the tickets get moved from the makeline to the cut table - we have the topper look over the ticket quickly, if there is anything on the ticket that he doesn’t KNOW whether it’s been made, he asks … “Is the antipasta salad made for this”; “do we still need the spaghetti on this one?” & so on. The tickets need to be hung properly on the cut table: I used to have shifts working the oven where they were not hung in order … when there are 20 tickets hanging there and you have to figure out which of the 4 orders for a 16 inch pepperoni you are cutting, well, lets just say that it did not make me feel all warm & fuzzy inside. When they’re all hung in order, the pizza you’re cutting should always be for one of the first 2 or 3 tickets in the line.

Then there’s one person in charge of the ovens. This is an absolute must if you’re using deck ovens like I do. He also cuts the pies & routes drivers.

Have some highlighters by the register - make sure the counterpeople use them for all out of the ordinary items. Also highlight items that drivers frequently forget (usually cold items - sodas, salads, desserts, etc). When a customers pays for an order, make sure it’s marked PD by the total. That not only keeps you from trying to charge the customer twice, it lets the person cutting the pizza know that there’s someone waiting for that pie.

Even if, as you say, your staff is competent, you need to push them to be better. Even when it’s slow, have your cooks make every pizza as fast as they can. Your drivers need to know how to take an order, or top a pizza. The counterpeople need to know where back up items are kept, so they’re not gone half an hour when you ask them to run in back & open a can of Black Olives. They also need to automatically ask if an order’s going to a house or apartment - if the latter, always ask if you need a security code. You need to determine where bottlenecks occur during your rushes, and figure a way to solve the problem. Also, make sure everything, from the makeline to the register, is properly stocked 30 minutes before you expect to get busy each day.

As RobT said, stay calm. When that’s not an option, I’ve found that the walk in cooler is tailor made for Primal Scream Therapy. This has gotten a lot longer than I intended - Best of Luck!

Put everyone in the place where they are best and fill out and post a position chart so that when people come in they know their duties.

Phone 1 - Joe
Phone 2 - Frank
Phone 3 - Bob
Dough - Vinny
Makeline Vinny, Frank, Bob
Oven - Ed
Cash Register - Bob

Also we have a “pre-rush checklist” fill all shakers and squeeze bottles, stock makeline, stock salad dressings, Clean cutters, tongs, utensils etc enough boxes folded.
This is most important - You don’t want to be running back to the walk-in every five minutes during the rush. If you do this well, even when its busy it won’t be so stressful and chaotic


My wisdom comes from experience teaching archery and rifle/shotgun shooting . . . and playing tennis. SO MANY people “miss with their feet”. By that I mean that in many, many sports, foot placement is the very first step, and foundation for successful execution of the sport . . .see Dan Marino, Brett Farve, etc.

The for me key to succeeding in the shift is spending as much labor time preparing/cooking the actual customers orders as possible. Slicing, stocking, filling, thawing, stacking, shredding, stocking, and mixing should be done prior to the first customer order if at all possible.

In pizzerias, that means prep work set and ready before the shift. Having a solid, predictable preparation and storage system cannot be overemphasized. That will give your staff the flexibility to restock and locate items on the fly. I found in an analysis of our Friday night chaos one time that we didn’t have enough reload items prepared, tubbed and in place to cover the shift. We would have to stop to slice something, or open and bin something, or tub cheese, or bag brownie bites, or FAR TOO OFTEN in the line of fire. When I got a cooler shelf dedicated, and used end of shift Thurs plus begin of shift Friday to set up the food . . . life got really efficient, and we began smoothing out the edges. Fewer footsteps, and fewer incidental tasks means more manpower to move food.

Go through ever item on the prep table and have enough back stock already labeled in 1/6 or 1/3 bins for the night so someone can grab and go. Stack and organize so everyone knows where it is. Fold enough boxes for every dough ball prepped for the shift PLUS 10%. Make sure, because boxes don’t go bad in 7 days :o) Here is where par-cooking 100# of wings during the week gets us ready to succeed on Friday with limited staff.

Our Friday/Saturday has 3 in the kitchen: one (1) pizza guy (stretch, make, bake and cut) . . . one (1) fryer and sautée station guy (wings, sandwiches, fingers, gyros, etc.) . . . one (1) NICK to flow where the work is. I keep track of ticket times and move to where we need to push the food. I spend most of my time stretching, baking and cutting while pizza guy sauces and makes. When sandwiches surge, we get hosed most nights. Just labor intensive, but profitable.

FRONT OF HOUSE: 2 drivers, one server and one manager (my wife). The cover phones and walk-ins, making all salads, managing tickets when food is done, delivery routing and dine-in customers. We turn about 10 to 15 tables on some Friday nights . . . that part is growing.

All staff members are THANKFULLY able to do something else in the house. All three kitchen guys can work all the stations. One of the front people can manage wings/fryer if emergency arises. All front people are team players and keep boxes, stocking, prepping, dishes, whatever flowing through the night.

I predict that there are some preparation steps that can assist in setting your team up to succeed. Have your staff look intensely and honestly at the processes and what eats up time that is not actually directly making a tangible menu item at a station. If it can be done ahead of time, get it on a pre-shift preparation schedule.


Do you have a Point of Sale system?..While this may only save you 1 minute or less per order taken, at the end of a busy night those minutes add up…Also, the data from the POS is very valuable…

Your crew is so new that chaos is to be expected during that rush - the team will find their “groove” soon.
To help them do this, you should definitely have enough people in a specific spot that you can roam the kitchen and keep an eye wide open for things that people are doing RIGHT, and doing wrong.
Find PROCESSES that make the rush smoother, and make them the new rule - if someone’s faster and neater than everyone else at making a few items - see why, give them credit, have them teach it to everyone else.
A few more weeks, and you’ll see some leaders on the team emerge who can “hold down” a rush…