The ultimate system for numbering restaurant tables
The Point of View (red) is the entrance from the kitchen to the dining room.
The Lead Table is 11. All rows and table numbers advance away from this table.
Head tables (blue) in each row designated as 11 21 31 41 51. . .
Moving left to right, or if necessary, right to left, depending on the location of the PoV and the Lead Table.
Each row starts with a table ending in a 1 (green) and advancing to the end of the row.
A row of 8 tables would be numbered 41-48. The 4th table down the row would end in number 4.
The server/runner counts from the Lead Table to the Head Table row, then counts to the correct table.
1st digit is the Row, 2nd digit is the Table. The table designation can be said or read as Twenty Five or Two Five.
Example: to deliver food to table 32, one counts from the lead table, 11, to table 31 at the head of its row, and then count the tables from there until arriving at 32.
• Primary: Recently hired servers and food runners, who have not had time to memorize all table numbers.
• Secondary: Those in the restaurant who don't regularly run food to tables, but will when necessary: managers, bartenders, bussers.
Advantages: Because the system is from the PoV of the food runner/server and so logical, intuitive, and simple, it is:
• Easier to learn
• Easier to remember
• Easier to convey or communicate
Significant dates in 1977
• Spring: Experiment with renaming table designations: TGI Friday's, Dallas
• May 12: Developed the concept for Ultimate PoV Table Numbering System
• May 19: Location of 1st restaurant with new system: TGI Friday's, Los Angeles
• Summer: Location of 2nd restaurant: TGI Friday's, Dallas
From St. Louis Magazine, 2-20-2015: Ask George Mahe
How do restaurants number their tables and why? - Evan, Miami FL
The restaurant's seating chart, a one-page sheet that both delineates server stations and provides a one-look snapshot of every table in every room is, in my opinion, the most important organizational tool in a restaurant.
The chart is laid out very logically because so many staffers (front desk, bussers, servers, managers) refer to it and depend on it.
The numbering sequence begins at a pivot point - usually the kitchen door or the food window - with table numbers increasing from that point - one row of tables is the teens, the next is the 20s, and so on - so on-the-go food runners can literally count tables as they go - 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 - until they reach the table in question.
Some background and history
In 1975, when I decided to become a self-employed designer, I got a job as a server at TGI Friday's restaurant in Dallas. The existing floor plan labeled the tables in sequence beginning with number 10 and looping around to number 48. The outer cafe sections were lettered A to L in one section and AA to MM. No logic - just the concept of a unique number or letter for each table.
• The existing system used no logic or consideration for the new employee.
• The numbers didn't all have to be consecutive. Numbers could be skipped between sections.
• The point of reference was the front door - it should be the kitchen entrance.
• The system was tough to learn and tough to remember.
Servers can learn any system. They work enough shifts, they'll get it down. I once experimented with naming tables after people. One section was movie stars, another sports figures, etc. The Expediter would hand plates to a runner/server and say, "Take this to Greta Garbo" or "This goes to Bogie." It was a bit of a hassle. We servers finally got it but we often had to refer to the plan where I had written the names, and we did misdeliver some food. But, heck, it was fun.
The easier a system is to learn and remember, the more efficient it is to train new servers. Food runners are often temporary and transient - servers in training, people pitching in during a meal rush, and novice servers. An easy to learn system takes less time for a trainer to teach and for one to learn.
May 1977: While helping open the new Friday's in Marina del Rey (Los Angeles), I developed and proposed the PoV System to the Opening Team Leaders. They understood the logic and agreed that this would be the best time since we would have a mostly new crew. We Trainers taught the PoV System to the servers in training classes. It made so much sense that the training was simple and servers mastered the system quickly. Friday's later adopted the system in all their restaurants at that time. I notice that many restaurants today use the PoV System.
Other improvements, stories, and people at TGI Friday's.