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5 things that go wrong during the dinner rush

dinner rush

The dinner rush can be a chaotic time to work. You’ve got to do all you can to stay ahead, but it always seems like something goes wrong — throwing you in the weeds.

If you work in the restaurant industry, you’re well aware of how planning for the dinner rush is more than necessary… it’s survival. You start to notice areas where you can prepare – even if it saves you a few extra seconds of sanity, it makes all the difference. You stock extra towels, plates and silverware. You triple stack bus tubs so you don’t have the added step of trying to find an empty one during a rush. But no matter how diligently you prepare for war… you can never fully prepare for the unexpected.

Here are the top five unexpected things that go wrong when shit hits the fan at work:

The internet goes out
You’re running around, frantically trying to stay one step ahead of the dinner rush and suddenly all you hear is the general soundtrack of a bustling restaurant, sans background music. That’s when you know the internet has gone out. You run to the POS, praying it isn’t true — but just as you expected, credit cards won’t run. This is a frustrating obstacle because there isn’t much you can do other than explain the situation to guests trying to leave and wait for what feels like an eternity before the all-powerful technology gods bless you with internet again… or pull out the old school imprinting credit card machine.

You cut yourself
If you haven’t already cut yourself at work… then you don’t work in the restaurant industry. We try to prevent it by learning how to properly use a knife or a wine key, but many of us don’t consider safety when we’re in a hurry and that’s when these accidents happen most. Cuts can side-track you quite a bit during a dinner rush: you have to stop what you’re doing, gorilla glue that shit closed, find a finger condom and then of course, clean whatever you bled on. The time it takes to properly care for a cut can really throw you and your team behind, but cuts always happen when spare seconds are nowhere to be found.

It’s when you start sending tickets to the kitchen like your life depends on it that the printer seems to always get jammed.

You spill a whole tub of messy, hard to clean condiment
Slowing down would help prepare against this one, but it’s a dinner rush we’re dealing with — there’s no time for “slowing down” when that server’s about to lose it if they don’t get their extra side of ranch in the next 5 seconds. You might think you’ve got a solid hold on that awkward tub full of semi-fluid condiment, but dinner rushes cause adrenaline rushes which cause everyone, at one point or another, to dramatically spill some hard to clean condiment all over, stealing valuable time just to clean up.

The kitchen printer gets jammed.
During a dinner rush, every table comes in at the same time, they all want to order at the same time and ultimately, they’ll all want to leave at the same time. It’s when you start sending tickets to the kitchen like your life depends on it that the printer seems to always get jammed. But of course, you won’t realize it until you notice three tables that don’t have food in front of them and your last sat table’s food is already up — that’s when you know the kitchen printer got jammed and now you have to manually write out the missed orders, upset the kitchen by asking for it on the fly and face the hangry customers that will surely leave a disgruntled yelp review.

You break a glass in the ice bin
I feel like no matter where I’ve worked, this has been a key rule: no matter what you do, DO NOT break a glass in the ice bin! I’ve been warned so many times that I’ve concluded, it actually happens all the time. You’re mixing 3 or 5 drinks at once and take a turn to grab the bitters and in a sliver of a second you feel the glass collide with your elbow — you hear the unfortunate clash of glass shattering as you watch it meet its end on a bed of frozen cubes while the blood rushes from your face. Right when you have absolutely no time to spare you have to inform all your co-workers, melt down the ice bin, wipe it out and then replenish it from the ice machine which is always hidden in a basement closet or far away in a kitchen. Breaking a glass in the ice bin can easily set you back 20 minutes.


While there are many things that go wrong during a dinner rush, just remember to breathe — we’re only human and can only move so fast! And while it’s crazy in the moment, at least you have a killer story to tell in the long run.

Ashley McNally

Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.

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