Frank Bonanno's 47 points of good service

Lori Midson
Frank Bonanno and his wife, Jaqueline.

Service has been a big topic on Cafe Society this week, what with Jonathan Greschler getting the boot from Old Major for his apparent inability to connect with his former staff, despite the fact that guests adore him. "Jonathan is amazing with customers, but I just don't think he applied that same level of hospitality to the staff," owner Juan Padro old me after Greschler hit the pavement. Former Westword restaurant critic Laura Shunk was back this week, too, with a piece on Denver dining, wherein she wrote, in part, that Denver diners "haven't agreed to behave themselves the way the jacket- or stiletto-clad East Coasters do, and so you never know when the wheels are going to come off, sending you careening toward the lake that feels an awful lot like a dive bar at last call."

And earlier today, while everyone else was discussing (and is still discussing) Jenn Wohletz's post about dickheads and cocktails (IMO, an old-fashioned is one of the best cocktails on the planet), restaurateur and chef Frank Bonanno was penning his own listacle on his blog detailing the most salient service points in his own empire of restaurants.

Bonanno noted that these were "important to pass around," so here you go: Bonanno's 47 most important points of service.

See also:
- Chef and Tell with Frank Bonanno of Luca, Mizuna, Osteria Marco and Bones
- Check, please! Keeping tabs on Denver's restaurant-inspection policy
- 100 Favorite Dishes: Lobster macaroni and cheese from Mizuna

It Starts Here & Grows Daily

For years, I didn't have training manuals for the restaurants. There was only Mizuna, after all, and I knew that staff intimately. Then we grew to Luca, and we were all still friendly peers. I used to say "If you're here, working with me, then you're an adult and a professional. You know what's expected." That sentence was enough.

Bones was the first training manual, the first time I worked with relative strangers in my own kitchen and on the floor, so the first item of business was to form a list of expectations. Not don'ts - everyone has those - but "do's." This Is What I Want Always.

Each opening gives the management team an opportunity to amend the list, nurturing it in a way, and so it grows as we do, defining us in bullet list.

I wanted to share it, because businesses create these tools, and it strikes me that it's important to pass them around.

Good reading,

P O I N T S O F S E R V I C E (WHAT WE EXPECT ALWAYS - in the form of a list that grows daily)

1. Every light bulb should be illuminated, every frame dusted.

2. Create a perfect, polished, aligned table setting.

3. Polish every piece of glassware before and during service; assure that tables are level and firm.

4. Know the menu, food, wine and alcohol.

5. Know the bar brands (rum, vodka, etc,) and food origins (what kind of pig, goat, cow.)

6. Maintain your hands and nails. Maintain your uniform.

7. Be clean & beautiful; fragrance-free and odorless.

8. Wash your hands (and face, if you smoke) regularly throughout service.

9. Offer to take coats. Offer to bring coats back

10. Open the door for arriving & departing guests. Say "welcome; say "goodbye."

11. Listen. To the guests, to the chefs, to one another.

12. Listen.

13. Maintain eye contact.

14. Every item on the table is a thoughtful part of the dining experience -- no corks, wrappers, extraneous silver.

15. Pick up anything you see on the floor.

16. Provide service in order of tables' arrival.

17. Serve all food from the left; all beverages from the right.

18. Serve ladies and clearly older patrons first.

19. Be careful with the dishes and glassware; handle only what is comfortable and graceful.

20. Throw love and smile, even when a guest is surly.

21. Pay all clients the same high level of attention and service. Socialize in a limited, professional manner.

22. Provide a place for all debris (shells, wrappers . . .)

23. Provide all necessary condiments with food.

24. Remove food from the line within 30 seconds, whether it's "your" table's or not.

25. The only thing you should have in your hands when talking to a table is, perhaps, a pen; the only thing in your mouth--a tongue.

26. A professional server writes the order down and calls it back to the guest.

27. Use position numbers.

28. Bring the entire course to the table at the same time, even if it requires two or three servers to do so.

29. Keep all fingers and thumbs below the plate or at its edge.

30. Keep hands at the very base of the drink-ware.

31. Identify each item by name and list at least 3 components of the dish as you set it before a guest.

32. Serve hot items hot and cold items chilled and firm.

33. Wait until a client swallows before asking questions.

34. Maintain a steady, quiet, brisk pace in the dining room.

35. Apprise patrons of hot beverages or plates.

36. Direct your guest to the bathroom by walking him there.

37. Appear to be cool, even when you're weeded.

38. Point your ass and your elbows away from guests.

39. Delegate. Distinguish your excellence by asking for help; help without pause when others go down.

40. Be happy. Don't whine, pout, shout, gossip, flirt or guffaw. If you aren't happy, act happy until it takes.

41. If a plate doesn't look right to you, gently, kindly, ask the chef.

42. Refill waters regularly and consistently.

43. Provide fresh glassware with each drink.

44. Replace a disgusting water glass with a fresh one.

45. Polish stemware, flatware, and plate rims.

46. Communicate with the kitchen.

47. Get the order right the first time. If you err, say "I sincerely apologize" and correct the problem immediately. (If you say "I'm sorry, you will, indeed, seem like a sorry server)

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My Voice Nation Help

It is great to set high standards and policies. Too bad all this was irrelevant when I was served three appitizers before our beverage order arrived @ bones this past friday nite!


While I like this list, Bonanno is not doing a very good job of making sure that the staff at Osterio Marco adhere to it. I love the pizza there but I've received consistently terrible service for the entire time I've been dining there. The hostesses are rude and many of the servers are neglectful. The last time I dined there, my husband and I received a cup of the chili oil that is served with the pizza instead of the usual bottle. I assumed they were running short but then my husband pointed out that our server had five of them stored next to our table. The cup of chili oil didn't pour correctly and got all over the table. 


#25: That sucks Frank pulls out his employees teeth.

Lachlan's service pwns Frank's.


I earn a decent living wage, so I have no qualms with hosting the dining experience – meaning – sometimes I pick-up the check.More times than not, the young and pretty servers will exert extraordinary effort to fawn all over the man I am with in hopes of garnering a fat tip.When the check arrives, and as they are automatically handing it to the man at the table, I will intercept it, and, with intense eye-contact I will declare that I am paying for this one.Of course, I am a bitch because I tip according to how well they served ME.

A few years ago I was dating a multi-millionaire.He was a dumpy looking little man, but these young girlies could tell…maybe they could smell it on him.On two occasions, at two rather pricey restaurants (one was in LoDo and the other was in Boulder), the wait staff took his order and walked away without acknowledging my existence.(Obviously the “rich guy” was so nouveau riche that he was clueless about the ordering order etiquette.)Now that I am a well-off, and grouchier, old woman, I will make mention about their lack of skill -- while they are standing at the table…then I ask for the manager.


Regarding Line 26..."A professional server writes the order down and calls it back to the guest."  

High-end, fine dining venues tend to have the server memorize the order...they rarely write it down unless it is a large party.  I have had to send back my plate too many times because these young and pretty airheads delivered it contrary to how I ordered it.  Then they have the nerve to declare that it was the kitchen's't they look at it to make sure it was what I ordered before they plunked it down in front of me?

Jeff Hansen
Jeff Hansen

If only more restaurants heeded this advice. Good list.


This is why I love Frank!  He understands this business like no one else.


And why does Frank have a mini empire of successful places here in Denver? Exactly.


Off topic but I just thought of something you guys should write about... every spring/summer I am rushing around trying to find gazpacho and I rarely find a good bowl. I would love to see some sort of list/review where to get my favorite summer treat.


@BlondyVanWeirden It is so incredibly rare that I see a server hand a a check to the male in a sexist way. I, along with every colleague that I have ever worked with, set the check in the middle of the table regardless of who is paying for it. If by chance someone motions to hand the check to them, I will do just that. Way to point out such an elementary, self stroking, and dated issue that is nonexistent in most respectable restaurants, unless you're regular at Chili's. Grouchy old woman indeed, to say the least.


@BlondyVanWeirden Even if a server has the memory of an elephant, it is customary to write the order down for a table. It isn't for the well being of the server, it is for the guests peace of mind. Do you want to fret for the first 3 courses that the server that didn't write your order down remembered that you wanted the sauce on the side and that you're gluten intolerant?

My point is illustrated in the second half of your post that completely contradicts the initial point you were making? Keep talking out of whatever it is you are in fact talking out of.

Mantonat topcommenter

@BlondyVanEgo @BlondyVanWeirden It still happens plenty, even in "respectable" restaurants, along with behavior like bringing the wine bottle to the man, even when it's the woman who selected it from the wine list. 


It is not rare at fact, most of the time, the server will set the check at the immediate right of the male in a party of one male and one female diner...and out of reach of the female.  

Your disdain for my observations and experiences tells me that you are employed as a server in a restaurant...and, you are one of the ones who hate the customers.  There are many of you out there.

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