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  • Writer's pictureNathalee Jennings

The “Sense of Urgency” in Restaurants: Or How to Be Annoying 101

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s gather around and talk about one of the most overused phrases in the restaurant business: “sense of urgency.” I mean, how many times have you heard a manager say, “You need to have a sense of urgency!” to an employee? If you took a shot for every time this was said, you’d be under the table before the lunch rush is over.

  1. The Misuse: First, let’s clear something up. Having a sense of urgency does not mean running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This isn’t a relay race, and your server isn’t trying to set a new world record. Urgency is about efficiently managing tasks, not turning the dining room into an episode of “Wipeout.”

  2. Do You Mean "Prioritize", Perhaps? When managers throw around a "sense of urgency," perhaps they mean "prioritizing tasks effectively." There’s a big difference between being fast and being efficient. To any restaurant managers reading this: let’s be specific. If you want a server to check on table five before they clear table three, say that. “Sense of urgency” is the vaguest of vague feedback.

  3. Stressing the Staff Out: Ever watched a deer caught in the headlights? That's your new hire when you shout "sense of urgency" at them. Now, not only are they trying to remember the daily specials, but they’re also panicking about whether they’re walking fast enough, pouring water with enough gusto, or clearing plates at the speed of light.

  4. If Everything’s Urgent… : Here's a fun fact: if everything is urgent, then nothing is. If we’re constantly operating at a level 10 urgency, then where do we go when there’s an actual emergency? Like, say, when Table Seven claims there's a fly in their soup or when the ticket printer goes haywire in the middle of a busy service?

  5. Constructive Feedback, Anyone?

I get it. We all want our team to be the best. But next time, instead of the catch-all phrase, try something more constructive. “Hey, could you check on your tables a bit more frequently?” or “Let’s try to keep the drink orders moving quickly during the rush.” See? Specific, actionable, and not a “sense of urgency” in sight.


To all my restaurant brethren out there, let’s ditch this tired phrase and strive for clear, effective communication. And to those managers still holding onto “sense of urgency” as your go-to feedback, I have a challenge for you: next time you’re at a bank, grocery store, or any other place with service, just shout “sense of urgency!” at the employees. Let’s see how well that’s received.

Cheers to efficient service, clear feedback, and leaving clichés where they belong – in the past. 🍷🍔🍴

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