What to Know About Front of the House Operations
Definition and Examples for Front of the House
The front of the house (FOH) are areas of a restaurant open to guests during dining. It includes the dining area, bar, cashier stand and waiting area.
Creating loyal customers starts with an unforgettable customer experience in the front of the house. This starts with employees at the front of the house, of which there are many.
General Manager- The general manager (GM) is responsible for the restaurant staff in both front of the house and back of the house. Most of the time, the GM is in the dining area to ensure service for the guests is running smoothly.
Headwaiter- Fine dining restaurants often have a headwaiter who leads the rest of the wait staff along with the hostess and the bussers. There job is to make sure the guests are receiving the best level of customer service possible during their stay.
Bartender- Bars are located in the front of the house for easy access. The bartenders will make all drink orders for bar patrons along with the drinks wait staff need for their tables. Often, the bartender will also act as a server for guests wishing to eat at the bar or in the bar area.
Server- Servers are responsible for guest service at the tables while dining. They interact with the guests the most of all the front of the house staff by taking meal orders, answering questions, and sometimes collecting payment on the check.
Host/Hostess- The host staff are the first people guests see as they enter. They are responsible for seating the guests in a timely manner. They'll also answer the phone and take reservations for the restaurant.
Busser- It's the responsibility of the bussers to keep restaurant rotation flowing by clearing the tables after guests exit. They'll remove dirty dishes, wipe down the tables, and ensure the table is prepared for the next guest. Bussers sometimes run drink orders to the table and assist the servers whenever possible.
Front of the House Restaurant Lingo
Restaurants have their own lingo. Here are a few of the words staff throw around during a given evening.
- 86'd- When an item on the menu is no longer available, the staff will say it's 86'd.
- Behind- A call made by staff when walking behind another employee, usually while carrying an order out to guests.
- Campers- Guests that have finished dining at won't exit. This prevents new guests from dining in that area and impacts tips for servers.
- Chef's table- A table reserved for VIPs. It is seated in view of the kitchen so the chef can observe the guest experience.
- Comp- When a meal or portion of the meal is offered at no charge to the guest. Short for "complimentary."
Hiring for Front of the House
Staff that works in the front of the house for a restaurant should have impeccable customer service. These are the employees who will be interacting with the guests the most, and they are a representation of the restaurant.
Hiring for front of house includes filling positions for hosts, servers, bartenders and bussers. The restaurant manager is also included in this list. Certain criteria should be met when seeking to fill these positions.
Front of House Employee Characteristics
Front of house staff members require a special skill-set. Characteristics of quality staff members include-
- Excellent customer service skills
- Ability to multi-task
- Team player
- Ability to learn quickly
- Can handle customer complaints
- Comfortable interacting with new people
Setting Up Front of the House
The effectiveness of front of the house operations is imperative to restaurant success. Whether the restaurant is new or has been established, it's always a good idea to visit the floor plan to make sure the front of house is set up in the most effective manner.
Tips to optimize front-of-house operations
Manage capacity and staffing by encouraging reservations. When the guest attendance is known in advance, it will be easier to optimize the labor costs through organized staffing. This will also help to avoid long wait times for guests.
Making reservations easy through multiple source points will increase the likelihood that guest's will reserve a table rather than walk-in. Using a virtual source through technology will keep things organized and avoid reservation crossover or overbooking.
Front of House Entryway and Walkthrough
The entryway into the restaurant should not only represent the brand in a stylish manner but it should also effectively accommodate all patrons. This includes the ease in which it takes getting to the table.
Server stations should be out of the line of sight from guests but remain easily accessible to servers. Make sure the server station includes these items-
- POS system
- Check holders
- Extra Aprons
- Pitchers and glass for water
- Napkins and flatware
Managing Front of the House
The front of the house operations are managed will be the determining factor in how front house staff delivers the guest experience. Here are a few ways in which to manage the front of house-
Understand The Guest Experience
To establish a seamless flow for guest, it's important to know what that experience is like. Thinking like a customer will paint a better picture of which of the front house operations are working and which need to be reassessed. Everything from the first greeting, seat times, and cleanliness should be taken into account.
Create An Effective Communication Chain
Front house staff should be able to communicate clearly with the back of the house. For example, if a customer has allergy specific needs for their meal this must be made clear to the kitchen staff. Alternatively, if the kitchen runs out of an ingredient for a menu item, front house staff needs to be made aware swiftly. Keeping the communication chain flowing will cut down on customer dissatisfaction.
Hold Pre-Shift Meetings
When the staff knows what to expect each day it helps them better prepare for a smooth shift. Holding pre-shift meetings ensures everyone is operating with the same information regardless if it is day shift or night shift. This is wildly important if any urgent matter needs to be brought to attention, such as a menu item being 86'd.
Train Your Staff
Training the staff, and in some instances re-training, lets them get into a flow that keeps guest turnaround high while still providing a positive customer experience. According to The National Restaurant Association, employee turnover in restaurants was 61% in 2016. With such a high turn over rate it means new employees will need training. Setting up an efficient manner in which to do this is an important step in restaurant management.
Front of the House v Back of the House
The terms front of house and back of house are consistent in the food industry. However close the two stations may seem, they are very different from each other. Here's how front of house and back of house operate.
Front of the house elements involve guest-facing roles such as hosts, food servers, and bartenders. Back of the house remain in back and primarily focus on kitchen staff such as cooks, chefs and dishwashers.
Some restaurants have management or owners who will bridge-the-gap between FOH and BOH. When times are busy, the most dedicated managers will role up their sleeves to help out either in the dining room or with the kitchen staff.
Technology Used for Front of the House
Many in the restaurant and food service industry are embracing technology to improve guest experiences and maintain more efficient operations. The following are different types of restaurant technology that can be used for restaurant front of house, the kitchen, and back office administration.
Online reservations not only make it easier for guests to book their dining time, but it also helps the restaurant owner know the type of crowd to expect. Certain applications can gather generous amounts of information which help improve the guest experience and lets the restaurant be better prepared to do so.
Tabletop POS systems are being incorporated in many casual dining restaurants. It allows the guest to take a bit of control in their dining experience by allowing them to put in additional orders or pay the check without needing to call the server over. This is helpful during busy dining times when a server may be swamped with tables. A study done by Cornell University School of Hotel Administration stated that 70% of guests who used the tabletop technology had a positive experience. The guests enjoyed the convenience overall and also applauded its ease of use and information security when it came to payments. A 1/3 of diners stated their preference for convenient payment options such as mobile payments.
With more guests and restaurants both embracing technology its hard to find a business in food service that doesn't offer an online ordering option. This type of tech comes in many forms and can be presented through the restaurant's personal website or a third party app. Restaurants that include online order options have reported a 30% increase in revenue. Online ordering also provides an added benefit of marketing the brand online.
Conclusion to Front of the House
- Front of the house refers to areas within a restaurant open to guest interaction.
- The front of the house includes the dining room, host stand, cashier station, restrooms and bar.
- Customer service is the most important part of guest interactions with front of the house staff.