Front of House vs Back of House: How to Manage Better
For a restaurant to provide the best service quality, the staffing system must be stable in terms of quality and quantity. A restaurant consists of two teams: front of house (FOH) and back of house (BOH). Each team, with its own function, should closely work together to facilitate a smooth workflow.
So, what is FOH and BOH in a restaurant? How can you maximize the productivity of each team?
Let’s find out.
What is Front of House (FOH) in a restaurant?
Front of House (FOH) refers to a restaurant’s public areas, including the dining room, bar, front-door area, waiting area, and restrooms.
Front of house staff are roles that interact directly with customers, including waiters, greeters, hosts, bartenders, barbacks, bussers, food runners, floor managers, and cashiers.
Because FOH staff serve guests directly, they should be friendly and calm to provide a positive dining experience for guests.
FOH positions include:
- General Manager: ensures smooth operations of both FOH and BOH.
- Front of House Manager: supervises FOH employees, hires and schedules FOH staff, handles customer complaints.
- Head Waiter/Head Waitress: supervises wait staff, host staff, and bussers; serves guests.
- Server: presents menu and bill to guests, make suggestions, takes orders, answers questions.
- Food Runner: brings food from the kitchen to the guests; provides extra napkins or silverware or answers questions.
- Bartender: mixes and serves drinks to guests.
- Bar-Back: assists the bartender.
- Sommelier: develops wine service for the restaurant, pairs and suggests wines for food menu items, and trains restaurant staff on wine service.
- Busser: cleans and resets tables, refills condiment bottles, serves food or refills drinks if the restaurant is busy.
The appearance and attitude of front-of-house staff are important. They should be well-dressed and clean while having a professional and friendly demeanor.
Front of house areas are places where guests can see:
- Parking lot
- Waiting area
- Host/hostess station
- Dining room
- Outdoor seating
Customers don’t visit a restaurant just because of the food. According to Technomic’ January 2021 Safety and Sanitation Reigns presentation, 77% of diners said that a food service establishment’s cleaning policies will impact their intent to visit.
The layout and decor of your FOH areas shouldn’t only be clean, but also be logically organized so both staff and guests can move around easily.
What is Back of House (BOH) in a restaurant?
Back of House (BOH), opposite to FOH, is the section of the restaurant that most diners don’t see. If a restaurant is a stage, the BOH is the dressing room. The kitchen, offices, storage rooms, and any other places hidden from guests are all included in the term BOH.
Anyone who works in those hidden areas is considered Back-of-House staff. Not only the chef and sous chef, but also prep cooks, line cooks, dishwashers, and those who aren’t involved in Front-of-House operations.
Positions in the Back of House include:
- Kitchen Manager: manages BOH staff, hires and schedules BOH staff, ensures kitchen safety, helps out when the kitchen gets chaotic.
- Head Chef: the senior chef of the kitchen; creates menus and specials, determines expenses, oversees the food preparation process and polishes the dishes.
- Sous Chef: supervises kitchen staff, schedules and trains BOH employees, reports to the head chef.
- Line Cook: works at their particular station in the kitchen, for example, the fry station or grill station.
- Expeditor: organizes ticket orders, ensures the quality of the dishes from the kitchen before they are served, manages inventory.
- Dishwasher: washes and dries dishes.
- Maintenance Technician: inspects and repairs restaurant facilities, answers technical questions.
If the FOH is the face of your restaurant, the BOH is the heart and soul. BOH areas include:
- Store room
- Break room
- Employee restroom
- Delivery staging area
- Mechanical room
While guests can’t see the BOH, keeping these areas organized and clean is a must. A chaotic and unhygienic kitchen means there’ll be problems with food safety and speed of service. It can make or break your restaurant.
Effective FOH and BOH management tips
If you want your restaurant to succeed, you can’t just focus on one side or the other. FOH and BOH employees should work together to give the best possible customer experience.
As a manager, you should take this seriously and do everything you can to unite the FOH and the BOH as one team, rather than two separate teams that have to work together occasionally.
How to improve your restaurant FOH
Elevate the first impressions
The first impressions when your guests visit your restaurant set the tone for the rest of their dining experience. From parking to waiting and seating guests, you can elevate every interaction with some preparations.
One common mistake many restaurants make is abandoning their host station or the door, especially when it gets busy. A customer doesn’t know if you’re short-handed. They only know if you welcome them properly or not.
Make sure you always have someone at the door to welcome guests. The hostess station should be visible when guests enter the entryway. Should guests wait to be seated or seat themselves, let them know using a sign.
If guests have to wait, the waiting area should be comfy. The host/hostess should inform guests of the estimated wait time or offer a takeaway service.
By encouraging diners to make reservations, you can better manage your restaurant capacity and staffing needs.
In other words, if you know how many guests to expect, you can staff your restaurant accordingly and control labor costs better. You won’t overstaff the FOH and lose money, nor will you risk being understaffed and providing a terrible dining experience.
You can also set up online reservation systems to automate adding and assigning tables and time slots to guests. These systems also let customers know if the restaurant is fully booked, which reduces some unnecessary back-and-forths.
Make suggestions based on ordering history
If your restaurant has an automated ordering system, you can save information about guests’ dietary preferences, allergies, special occasions, etc. when they make reservations or register on your website.
When guests return, you can check their profiles to discover what they often order or what they hate, and make suggestions accordingly. This creates a more personalized dining experience for customers, encouraging them to keep coming back.
Minimize wait time
Even if your food is delicious and your staff is nice, if customers have to wait too long, it’ll affect their dining experience negatively.
Think about how well you handle walk-ins and table-turning, how well your hosts and wait staff set wait expectations, and how well-prepared your FOH area is for entertaining customers while they wait.
Do you have a waiting area or a bar where guests may sit and wait with a drink and a menu? What’s the vibe like? Is your restaurant’s type of setting where live music would be beneficial?
Consider how you’ll keep track of tables that need to be prepared for the following reservations. Whether you have an app to help you monitor service speed or you rely on your front-of-house crew, training your staff is always the key.
How to improve your restaurant BOH
Hold regular conversations with your workforce to address the challenges each employee is experiencing and how their work could be improved. Encourage sharing and talking about difficulties in the workplace.
Doing this is extremely important in building a transparent workplace, where your employees can begin to gain perspective.
Waiters and waitresses, for example, can be rewarded and incentivized in the form of tips. Tips help to keep staff motivated financially and mentally.
BOH staff, on the other hand, don’t have such a reward system. So you should keep an eye on your BOH employees and reward them promptly once they’ve done a good job. The rewards don’t always have to be money, praise or acknowledgment can go a long way.
Check in with staff frequently
Because BOH is hidden out of your sight, it’s easy to forget to check in with them to see how they’re doing, especially during busy times.
You must take time to visit the BOH and ensure that nothing interferes with their workflow. Problems don’t always come to light on their own. Sometimes, they only appear when you actually pay attention.
Improve FOH and BOH communication
Restaurants often experience a communication breakdown between the back and front of the house. When something goes wrong during peak hours, the FOH frequently blames the BOH, and vice versa.
Many eateries employ an expeditor to help with this. An expeditor is a liaison between the BOH and the FOH who ensures that the plates are delivered to the guests in a timely and proper manner, as well as performing the last quality check. The executive chef or sous chef is often the expeditor.
Many restaurants organize staff meetings involving both FOH and BOH staff to ensure that the flow of food from the kitchen to the dining area is well managed and that the staff is communicating effectively.
Some restaurant managers also consider using automated tools to connect FOH, BOH and customers, such as POS, table management system, accounting software, scheduling software, etc.
Both the front and back of the house are important to the success and quality of your restaurant. With thorough training, care, and consideration, you’ll be able to connect these two departments, while strengthening their capability.
Read more about restaurant management.