Front of House vs. Back of House: Explained!
If you’re a restaurant manager, you know that the restaurant business comes with its own terms. Keeping up with restaurant lingo (in both front of house and back of house) makes communication smoother among your staff, which makes your restaurant run more efficiently.
Spend just 10 minutes in your restaurant, and you’ll likely hear phrases like:
Chicken parm is 86ed! We’re in the weeds!
It may sound like a foreign language to guests, but not to a seasoned professional.
While it may take a while for newbies to the restaurant trade to become acclimated to industry slang, there are two terms all restaurant workers absolutely must know from Day 1: front of house and back of house.
Both refer to two critical components that make up the whole of the restaurant, and both need their own individual attention. In this guide, you'll learn everything you need to know from terminology, to slang, and management tips! Let's dig right in.
What is Front of House (FOH)?
The front of house (FOH) is, as you might have guessed, the front of the restaurant. It’s where patrons dine or are greeted at the front door. Also included in the front of house are the hostess station, bar, restrooms, and outdoor seating, if you have it (we’ll dig into this later). The front of house is where customer service is key. Train your front of house staff to excel at providing first-rate customer service and teach them how to handle the inevitable complaint respectfully and calmly. It’s also essential to give your front of house staff the confidence to handle problems as they arise.
For example, you might train bartenders to politely turn down a customer who’s had too much to drink. Empowering your staff to make informed decisions will keep everyone safe and happy. Customer appreciation should also be a focus of your front of house staff. There are countless ways you can show your guests how much you value their patronage. For example, personal attention, especially by a manager, can go a long way in making diners feel special and might even lead to repeat visits.
Common Locations in the Front of House
Front of house locations are where all communication with guests will occur. This is where appearances matter - these areas should be clean, tidy, and in order. All staff members who work in these locations should be polite, look professional, and overall be an excellent representative of your restaurant.
- Entry - First impressions happen here! As soon as they walk through the door, customers will make a judgment call. Your entryway should emulate the theme and vibe of your restaurant and naturally flow into the dining room and bar.
- Waiting Area - During brunch or dinner rushes, customers might pack your waiting room. Provide a comfortable seating area to give them a place to hang out while they’re waiting. Offer menus they can look over and get a head start on their menu choices, which increases turnover rate.
- Host Station - The hostess station should be situated in a visible area within view of the entry. A host should be on duty at all times to greet customers as soon as possible and not make them wait too long.
- Restrooms - The state of your restrooms makes a huge impact on guest experience - some people assume that if the restroom is dirty, the kitchen probably is too. It's essential to perform frequent restroom checks and make sure the area is clean and well-stocked.
- Bar - If your restaurant serves alcohol, make sure the area is inviting and a welcoming location for guests to enjoy a drink or a meal. The whole area should be organized so guests can be served quickly.
- Dining Room - The dining room is where most front of house operations will occur. The layout of your dining room is essential - there should be a natural flow where servers can maneuver freely and guests have enough space to be comfortable.
- Outdoor Seating - Increase your capacity and dining revenue by adding outdoor seating. Guests enjoy dining al fresco in the warmer months, and often look for restaurants with patios. Decorate the area with outdoor lighting, furniture, and umbrellas to make it a welcoming space.
Most Common Front of House Staff Positions
Front of house staff are liaisons between the kitchen and guests, and are responsible for creating an unforgettable dining experience. The staff that works the front of house includes:
- General Manager - The general manager, AKA the GM, oversees all of the restaurant staff, including all employees in the front and back of house. They spend most of their time in the dining room, overseeing that operations are running smoothly.
- Front of House Manager - The FOH manager reports to the GM and is in charge of all staff members who work in the front of house. Their responsibilities include hiring new employees, creating shift schedules, and taking care of customer complaints. At the end of the workday, they record the day’s earnings.
- Headwaiter – The headwaiter reports to the FOH manager and leads the host staff, wait staff, and bussers to provide excellent customer service. They are responsible for their own tables but act as a supervisor. Sommelier – Sommeliers are commonly found in fine dining restaurants and are knowledgeable in all facets of wine. They help create the wine list and offer assistance with food pairings, as well as educate the wait staff so they can better recommend options to guests.
- Bartender – The bartender takes all drink orders from servers or directly from guests. They make cocktails, pour wine and beer, and serve other non-alcoholic beverages. Additional duties may include serving food at the bar and prepping bar garnishes before shifts.
- Server – Servers have the most interaction with guests and should be accomodating and personable. They should have thorough knowledge of the menu to answer questions and make suggestions. They communicate with the kitchen staff, prepare the bill for the table, and collect payment.
- Host – The host greets customers as they come and go and take reservations, answer phones, walk customers to their seats, and offer menus to guests.
- Food Runner – Food runners make sure hot food is served to guests immediately - they stand by the kitchen window and deliver orders under the direction of the expeditor. They interact with guests and should have menu knowledge and the willingness to meet additional requests for drink refills, extra condiments, silverware, and more.
- Bar-Back – Bar-backs assist the bartender in tasks such as keeping the ice filled, cleaning glasses, stocking the bar with garnishes, and more.
- Busser – Bussers prepare tables for new guests by clearing away dirty dishes and wiping tabletop surfaces clean. They also assist the wait staff by filling water glasses, serving bread, setting out silverware, and other small requests.
What Is the Back of the House (BOH)?
Behind the dining room, out of site, is where the magic happens: the kitchen. This is command central. Other parts of back of house include the manager’s office, pantry and refrigerators, and break room. A well-oiled kitchen keeps orders churning out in a timely manner, so communication is key.
Arguments can break out in the heat of the moment, so as the manager, make sure to intervene before situations escalate. Stay on top of logistics, too. Conducting regular inventory ensures that kitchen staff always has the ingredients they need to prepare orders. It’s your role as manager to oversee what’s happening in the kitchen and constantly communicate with the head chef to ensure he has what he needs to succeed.
Common Locations Found in the Back of the HouseThese back of house locations are where any contact with food occurs, so all staff members who work in these locations should be trained on food safety and sanitation.
- Kitchen - The kitchen is usually the largest part of the back of house and is divided into sections such as areas for food preparation, cooking lines, storage, holding areas, and sanitation stations. Having an optimal kitchen layout will make or break the efficiency of your staff - make sure to choose one that has a good flow.
- Employee Area - Employee restrooms and break rooms give staff members respite from their shifts. This is the space where they can take breaks, look over shift schedules, and partake in staff meals.
- Office - This is usually the smallest area of the back of house where managers can do administrative work away from the chaos of the kitchen or dining room.
Most Common Back of House Staff Positions
Back of house employees follow a strict hierarchy in which each member has a specific role to fill and chain of command to follow.
- Kitchen Manager - The kitchen manager manages the back of house staff, which includes ensuring food safety procedures are being upheld, hiring new staff, and occasionally assisting in the kitchen.
- Head Chef - The most senior member of the kitchen staff is the Head Chef. They supervise the kitchen staff, order food, determine cost, create menus and specials, and complete other miscellaneous administrative tasks.
- Sous Chef - Second in command is the sous chef, who reports directly to the head chef. Their role includes supervising the kitchen staff, training, and creating schedules. When the head chef is away, the sous chef steps in to lead the team.
- Line Cook - Line cooks work at specific stations along the kitchen line that are divided by cooking or food type. Different types of line cooks include grill cook, fry cook, pastry chef, etc.
- Expeditor - The expeditor is in charge of organizing orders by table so everyone sitting together gets served at the same time. They are located on the server-side of the window and get plates ready for the waitstaff to serve.
- Dishwasher - Dishwashers clean dishes, glasses, and flatware in a timely manner so the turnover rate in the dining room is consistent. They also clean pots, pans, and cooking tools for the kitchen staff.
How to Improve Communication Between the Back of House and Front of House
The roles between the front of house and back of house employees are drastically different, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings that could negatively impact the experience of your customers. To make sure things are running smoothly and the best service possible is being offered to your guests, adopt some of these practices to promote better teamwork and communication between both sides of the restaurant.
1. Add Prep Work to the Servers’ List of Side Work
When the restaurant isn’t too busy, ask your servers to cut veggies or bar garnishes to get them more involved in the kitchen process. Assigning minor kitchen tasks to servers helps the kitchen staff handle more pressing tasks. It also gives kitchen workers and servers a chance to get to know each other and build camaraderie.
2. Offer a Staff Meal
A staff meal is a morale-booster that brings both sides of the house together. The wait staff can serve the drinks while the kitchen staff prepares the meal - teamwork! Bonding over food helps set the tone for the shift, and gives servers the chance to taste the menu options before making suggestions to customers.
3. Share Tips
The front of house usually gets the tips because they’re the ones interacting with customers. But think - customers aren’t only tipping on the quality of service, but on the delicious meal itself. Even though it’s hard, share tips with the back - it’s only fair.
4. Grab A DrinkRestaurant workers are used to operating on a late schedule and need to wind down after a long shift. Sharing a nightcap, or even just a chat, helps bring a social aspect to an otherwise very busy workplace. Be Nice Working in a restaurant can indeed be stressful, especially when everyone is working crazy hard to meet customer demands and get dishes served quickly. We all have bad days, but it’s important to remind your staff that being friendly is a part of being professional. No one likes working with someone who has a snarky attitude.
5. Conduct Buzz MeetingsMake sure everyone is on the same page by conducting quick, lighthearted meetings before every shift. Clearly lay out your objectives, and make sure your staff has something to look forward to at the end of every shift. Eli Nadel from Twice Baked Consulting offers the following advice:
Bridging the Gap Between Front of House and Back of House
Because front and back of house are like two different worlds, they often clash in terms of achieving their goals. Wait staff wants an order ready to go yesterday, while the kitchen staff is focused on ensuring that every dish is perfect, even if that takes time. While both back of house and front of the house have different focuses during a busy shift, everyone is working together to ensure that customers have the best dining experience possible.
Remember - you need each other! A service team has nothing to carry out without a reliable kitchen staff, and vice versa.
Your customers will pick up on a friendly atmosphere, and more repeat customers (and tips) will come. Want to learn more about improving communication in your restaurant?
Request a demo of MarketMan and see how restaurant inventory management software can help bridge the communication gap between your front of house and back of house teams.
And be sure to download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Lowering Food Cost in Your Restaurant, full of tips to help you boost your bottom line!