Front of House vs. Back of House
Parts of a Restaurant
In order for a successful restaurant to flourish, there are many parts that must work together to create a positive experience and end result for the consumer. Understanding the differences between front of house and back of house functions will significantly help your restaurant flow more effortlessly and increase efficiency. Being knowledgeable about the parts of a restaurant, the breakdown between front of house and back of house, along with the specific roles of its employees is an important concept to grasp when working in the hospitality industry.
Front of the House:
The term, “front of the house,” refers to all actions and areas that a customer will be exposed to during their stay at a restaurant.
Entry- The most critical moment toward creating a great first impression for your customers is when they first walk through your front door. The entryway should capture the theme and feel of your restaurant and create a natural flow leading to other areas. Don’t forget about the outdoor appearance as well! Outdoor restaurant signs will help capture attention and increase traffic.
Waiting Area- Having too many customers at one time can sometimes lead to negative experiences for customers. In order to alleviate this, waiting areas should provide as much comfort as possible to customers while they wait to be seated. Chairs and benches can be placed to give patrons somewhere to sit, as well as extra menus nearby so customers have something to do while waiting. It’s also smart to display boards or flyers within the waiting area to promote specials or events, such as happy hours, unique menu items, or tastings.
Bar- If your restaurant plans to serve alcohol, make sure your bar is as inviting as your main dining area. It should feel welcoming, and be functional enough for customers to eat at, but also allow waiters to pick up their drink orders.
Dining Room- The main part of a restaurant where the customer will spend the most time is the dining room, and also where many front of house employees will work during their shifts. Dining rooms can be laid out and organized however you’d like to suit your restaurant’s concept, but there should be a natural flow from room to room. Servers should be able to maneuver freely, and customers should be able to access their seats and table with enough space to feel comfortable.
Outdoor Seating- Deck and patio tables and seating should also flow seamlessly from the dining area to the outdoors, giving guests a different atmosphere to take advantage of while visiting your business.
Back of House:
The term, “back of the house,” encompasses all the behind-the-scenes areas that customers will not see. This acts as the central command center in a restaurant because it’s where the food is prepared, cooked, and plated before making its way to the customer’s table. The back of house also serves as a place for employees and managers to do administrative work.
Kitchen- The kitchen is usually the largest part of any back of house and can be divided into smaller sections, such as areas for food storage, food preparation, cooking lines, holding areas, and dish washing and sanitation areas.
Employee Area- Break rooms and employee bathrooms give employees somewhere to place their belongings, take breaks while on shifts, and look over work schedules and notes from managers.
Roles in a Restaurant
Both Front and Back of House:
These roles are responsible for overlooking the entire restaurant, not just the front or back of house.
Restaurant Owner- Person(s) who legally own the business. There can be multiple owners, silent partners, and unique business arrangements dividing up ownership of the restaurant. In most circumstances the owner is responsible for maintaining and running the restaurant’s finances, public relations, advertising and marketing strategies. They usually are the ones who need to smooth out any big conflicts that arise since they are the head of command. Owners also develop ways to reach new customers and maintain current ones.
General Manager- The eyes and ears of a restaurant. This person usually manages the business for the owner, and organizes the finances, payroll, human resources, inventory, and ordering.
Assistant Manager/Supervisors- Hires and trains employees, creates schedules, and is responsible for all opening and closing procedures of the restaurant.
Front of House:
Providing a customer with a great experience and making them want to come back is the main goal for front of the house employees. They act as liaisons between guests and the kitchen, and have many job titles and functions.
Host/Hostess- Works directly near the entry way and greets customers as they enter and leave. They also take reservations, answer phones, show customers to their seats, and provide menus to guests.
Headwaiter/Captain- Manages wait staff and the overall management of service, is usually responsible for multiple servers in a particular section of the restaurant.
Server- Takes customers’ orders, is knowledgeable of the menu and makes suggestions to customers, interacts with kitchen staff, prepares checks, and collects payment.
Food Runners- Delivers food to the guests’ tables from the kitchen
Bartender - Responsible for making all drink orders taken from servers or directly from guests. They pour beer and wine, create mixed drinks, and serve other beverages like soft drinks.
Bar-Backs- Assistant to the bartender, stocks inventory and helps make drinks
Sommeliers - In more formal restaurants, Sommeliers are wine specialists who are knowledgeable in all aspects of wine.
Busser- Fills customers’ water glasses, takes away any dirty dishes remaining, brings bread and butter to the table, and prepares table for new customers.
Back of House:
Roles for employees in the back of house usually have a strict hierarchy in which each person has a specific job to fill and chain of command to follow.Executive Chef/Head Chef- The most senior member of the kitchen staff, makes the big decisions, does hiring and firing, supervises kitchen staff, creates menu and specials, orders food, determines costs, and takes care of administrative tasks.
Sous Chef- Receives orders directly from the Head Chef, oversees everything so plates come out perfect, often works in opposite shifts of the Head Chef, and supervises line cooks.
Line Cooks- Employees who have specific responsibilities and focus on one area where they have expertise. Line cooks work at different stations along the kitchen line and can be divided up by cooking type or food type, such as fry cook, grill cook, salad cook, pastry chef, etc.
Expeditor- Non-cooking role, person in charge of organizing orders by table so everyone sitting at a particular table is served at the same time. They should know what dishes need to look like before they are served.
Dishwasher- Responsible for all dishwashing equipment, cleaning tablewares, and maintaining dishes and other supplies in the kitchen.
Common Terminology from the Front and Back of House:
- 86- When the kitchen runs out of ingredients to make a specific dish and can no longer serve it, the dish is “86”.
- In the weeds- When the kitchen is extremely busy and are having a hard time keeping up with orders
- On the Fly- When something has to be cooked last minute
- Sections- Restaurant dining rooms are divided into sections, and each section is maintained by a certain server
- Turnover Rate- The rate of how often a table is filled during a shift. High turnover rates are desired since it means more people have been served and gone, and are not waiting long periods of time to be served.
- Rollup- Silverware that is placed into a napkin and is rolled up
- Window- A shelf , heated by food lamps that keep plates warm while waiting to be delivered to tables.
- Sidework- Tasks performed by front of house staff including rolling up silverware , refilling condiments, cleaning off menus, and cleaning restrooms .
- Campers- Customers that do not leave their tables, even after being served and paying their check
- Brigade System- Kitchen hierarchy organization system that was created so each staff position has a station of specific responsibilities .
- Comp- To give something for free as a way to smooth over problems.
- Word of Mouth- The best form of publicity and can occur when customers tell other people about their experiences at a restaurant, whether they may be good or bad.