How to Manage Your Restaurant Front of House

If you own a restaurant, you understand the importance of your front of house. The front of house represents what customers experience at your restaurant, and customers’ impressions are key when it comes to garnering recommendations and loyalty for your business. From staff training to floor plans, here’s what it takes to keep your front of house restaurant staff in top shape.

What is the ‘front of house’ in a restaurant?

Your front of house is the part of the restaurant where your customers order and dine. It includes everything from the host stand and waiting area to the dining room, bar, outdoor seating, and restrooms.

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Your front-of-house staff might include a host or hostess, waiters, bartenders, and the general manager — basically anyone who might interact with customers.

Front-of-house staff

Front-of-house responsibilities can be split up among the staff you hire, but below are the key roles and their usual front-of-house restaurant duties.

The general manager (GM) runs the restaurant, ensuring service goes smoothly; hiring, training, and managing front-of-house staff; and setting the bar for customer service. The GM oversees front-of-house staff and sometimes back of house, if the head chef does not.

A GM often plays a role in designing the floor plan of a restaurant—giving input on everything, from wall colour and scents to noise level and lighting, that might affect customers’ appetite and comfort. They may also plan restaurant promotions and other company events.

The host or hostess is the first front of house restaurant staff member to interact with guests and therefore imparts that all-important first impression. They greet guests and show them to their table. They also take reservations and, if a table is not ready when guests arrive, estimate the wait time. The host or hostess, to the best of their ability, keeps things running on schedule.

Waiters explain and answer any questions about the menu, take food and drink orders, serve customers, and, at the end of the visit, give them their check and process payments.

Bartenders greet customers, take drink orders, and then mix and serve drinks. They might also wash glasses and manage bar inventory with Square’s bar point of sale.

While waiters take customers’ orders, in some restaurants it is the job of the food runner to transport meals from the kitchen to diners. Food runners might also assemble appetisers, refill water glasses, and clear plates when diners are finished eating.

Best practices for managing your front of house

Managing front-of-house operations requires strong leadership, effective team management, attention to detail, and the right technology. Here are some ways to make things run smoothly:

  • Plan ahead
    When creating your front-of-house restaurant experience, it’s important to experience your space as a diner would and shape your restaurant accordingly. Walk through each path a diner would take—entering your restaurant, going to the restroom, ordering at the counter—and take note of what they see along the way. Make their entire experience as enjoyable, purposeful, and seamless as possible.

  • Create an employee training program
    When every staff member completes the same program as everyone else, there’s a standard level of service. In addition, back-of-house staff and even veteran employees should complete the same training to get an in-depth understanding of front-of-house responsibilities, customer interactions, the food and wine menu, and logistical things like your restaurant POS system and how to accept payments using a POS system, like a Square terminal.

  • Hold pre-shift meetings
    Before every shift, gather your front of house restaurant employees to go over everything from special menu items to events, VIP customers, and service issues that you want them to focus on.

  • Keep track of restaurant reservations
    Managing reservations is key to planning each shift (and making customers happy). Using an online reservation system allows customers to easily make reservations and get reminders.

  • Invest in a fully integrated restaurant POS system
    Managing your restaurant through COVID-19 can be made easier with Square’s POS technology. It is the best way to get a true picture of your restaurant’s performance, like tracking sales and employee performance. It can also be a great tool for boosting operations, creating efficiency with waiters with pay-at-table technology, and improving table management.

  • Use sales data and analytics to make improvements
    Data from a POS system can be used to improve your overall operations. For example, if data shows that certain days and times tend to be busier, schedule more front-of-house staff at that time, and vice versa. POS software features can also be used to create invoices, track the performance of new promotions, and determine which front of house restaurant staff are the highest sellers.