If you’re opening your own restaurant, the way you manage your front of house is an important thing to get right. The front of house represents the customers’ first experience of your business, and impressions are key to achieving recommendations and loyalty.
What is the front of house?
The front of house is the part of your restaurant where customers enter and leave, order and dine. It includes everything from outdoor seating and waiting areas, to the dining room, bar and toilets.
The back of house on the other hand, is where all the behind-the-scenes operations take place. Here, you have the kitchen, staff room and office. Although some staff will work in both areas, everyone in the front of house will be customer-facing in one way or another.
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Front of house staff
There’s no right or wrong way to build a front of house team for your restaurant, so long as they can run things smoothly and can keep your customers happy. Specific roles can be split among the staff you hire, but below are the tried and tested roles and their usual duties.
The general manager (GM for short) runs the restaurant, overseeing all major operations: hiring, training, managing the front of house team and making sure everything runs like clockwork. They may also oversee back of house staff in the absence of a head chef.
A GM often designs the physical setup of the restaurant — deciding on everything from decoration and scents, to the layout and control of noise levels. All of these things affect your customers’ mood and comfort, which is why a GM should be passionate about the psychology of the front of house space as well as its function.
You might have a dedicated welcome host or a number of trusted staff who fill this role. As the person who greets customers and makes the first impression, it’s important to choose people you trust.
The welcome host greets guests, takes their coats and bags, shows them to their table and provides menus. They also take reservations, check that tables are ready and accommodate customers who are waiting. The welcome host, to the best of their ability, keeps things running on schedule.
Waiting staff tend to your customers’ tables. They will answer questions about the menu, take orders, serve food and drinks, take payments and clean tables. The kind of waiting staff you want to hire are alert and proactive, always making sure that customers’ needs are seen to.
If you’re delivering a more exclusive experience in your restaurant, you may also wish to have a sommelier. They are your drinks specialist, helping customers perfectly pair their food with the right beverage.
Bartenders greet customers at the bar, take drinks orders, then mix and serve drinks. They might also wash glasses and manage the bar inventory.
Best practices for managing your front of house
Managing front of house operations requires strong, positive leadership, attention to detail and the right technology. When planning your setup, here are some of the top things to do well:
Keep the customer in mind.
When designing your front of house, it’s important to think of the space as a customer would. Walk through and experience every area, taking note of what customers will see along the way. What could they possibly view as a negative, and what positives could you add?
Empower your staff with good management.
A training programme will help you achieve a high standard of service right across your team. Syncronising back and front of house training provides everyone with an in-depth understanding of restaurant operations as a whole. Another surefire way to get the most out of your team is to use employee management software. This should enable you to provide different access levels for employees, track their time and performance and let them take payments anywhere from their own device.
Get a fully integrated restaurant POS system.
More than simply taking payments, having the right restaurant POS system in place can be a valuable front-of-house management tool. Choosing a POS that integrates with a restaurant booking system such as OpenTable gives your true picture of your restaurant’s performance, all from one dashboard. It lets you track shift performance and turn times, offer a waitlist, provide wait time quotes and will even text guests to tell them when their table is ready.
Listen to your customers.
The most experienced restaurateur benefits from listening to their customers. And it’s even more important in your earliest days. With Square Feedback, you’ll grasp what’s working and what isn’t. Customers can leave feedback via their digital receipts, enabling you to hear their suggestions with some privacy — not through a public forum.
Try to focus on flexibility when setting up your restaurant’s front of house. Things will change over time as your business grows, so create systems and choose technology that can grow with you. Take a mobile approach to payments and don’t invest in costly systems that are likely to date over time. The beauty of a small restaurant business is that you can afford to keep things simple to begin with. If you get the fundamental decisions about your front of house right at the start, you have a strong base to grow from.