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 in top shape.

What is the front of house?

Front of house includes all of the customer touch points in a restauant. It’s 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.

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

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Front-of-house staff

Responsibilities can be split up among the staff you hire, but below are the key roles and their usual duties.

The general manager 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 color 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 person 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.

Servers 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.

While servers 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 appetizers, refill water glasses, and clear plates when diners are done eating.

Best practices for managing your front of house

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

  • Plan ahead
    When creating your front-of-house 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 restaurant operations, customer interactions, the food and wine menu, and logistical things like your POS system.

  • Hold pre-shift meetings
    Before every shift, gather employees to go over everything from special menu items to events, VIP customers, and service issues that you want them to focus on. This will also encourage effective communication between restauranta and kitchen staff.

  • 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 make reservations and get reminders.

  • Invest in a fully integrated restaurant POS system
    Implementing POS technology 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, aiding to create efficiency with servers and improve table management.

  • Use sales data and analytics to make improvements
    Data from a POS system can be used to better your overall operations. For example, if data shows that certain days and times tend to be busier, schedule more servers at that time, and vice versa. It can also be used to track the performance of new promotions and determine which servers are the highest sellers.