Restaurants are complex organisations with many different moving parts. Therefore, it is common practice within the industry to split working roles into two different groups – front of house and back of house.
Whether you're a restaurant manager or a new member of the waiting staff, it's important to have a strong grasp of what goes into working in the front of house in a restaurant.
Read on for our complete guide to front of house duties in a hospitality venue, including a comprehensive overview of roles, responsibilities and the attributes all front of house workers need to demonstrate.
What Is the Front of House of a Restaurant?
The front of house in a restaurant refers to the area where customers enter, order, dine and leave. It encompasses anywhere diners sit, as well as the bar, toilers and anywhere else diners may go.
The front of house is absolutely critical to your restaurant's operations. Without customers, there would be no business to speak of. The front of house is responsible for managing the customer experience and ensuring they have a great time in your venue.
Meanwhile, the back of house is the behind-the-scenes engine of a restaurant, such as the kitchen, staff room and offices. If in doubt, anywhere you would expect to see a customer is the front of house, and anywhere you wouldn't is the back of house.
If the front of house does its job correctly, customers will be eager to return to your restaurant and spread the good word. This is crucial for any successful restaurant.
Front of House Responsibilities
There is no singular front of house staff job responsibilities. The duties of the front of house of a restaurant are broad and can vary based on the venue. Here are some of the most important roles front of house staff are responsible for.
Manage Bookings and Walk-Ins
The first step a customer will take when interacting with your business is to either make a booking or walk in the front door. The front of house is responsible for taking and maintaining reservations, and for servicing walk-in diners.
Front of house staff will often utilise software to make booking and reservations simple. ResDiary offers advanced functionality allowing your business to easily manage your bookings, deter no-shows and extract reservation data that can be applied to other facets of your business.
As soon as a prospective diner enters your restaurant, they should be greeted by a front of house staff member as soon as possible. It is therefore critical that staff members present diners with a friendly smile and are immediately prepared to service customer needs.
It might be a cliché, but it's true: There's no second chance to make a first impression. Front of house staff must ensure a customer's first impression of a restaurant is a great one.
Of course, customer service goes way beyond an initial greeting. Front of house staff must maintain a warm, friendly and helpful demeanour with customers at all times. Any questions or concerns customers may have must be attended to.
At times, front of house staff will be called upon to handle customer complaints. Staff must be prepared to carefully listen to what customers have to say, extend apologies where necessary and do everything possible to attend to the complaints.
Serve Food and Beverages
Diners go to restaurants for a social experience, but it's important to remember the fundamental service of any restaurant: serving food and drinks. Front of house staff must accurately record food and beverage requests and communicate them to the back of house.
They must also be aware of any allergies or dietary restrictions customers may have. Front of house staff must recognise any issues with foods or drinks as they come out of the kitchen or the bar and resolve them before they get to the customer.
Both houses must work together to promptly serve high-quality food and drinks to the customers. If customers are unsatisfied with their meal for any reason, they will inform the front of house staff, who must work to resolve any concerns.
One of the most fundamental features of any good restaurant is cleanliness. From tables to the ground of the restaurant, front of house staff must ensure any customer-facing areas are clean and appealing. This is important not only for hygienic reasons, but to maintain a high-quality, professional image for the restaurant.
Once your diners have finished up their incredible dining experience, it's time to ensure your venue is properly remunerated.
The payment process doesn't always run as smoothly as you might hope. Issues with POS systems can arise, and something as simple as a customer forgetting their wallet can lead to situations that can be difficult to handle. A well-trained front of house team is essential for ensuring any technical problems can be resolved and the needs of the customer are handled with care in this situation.
Other Front of House Duties
Other common roles front of house duties include:
- Maintaining stock of drinks fridges
- Inventory management
- Setting tables
- Training new staff members
- Maintaining order within the restaurant
- Receiving and accumulating general customer feedback
Front of House Roles
There are many different roles to fill within the front of house. Each role has a varied set of duties they must fulfil.
The roles listed below should only be considered a general guide – every restaurant is different and will call upon their front of house staff to perform different tasks.
Any team needs a leader, and the front of house general manager is the head of the customer-facing parts of a restaurant. Any issues which arise within the front of house fall under the purview of the general manager.
Managing communication between the front and back of house is often central to the job of a house manager. They must also generally oversee the operations of the front of house, ensuring that all customers are adequately attended to.
Just like any team leader, house managers must have expertise in managing relationships, taking control of situations where necessary and strong organisational skills.
Waiting staff make up the bulk of front of house workers. It is their responsibility to take orders, communicate with the back of house, deliver food to customers and more.
Perhaps the most important attribute for a member of waiting staff to possess is strong customer service skills. The wait staff is a diner’s main point of contact, so they must be well-trained to handle the needs and desires of guests.
Often, a restaurant will have a designated member of staff who is a host. The responsibilities of a host may include initially greeting guests, as well as managing reservations and payments. Having a specific role in your front of house for a host is an excellent way to enhance the experience of customers.
Smaller venues may see the role of host filled by a senior member of the waiting staff, or have the role be handled by a committee of staff members.
A bar is a great feature to include in a restaurant. Well-trained bar staff capable of creating delicious cocktails and other beverages can go a long way to enhancing the dining experience of your customers.
Bar staff must be accredited to serve alcohol. In most jurisdictions around the world, alcohol servers must go through a training course which teaches them how to correctly serve alcohol in a legal manner. This involves ensuring customers who receive alcohol are of legal age, how to deal with disorderly patrons and when to stop serving alcohol to prevent customers from becoming overly intoxicated.
A sommelier is a specialised member of bar staff, most commonly found in fine dining establishments. Sommeliers possess extensive knowledge of wine and wine service. They should be able to handle any questions customers may have on the topic, and recommend the best wines for their personal taste or the meal they are eating.
Baristas generally work in cafés. They may have formal training in making coffees for patrons. Some venues may provide barista training to all waiting staff, so the role of barista can be filled by any member of staff.
Key Traits for Front of House Workers
Working in the front of house of a restaurant can at times be gruelling, and it requires a unique skillset. Whether you're considering a career in hospitality, or you are a manager wondering which traits you should look for in potential hires, here are some of the key traits front of house staff must possess:
Strong interpersonal skills are the key to great customer service. Front of house workers must be able to communicate effectively with customers as well as colleagues.
Restaurants can be hectic and chaotic. The ability to know what is happening across the entire dining room, to communicate with the back of house and to manage reservations are crucial for working in the front of house of a restaurant. This is especially true for front of house staff members who are higher up the management chain.
Teamwork and Communication
With such a wide variety of roles to be filled within the front of house, it is very important that staff members have the ability to work well in a team to achieve the goals of a restaurant.
Whether a glass has broken on the floor, a customer has forgotten their wallet or the kitchen has run out of bolognese, new issues are always arising in a restaurant. A front of house restaurant staff member must have the ability to deal with all these issues and more.
Optimise your Front of House with ResDiary
There are many ways to approach running the front of house of your restaurant. With so many moving parts to consider, utilising software like ResDiary is a great way to streamline the functions of your front of house and help you focus on delivering the best customer experience possible.
From reservation management to EPOS system integration, ResDiary can optimise your front of house operations in a multitude of ways. Our table management system helps to keep things running smoothly on the floor, and you can simplify communication between front and back of house thanks to our yield management functionality.
Book a personalised ResDiary demo today to find out how it can help your business run more smoothly than ever.