3 Tips for Optimizing Restaurant Front-of-House Operations

a photo of Bianca Esmond

Bianca Esmond

5 min read

Mar 3, 2021

3 Tips for Optimizing Restaurant Front-of-House Operations

It’s more important now than ever before to run an efficient restaurant while providing guests with a memorable experience. But are these two priorities in conflict? Nope!

With the right strategy and tools, you can run a tight ship without compromising on hospitality. Optimizing your front-of-house (FOH) operations makes these goals possible.

Keep reading to learn:

What is a restaurant “front of house”
Examples of front-of-house jobs
Tips for making the most of your restaurant’s FOH operations

What does “front of house” mean in a restaurant? 

The front of the house, commonly just called “front of house” or FOH, means the customer-facing side of a restaurant, like the dining room. By contrast, the back of the house, also known as just “back of house” or BOH, refers to parts of a restaurant that guests don’t have access to, like the kitchen and office.

These terms are usually used in reference to the staff members that work in these parts of the restaurant. FOH employees interact with guests, so they must be able to exhibit excellent customer service skills. Technical skills, like cooking, are more important to BOH employees.

Examples of front-of-house staff members

These are examples of the most typical front-of-house employees in a restaurant, and descriptions of what they’re responsible for. This cheat sheet to FOH staff can help guide your hiring efforts.

Host: Hosts greet guests and show them to their table, manage reservations, and manage a restaurant’s waitlist.
Server: This critical FOH employee is responsible for guiding guests through the menu, making menu recommendations, placing orders, fulfilling drink orders, and closing out the check. At quick-service restaurants, this role is fulfilled by a cashier.
Busser: Bussers bring food to guests’ tables, refill water glasses, clear empty plates from tables, clean tables between guests, and set place settings.
Bartender: Bartenders are responsible for guiding bar guests through the drink menu, making drink recommendations, preparing alcoholic beverages for bar guests and servers, and closing the check.
Manager: A manager is a hybrid between a front-of-house and back-of-house role. As part of their FOH duties, managers walk around the floor to conduct guest satisfaction checks.

Front-of-house staff play the critical role of ensuring diners’ needs are met. Hiring the best FOH employees possible is critical to a full-service restaurant’s success.

Tips to help you optimize front-of-house operations

Now that you know what your restaurant’s front of house is and which staff members it comprises, follow these suggestions to make the most of your FOH operations.

Encourage reservations to manage capacity and staffing

Encouraging diners to make reservations will help you manage capacity and labor needs. When you know how many guests to expect in advance, you can staff your restaurant accordingly and optimize labor costs. You won’t schedule more employees to work the FOH than you need and lose money, or risk being understaffed and deliver a poor dining experience.

Increase your reservation-to-walk-in ratio by making it as easy as possible for guests to make bookings. Make your reservation widget available across multiple online touchpoints, like your website, Google My Business, and social media profiles.

Having a virtual waitlist that guests can join remotely can also help streamline front-of-house operations. When you can keep an eye on incoming diners, you can assign them to tables more quickly. A waitlist platform that lets a FOH employee communicate with guests via SMS, and lets guests see accurate wait times before they join the list, makes for a better customer experience.

PRO TIP: Your restaurant can save money and keep customer acquisition costs predictable by using a reservation platform that charges a flat-rate, rather than one that takes a commission for every booking.

Use guest profiles to personalize the dining experience

When diners make reservations or put themselves on a virtual waitlist, you can save information about their dietary preferences, allergies, special dates and more to guest profiles. When guests come back, you can also see what they ordered on previous visits in their profiles. While in the past a maitre d’ would’ve been responsible for knowing everything about guests, now every server has access to this guest information at their fingertips.

Your front-of-house staff can use this guest data to personalize the dining experience. For example, servers could reference past orders to tailor recommendations that will wow diners. Or they could place a candle on a dessert when a guest is celebrating a birthday. Another way to provide first-class service is to point out allergen information on the menu before being asked.

Personalized dining experiences will make your restaurant stand out and keep guests coming back.

Implement contactless dining to turn tables faster

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way diners experience restaurants and has made people nervous about dining on-premise. Make guests and staff safer — and turn tables faster — by going contactless.

With a contactless order and pay solution, dine-in guests can scan a QR code, view your menu online, and pay for the meal from their smartphones. Not only does this solution minimize contact between guests and employees, but also helps you enforce table time limits and hasten turnover.

Contactless order and pay speeds up several aspects of the guest experience, without taking a toll on hospitality. Diners don’t have to wait for an employee to visit their table to place an order. When diners take ordering into their own hands, they can place them as soon as they know what they want.

Guests can also reduce time spent at the table when they pay the bill without needing the help of an employee. Rather than a guest having to 1) get a server’s attention, 2) ask for the check, 3) review the check, 3) put down their payment method, and 4) wait for the server to pick up the check, 5) process it, and 6) come back with change or a card receipt, settling the check is simplified into one step. When the guest is ready to pay, they simply pay via card on their phone.

Contactless dining increases table turnover, helping you seat more guests and earn more revenue in less time.

Optimize your front-of-house operations for restaurant success

A restaurant’s front-of-house staff is responsible for ensuring guest satisfaction. When you encourage reservations, use guest data to provide tailored experiences, and implement contactless dining, your front-of-house staff can provide best-in-class service while maximizing efficiency.

SevenRooms can help your restaurant increase revenue and repeat business. Book a demo to see how.

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