Hiring Front Of House – What To Look For
Your front of house staff, basically anyone who has contact with your customers, is vital to the success of your restaurant.
In this article, we discuss hiring front of house and what to look for. First, though, let’s define the front of house in exact terms.
The Front of House
Your front of house staff is your forward-facing team. These are the folks who greet and serve your customers on a daily basis.
When hiring front of house staff, you are usually looking for bartenders, servers and hosts, and sometimes bussers and barbacks. In addition, the restaurant manager is an often-overlooked member of the front of house team.
Front of House Employee Characteristics
The front of house staff members should have similar characteristics including:
- A friendly attitude
- Good customer service skills
- Adept at handling customer complaints
- Service oriented
- Comfortable meeting and greeting new people
- Able to multi-task with ease
- Team player
- Smart and able to learn your menu including your beverage selections. This may be different depending on your restaurant type. If you are a fast-casual restaurant, your learning curve might not be as steep as if you are a fine dining restaurant.
Working at the front of your restaurant isn’t for everyone. It requires a special set of skills and a people-oriented person.
While experience is a plus, it isn’t a necessity as you can always train the right person.
Next, let’s break down each front of house position to help you know what to look for when it comes to each specific job.
This is the first person your customers come into contact with. Your host or hostess can set the tone for your diners’ entire experience.
When looking for a new host or hostess, you want to hire an easy-going person who is friendly, respectful and gregarious.
You want to hire someone you trust for this position because they are the “door” to your restaurant. In addition, it’s hard to directly supervise your host as you are busy doing other things away from their area.
If your host’s job is to handle greeting customers, take reservations, seat diners, answer the phone and handle complaints, look for someone who can multi-task without getting frazzled.
Your host should be able to handle a fast-paced restaurant.
The waiter or waitress has the most contact with your restaurant guests and as such, can be solely responsible for your customers’ opinions of your restaurant. (tweet this)
Servers not only have to take orders and deliver food, but they must be well-versed in customer service.
You want your wait staff to be comfortable in front of people, well-spoken and professional. You want a team of people who are friendly, personable and great communicators.
This group of people must be able to multi-task and move from one table to another with ease. They should also be able to handle a fast-paced, constantly moving restaurant.
Consistency is what you’re looking for here so you can be assured your wait staff delivers excellent customer service throughout their entire shift.
When it comes to customer service, it’s important that you train your staff on an ongoing basis. You want them to know how to handle a multitude of situations with grace, empathy and ease.
Working as a bartender is no easy task. The ideal candidate for this position has many of the qualities of your wait staff, but they must also have an excellent knowledge of your restaurant’s drinks and how to make them.
Like the wait staff, your bartender should be friendly, outgoing and attentive. He or she should be able to meet the needs of your customers – like refilling near empty drinks – before your diners realize they need a refill.
You also want this person to be able to multi-task and work in a fast-paced environment.
We’ve gone over what to look for when hiring for the front of the house. Now, let’s look at some interview questions for possible new hires.
Before you interview your candidate, make a list of the qualifications you’re looking for. Then, make a list of interview questions based on the answers you want.
Here are some possibilities to get you started:
- Tell me about your greatest strength. With this question, you are looking to know what makes them right for your job. Push a little and find out why they think they are suited to your open position.
- Describe your greatest weakness. You’re looking for honesty and transparency here. Everyone has a weakness, something they’d like to improve upon. If your candidate can’t come up with one, they probably aren’t right for your restaurant.
- Describe one of the hardest moments you’ve had in your work life and how you overcame it. If they’ve worked in a restaurant before, you want to know about this. If not, that’s okay. You are looking for how they handle and manage conflict.
- Tell me your favorite part about being a (the position) and your least favorite part. This again gives you insight into your candidate’s personality and character.
Your front of house staff is vital to your success. They represent your restaurant and can mean the difference between a loyal customer and a disgruntled one you never see again.
We’ve discussed what to look for, and now it’s time to consider how to retain them.
According to the National Restaurant Association, the employee turnover rate in the restaurant industry is well over 70%.
You’ll find there are a few reasons for this including:
- Restaurants are the largest employers of teenagers and students.
- The restaurant industry staffs according to the seasons which results in cyclical turnovers.
Yet, you’ll also find that your regular full-time employees turnover due to burnout and upward mobility as well.
So, how do you retain your front of house staff? First, you hire correctly. Second, you train them exceptionally well. Third, you treat them with the same respect you give your customers.
You are now well on your way to hiring front of house and knowing what to look for.
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