Best Practice For Setting Up Front Of House

Best Practice For Setting Up Front Of House

The front of house is where your cherished diners sit.

Whether you’re just starting a restaurant, or you’ve been around a long while, it’s always good to take a look at the front of your house and evaluate it’s effectiveness.

In today’s article, we look at the best practice for setting up the front of the house so you are meeting customers’ needs and sending them off with a terrific experience.

First, though, let’s talk a bit about the front of house.

Defining Front of House

There are two terms used when describing a restaurant: back of house and front of house. The back of house is where your chef, cooks, dishwashers and support staff work, usually in the kitchen area.

The front of house includes the area where your diners eat and where your waiters, waitresses and hosts work. Your front of house includes your entry and waiting areas and your dining room. It’s anywhere your customers might be found.

Your front of house staff interacts with diners. Hosts and waitstaff are often referred to as “being on the floor,” since they are your restaurant’s front line.

Front of house staff must be dressed nicely, courteous, friendly and informative. (tweet this) Their behavior has the greatest impact on whether your customers enjoy your restaurant.

Now let’s look at the best practice for setting up front of house.

Basic Front of House Design

The front of your house can make or break your restaurant. Your dining room is vital to your brand image.

Without a superb atmosphere, your customers won’t fully appreciate your food.

When designing or remodeling the front of house, you want to balance ambiance with function. Consider the seating, wait stations and waiting areas in your plan. You’ll want to reflect on your brand and your restaurant’s theme so you can carry the concept throughout the front of house.

In addition, the space needs to run with great efficiency. This helps you serve guests quicker and with ease.

When considering the basics of your front of house design, you want to think about the following:

  • The comfort of your guests in relation to your seating capacity – how many will you seat?
  • The style of your design.
  • What do you want your diners to feel while in your restaurant?
  • Do you need a main dining room? Private dining rooms?
  • Will you have a bar area? A patio dining area?
  • Don’t forget these three biggies: entry and waiting area and server stations.

Front of House Entryway

According to Restaurant Development + Design, your “entrance reflects the hospitality the staff will deliver once diners take their seats.”

This is why it’s a great idea to think strategically about stocking the front of house. Remember – this area is the one that your customers see the first time they open your door. Two of the most important things to consider here are style and efficiency.

Go outside and walk in your restaurant as you were walking in for the first time. What do you see? Does it reflect the concept of your restaurant? Is it neat and tidy or disorganized?

Ask yourself if your host or hostess has everything they need to do their job to the best of their ability. Do they have the proper equipment and setup?

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your waiting area or entryway:

  • Do you have a welcoming doorway or foyer?
  • Do you have a place for your host? Your customers are greeted here first, and most likely their name and party number are taken for reservations. Is this area easy to navigate? Is it obvious to people as the walk in the door?
  • Let’s say it’s winter, or you live in a cold climate. Do you have a coat check? This is a great way to let your customers immediately know you care – like they’re visiting their best friend for dinner.
  • Do you offer any exit items? How about mints or small packages of gum? These are nice bonuses for guests as they leave your restaurant.
  • Do you have any packaged items you can sell such as sauces or desserts? This is a good place for them, but make sure they are done in an appetizing way.
  • How about take-out? Make sure that your take-out containers also match the look and feel of your restaurant.
Front of House

Waiters, waitresses, and hosts interact with guests in the front of the house and “on the floor.”

The Server Station

It’s best practice to set up your front of house server stations in the most unobtrusive way possible. None of your diners want to eat in the vicinity of an overcrowded, unorganized, dirty server station.

They do need to be placed throughout your dining area, and try and keep only three servers per station. Make sure they are always neat and tidy and not places of distraction. Ideas for stocking these include:

  • POS system
  • Check holders
  • Menus
  • Aprons
  • Water Station with pitchers and extra glasses
  • Trays
  • All tabletop displays including napkins and flatware

Front of House Service

Great customer service helps your restaurant stand out in the crowd. Your hostess and wait staff are an integral part of your front of house.

If your restaurant doesn’t have good customer service, your success may be limited. A key to your success is training your front of house staff to provide excellent customer service.

Not everyone is cut out to work in a restaurant, most especially in the front of the house. Your wait staff must be quick-thinking, creative, organized, friendly, able to multitask and able to handle complaints with grace.

The goal of your host, hostess, bartender, waiter and waitress is to provide you customers with the best possible experience, so that they want to come back again and again.

The front of house staff is your liaison or intermediary between the kitchen and your customers.

Train these folks in the art of customer service so they have the skills necessary to handle happy customers, unhappy customers, a dinnertime rush and the slow times. Help them plan for any eventuality.

Here are a few tips on training your front of house staff:

  1. Teach them the importance of dedication. Model this so it trickles down.
  2. Let them know that taking care of customers is a team effort.
  3. Provide customer service training. Either do it yourself or hire a professional.
  4. Conduct short daily meetings. You can use these as team building activities or to discuss the evening’s shift.
  5. Let your staff know it’s important to greet the regulars. Everyone loves to be recognized and appreciated – Cheers showed us this. Discuss your regulars so everyone is familiar with their likes and dislikes.
  6. Work on conflict resolution.

Final Thoughts

The front of house is arguably the most important part of your restaurant, especially because that’s where you’ll find your customers.

Front of house includes the entry and waiting areas, bar, dining room and even your restrooms. In the front of the house, you want to pay attention to the design of your space and the training of your staff to provide excellent customer service.

Once you understand how the front of house works and do everything you can to fine tune it, you’ll be well-poised for success. (tweet this)

Have you recently revamped your front of house? Did you make changes to the dining area? What changes did you implement with your front of house staff? Share your comments below – we’d love to hear them.

Images: Seemi Peltoniemi and Visual Hunt

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