Restaurant operations all through the USA, in fact, all through the world fall in two categories, ‘Front Of The House Operations’ and ‘Back Of The House Operations.’ Front of house restaurant management is critical, since it directly impacts your customer experience, and plays a significant role in customer retention and loyalty.
Back of the house operations are those which the customers are not in direct contact with. These include preparing meals, handling suppliers, managing inventory, creating reports, etc. While these have a significant impact on restaurant profitability and customer satisfaction, customers rarely judge a restaurant based on how well back of the house operates.
This is so because there is no point of contact between customers and the back of the house. You may wonder then, exactly what drives customer satisfaction in a restaurant? The answer to this is the front of the house operations. American diners rarely care how well stored your inventory is; if the dish seems unhygienic, they will be put off, and your front house operators will at the very least lose out on a good tip.
In this article, we will discuss what front of the house operations are, how they affect restaurant profits through customer satisfaction and retention, and how to manage your front of the house operations.
What Are Front Of The House Operations
The term ‘Front-Of-The-House’ implies any place in the restaurant where customers are allowed. This includes the dining area, bar area, reception, billing counter, and even the restrooms. Thus, the front of the house operations are those restaurant operations which customers are in direct contact with. Some of these operations include:-
- Greeting the customers as they enter
- Waiting on the customers
- Taking and delivering the food order
- Preparing and serving drinks
- Cleaning the restrooms
- Processing the cheque
The better executed the front of the house operations are, the better the service which customers receive is. Considering the stiff competition in the USA restaurant industry, it is essential that you deliver a stellar guest experience to keep customers coming back to your restaurant. Smooth front of the house restaurant operations also impacts the tips that the customers shell out.
That is why the back of the house operations rarely ever make much of a difference from the customer’s point of view.
How Front Of The House Operations Affect Customer Satisfaction And Restaurant Profits
Front-of-the-house operations have a significant and direct impact on customer satisfaction, customer retention, and restaurant profits.
Front of the house operations are the only restaurant operations which customers experience first hand. How smoothly your front of the house operates reflects how smoothly the restaurant operates. The customers, thus, form an overall impression of your restaurant based solely upon the performance of the front of the house staff. For example, if a customer comes to your restaurant and finds that the restroom is not clean, no matter how good or hygienic your food is, the chances are that the customer would still think that the entire establishment is unclean and never come back.
Your front-of-the-house operations directly impact your customer experience. Since it is your front house staff which will be dealing with the customers, their attitude will determine how a customer’s dining experience will go. If the way the host/hostess greets the customers is half-hearted, the diners will feel put off. On the other hand, if the service staff is jolly, amicable and quick on their feet, the customers will enjoy their experience and credit it to the ambiance your service staff creates.
If the staff at your restaurant is kid-friendly and can handle toddlers, the parents will get a much-needed break and love to come to your establishment. At the same time, if the waiter/waitress is rude to the kids or ignores them thinking that they will become too loud and a nuisance to deal with later, no matter how perfect everything in the restaurant is, the parents are never coming back. The speed and attitude with which your front of the house operates will determine customer satisfaction.
When choosing where to dine, the quality of service, the ambiance of the restaurant, and the familiarity which the service staff creates play just as important a role as the food served. Restaurants are not just about food but also about the decor, feel, comfort, and experience. While quality food is the responsibility of the kitchen staff, quality experience is created by the front house staff. A restaurant with a front house staff which is good at its job is a restaurant which can retain customers.
How To Manage Your Front Of The House Operations In The USA
Now that you know what front-of-the-house operations are and why they are so important, the next thing is to know how to manage them. The way you manage your front-of-the-house operations will determine how well your front house staff can perform. Here are some super effective tips to manage your front of the house operations:-
1. Understand The Experience
To understand what the loopholes in your front house operations are, you must first experience them as a customer would. Walk through your restaurant as a customer. See how your staff greets the customers, how long do customers need to wait before being seated, how clean and well maintained do you find the place once you are in the customer’s shoes, what makes you happy and what irks you.
Understanding all these details will enable you to understand where the front of house operations management is falling short and what needs to be corrected. Based on all this information, you should create an operations manual to serve as a written guide for future operations. This article will tell you all about writing a Restaurant Operations Manual.
2. Create An Effective Communication Chain
Even though it is the performance of your front house staff which determines customer experience, most of the times, the performance of your front house employees depends on the performance of your back of the house employees. For example, if the restaurant is out of an ingredient and the employee in charge of ordering inventory forgot to order the ingredient and did not tell the front house staff about it, it is the front house staff that bears the blow as customers leave dissatisfied.
Thus, you must create an effective chain of communication. Work to structure all the formal information so that work-related messages reach every employee. You can create communication structures or standard protocols for the same. For example, the back end manager must share status reports with the front end manager and vice-versa. At the same time, promote team lunches or get-togethers to build a sense of camaraderie among various team members.
3. Hold Pre-Shift Meetings
Holding pre-shift meetings is a good way to optimize your front of the house operations. Even if your employees know what to do and what not to do, a pre-shift meeting still gets everyone on the same page. Going through the duties broadly creates a mental checklist of things to do. A sequence of operations can be decided based on the discussion to most effectively cater to the customer needs based on how the last employee left.
4. Train Your Staff
The attrition in the restaurant industry of USA is pretty high. According to The National Restaurant Association, the employee turnover across the entire restaurant industry was 61% in 2016, and the percentage is almost twice as high for front-line workers. This means that you would be regularly hiring new staff at your restaurant, who would be needing regular training sessions to cater to the customers.
Have proper and standard training sessions for your staff members. When everyone is trained in the same way, a standard is set. This will enable employees to understand what is expected of them and the level of performance that they must give. At the same time, it will set a standard of expected service for your customers. They will know what to expect from your staff members. Consistency in service provided is just as important as consistency in food. A similar service experience will keep customer expectations realistic and within your do-able boundaries.
5. Trust Your Team
Finally, the best way to manage your restaurant front house operations is to trust your team. One of the biggest mistakes that restaurant owners and managers make is to try to do it all. This especially happens when the customers are involved. It is generally seen that the restaurant manager or, the owner of a new restaurant deals with the customers directly. While there is nothing wrong in this, most of the times it leaves service staff jobless. They grow to depend on the owner or the manager to do most of their work and stop taking responsibility or ownership of their jobs.
When one person tries to take the load of the entire team, the results are rarely positive. On the other hand, if your team members start thinking that you do not trust them with their jobs, they will either become dissatisfied or complacent employees. Neither of the two is good for business. So, trust your employees to do their job. Everyone makes mistakes, and you can step in and take charge when the situation demands but on a regular day to truly manage your front-of-the-house operations seamlessly, let you front house team do what it was hired to do.
Front of the house operations play an integral role in customer satisfaction. At the same time, the functioning of these operations is what your restaurant will be remembered by, thus making them the branding agents of your restaurant. If you are going to create any recall value among your guests, it is only through front house operations and food. While we can not give you a recipe for great food, do follow this recipe for the smooth functioning of your front of the house operations.