There are a whole lot of restaurants around, and they’re all different. Of course there are many similarities, too, and one thing’s always the same (and we’re sure you’ll agree): there’s at least a little friction between front and back-of-house.
Your two key teams are always going to butt heads on some level. The trouble is, sparks usually only flash into fires during crucial times – the Saturday night rush; plating time for the wedding party. These moments can make or break your business, quite literally.
Hot tempers can therefore come with heavy costs. You can’t fix everything (and you shouldn’t try to play nanny, unless specifically requested to intervene) – but with a little smart planning, you can keep service running smoothly at any volume.
Two Dances – One Floor
Unless you’re lucky enough to have more than enough space (and we don’t think that ever really happens), your front-of-house and back-of-house staff are crossing over at more points than the pass. That’s virtually unavoidable, but there are some steps you can take to ensure nobody misses a beat.
Your servers and kitchen staff might dance to the same drummer, but their movements are usually nothing alike. Cooks get frustrated when someone interrupts their carefully-calculated routine, whether it’s by walking in the wrong place or asking the wrong question. Is that OK? No – everyone needs to play nicely together. But it’s entirely understandable! There’s a lot riding on whether these dishes come out perfectly and it really doesn’t take much to throw a wrench in the gears.
Make sure your front-of-house understands that the kitchen only looks chaotic – and have your line team lay out reasonable ground rules for both traversing the kitchen and communicating between departments.
- Where (and when) is it safe to walk?
- Who, specifically, should take requests from servers and stay updated on the dining room?
- What, specifically, happens when these protocols aren’t followed – and who gets affected?
That’s just scratching the surface.We’ll focus more specifically on reducing kitchen-side friction later, but it’s also important to have your front-of-house lay down similar guidelines.
- Who is responsible for communicating kitchen updates to front-of-house, and to whom?
- How should those updates be delivered (verbally, by whiteboard, etc.)?
- How should special requests, pickup orders, and questions be addressed?
Five Minutes to Make Your Night
One of the easiest – and most important – things you can do to reduce friction between front and back-of-house is to instate mandatory team meetings. Not the pointless, waste-an-hour corporate kind; but quick, meaningful group huddles.
This puts everybody on the same page going into service, and they’re much more likely to stay that way throughout. How many portions of bison remain? What’s important to sell tonight? It’s much easier to keep a running mental tab when you’re given a firm starting point to go from.
Most people like to shift the blame when they can, and that’s where a lot of this friction comes from. “Server sold too many chickens!” or “Chef didn’t tell me there were only 12!” – sound familiar?
A simple, 5-minute heads-up before every service can easily eliminate many of the most common issues between front and back-of-house.
One Tip to Please Them All
There’s one crucial tip that applies to every restaurant, everywhere in the world, and it always creates an immediate and noticeable difference:
Make sure your kitchen, bar, and dining room staff can do their jobs
– whether it’s slicing bread, mixing drinks, or tossing salads –
comfortably and without overlapping anyone else.
Yes, space is always at a premium. Equipment and tools can be costly. But friction between staff inevitably leads to lost revenue, and will end up costing you a lot more – you can take that to the bank.
Don’t let it happen! Instead, ask your staff about overlap. How and why does it happen? More importantly, when? Working together, you’ll probably be able to shape a ‘workspace schedule’ that lets everyone get their jobs done easily – and without bumping into each other at every turn.