Christina is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles who waits tables as a day job.
The Two Worlds of a Restaurant
Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant will understand there is a front of the house (FOH) and a back of the house (BOH). What this means for those not in the know is there is a dining room, where customers engage, and then there's the kitchen, where customers are not invited. These two areas are separated not only for the customers but also because the jobs are very different from one another and have different skill sets needed.
While FOH deals directly with the guests, BOH deals directly with the cuisine. Neither can operate without the other and yet, in my 20-plus years in the business, the FOH repeatedly gets more accolades and attention. To help balance the division, I've listed five ways we servers can help to make the BOH lives easier. We all know we would be nowhere without them, so let's show some respect!
5 Ways FOH Servers Can Help Make BOH Lives Better
1. Don't make the kitchen suffer for your mistakes
Pretty much every server has at one time or another (multiple times on some shifts!) blamed the kitchen for their own errors. But what's extra crappy is go to the line and try to demand they make up for the mistakes you made. Forget to order something? Maybe instead of telling line cooks or an expo to rush it, ask and be appreciative, owning up to your error. This small acknowledgment of responsibility and some appreciation can go a long way.
2. Bring the line cooks water
Yes, servers handle multiple tables at the same time, all the while dealing with allergies, children, special requests, birthdays, wine bottles, and more. We are busy. But so too are the line cooks and they are busy in a small space, in intense heat. Take a moment when you have a breather to bring the line some drinks because they can't leave, at least not with a wall of tickets. And remember to use plastic—deli cups are great. This simple gesture will not only boost morale but also let the BOH know you value the work they do.
3. Keep your hands and comments to yourself
You know how annoying it is when a customer tells you, a server, how to do your job, right? Well, imagine how a cook feels when you tell them how to do their job. Or think how they feel when you touch a plate they just constructed and you mess it up? Or maybe you've stolen so many garlic bread knots they're suddenly caught short for the last orders? The point is that if servers kept their hands (and comments) to themselves and only touched what the expo or line instructed them to, we can be helpful. And if we leave prep alone, we can be even more helpful. Remember, kitchen staff prep what they need and that doesn't include what you sneak to eat during a shift!
4. Don't save tickets to ring in all at once
As a server, we have some control over how we send our tickets to the kitchen. Not much, but some. Yes, if you get 10 tables at once, chances are the kitchen is going to get hit with 10 orders back to back. But if that isn't the case and your tables are spaced out, keep in mind that spacing out can also be helpful to the kitchen crew. Let's say you get five tables. It's not hard to get drinks going and ring in orders as quickly as you can for those ready while letting the ones lingering on the menu sit for a minute rather than trying to get all orders in at the same time. Keeping the kitchen in mind when sending orders will not only make your life as a server easier but will also make the BOH's lives easier too! And after all, aren't we both on the same team?
5. Reinforce and respect
When the kitchen does a good job, tell them. When they go the extra mile, thank them. When a guest raves about a special request the kitchen did for them, let them know how much it was appreciated. They don't get reinforcement from guests so why not be the one to let the BOH know if they've been complimented? And maybe even offer some of your own in the process? Did a crew member help you? Let them know. Offer feedback! And while you're at it, respect BOH organization and setup. Just as we servers don't want cooks making FOH adjustments, they don't want us messing up their organization and prep. Have respect and clean up after yourself. They are not there to clean up after you!
Together, FOH and BOH make the wheels of the restaurant move and each provides a valuable dining experience for the guests. Working together as a team can not only raise staff morale but can also end the mental division of labor, unifying staff for a more beneficial and positive experience for everyone involved.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Christina Parisi