Connecting your front and back of house

Article by Aaron Copestake | 27th September 2019

Rumour has it that in medieval France, chefs were at risk of being killed by diners after having delivered a peak dining experience so profound, it was considered a tragedy to let them live and risk having them cook a worse dish.

I’m not often prone to hyperbole, though I recently had a restaurant experience so near perfect that the entire food and beverage team should count themselves lucky they weren’t around back then—they might have had reason to fear for their lives.

Put your money where your word-of-mouth is

According to a 28,000-respondent study by Nielsen across 56 countries, 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.

So it’s no surprise to have discovered this place via word-of-mouth—and this is what drives brand strength for restaurants.

The food at this place? Authentic Indian.

The atmosphere? Busy but relaxed.

The setting? Spacious-but-cosy with a unified theme using clever decor and funky typography. The whole place tells you the story of its heritage as you move through it.

The operation?… military.

Food runners, zonal table waiters, free finger-food while you queue and a free cocktail if you queue for more than 30 minutes. This is the kind of place people talk about.

I was left flabbergasted that so many restaurants manage to get it so wrong and miss out on the word-of-mouth magic.

Kitchen nightmares

However… there was just one moment that took the stuffing out of my samosa slightly.

I was mopping my plate with the last scraps of peshwari naan when—to the imaginary sound of a broken record—a chef comes barreling out of the kitchen through the double doors, red in the face.

This was one unhappy chef…

I’d tell you what was said between the chef and manager, had I understood. Let’s just say the tone wasn’t pretty and the cause had clearly been a lack of communication.

The kitchen was out-of-the-loop and out of patience. In an instant, my impression of a flawless restaurant—shattered.

So what was the kitchen’s beef? Why had the chef felt it necessary to break rank and invade the restaurant to voice his frustrations?

“We’ll manage…”

Part of the issue is that restaurants operate interconnected workflows. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Leading industry news website, Big Hospitality observe that, to deliver on customer experience, restaurants need to…“…ensure the business has a good manager who has the skills to understand the many and varied stress points across both front and back-of-house”.

Here’s the problem…

During peak times, managers often find themselves mucking in with the team to pour drinks, change barrels, clear tables and seat bookings. In doing so, their role as coordinator between FOH and BOH is neglected and… well, that’s when chefs start throwing knives around.

Let your kitchen find its voice

So how do restaurateurs bring cohesion and harmony to front and back-of-house operations?

How can restaurant managers avoid strained relationships, spin more plates at once and have kitchen and restaurant pull in the same direction together without conflict and frayed tempers?

One way to do this is to create communications workflows with less moving parts.

Part of the problem is structural—most restaurant kitchens are hidden away and off-radar to managers whose focus is often dictated by what they see going on around them in the FOH environment.

The kitchen may be sounding an alert that the lobster bisque starter is now out of stock, or that there’s a haunch of venison under the pass going cold but, of course, the manager is out front setting up high chairs for a family booking. The message only gets out when someone from front-of-house happens to come into the kitchen.

By empowering back-of-house teams with their own crystal-clear, duplex communication system that puts them in touch with either restaurant managers, waiting staff or both, you break down the kitchen silo, mobilise FOH managers to focus on service delivery and maintain agility as a team when facing critical situations that require their immediate action and stress-free cooperation.

Operational issues can almost always be resolved with efficiency of communication and that can almost always be achieved with enhanced technological application.


Photo by Alex Robert on Unsplash

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