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Front of House Positions: Roles and Responsibilities in Hospitality

Marketing
4 Mar. 2024

Every successful restaurant relies on an awesome front of house team to keep things running smoothly and make sure guests leave happy. Your front of house (FOH) crew should be made up of folks with a range of skills and talents, all working together to make your restaurant shine. Finding the perfect fit for each role is super important for your restaurant's success.

Besides knowing how to work the restaurant's hospitality POS system, your front of house staff should also be friendly, outgoing, and totally customer-focused. They need to handle anything that comes their way with a smile. But each job in the front of house has its own specific tasks and responsibilities. This blog will explore:

  • Standard front of house positions
  • Tips for writing a standout job description for your restaurant's front of house team
  • How to make sure your front of house team is set up for success
  • Specialized front of house roles that might take your restaurant to the next level

Let's get started.

Standard front-of-house positions

These roles form the backbone of your establishment, shaping the customer experience and ensuring everything runs seamlessly. They include:

General manager

In many cases, restaurant owners can't be present daily to manage operations. That's where a general manager steps in, acting as the owner's voice and bridging the gap between them and the staff. Here's what a general manager's typical day looks like:

  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities to staff
  • Crafting employee schedules
  • Recruitment and training of new team members
  • Establishing customer service standards
  • Making pivotal administrative decisions
  • Implementing and managing business technologies
  • Ensuring a smooth restaurant workflow
  • Supervising front-of-house guest services
  • Guaranteeing memorable guest experiences
  • Providing regular progress reports to the restaurant owner

Qualifications: Most restaurant owners seek general managers with a Bachelor's Degree in hospitality, business, or restaurant management, coupled with 5-10 years of industry experience. GMs should excel in driving sales, meeting targets, and possess exceptional service and interpersonal skills.

TIP: Check out our restaurant manager duties guide for a better understanding of what a restaurant manager does. 

Shift supervisor

In the bustling world of restaurants, the general manager can't always be present round the clock. That's where a shift supervisor steps in to shoulder some managerial responsibilities. Their role includes:

  • Overseeing front-of-house employees and operations
  • Ensuring completion of necessary tasks by restaurant staff
  • Resolving staff disputes and addressing issues affecting service
  • Managing customer complaints with professionalism
  • Providing training and constructive feedback to front-of-house staff
  • Communicating effectively with the general manager

Qualifications: A shift supervisor typically holds at least a high school diploma or equivalent, along with relevant industry and leadership experience. Like the general manager, they must possess exceptional interpersonal and customer service skills, coupled with a drive to achieve goals. Comfort with multitasking is crucial, as they may need to assist front-of-house staff during peak hours.

Server or wait staff

Among the front-of-house staff, servers stand out as the face of the restaurant, trusted to ensure guests enjoy an exceptional dining experience. Typically assigned specific stations, servers play a pivotal role in maintaining order and excellence. Their responsibilities include:

  • Taking food and drink orders from guests
  • Ensuring water glasses remain filled throughout the meal
  • Offering insights on the menu and daily specials
  • Assisting with the setup and closure of the dining room
  • Serving as a liaison between guests and the kitchen
  • Handling billing and processing restaurant payments

Qualifications: As servers interact extensively with guests, they must exude friendliness, adaptability, and possess outstanding customer satisfaction and service skills. While prior industry experience is preferred by most full-service restaurants, some servers kickstart their careers as hosts or food runners, while others bring expertise from roles in retail or quick service establishments.

Bartender

Bartenders play a crucial role in the ambiance and operation of a dining room, tasked not only with mixing and serving drinks but also maintaining the bar's inventory and ensuring responsible alcohol service. Their duties encompass:

  • Setting up the bar at the start of their shift
  • Conducting inventory checks and restocking wine, beer, and spirits
  • Serving guests seated at the bar
  • Preparing drinks for servers to deliver to tables
  • Maintaining cleanliness and organization of the bar area
  • Handling billing and processing payments at the bar
  • Closing down the bar at the end of the evening

Qualifications: A proficient bartender should possess a strong knowledge of wines, beers, and cocktails, alongside customer-facing skills akin to those of servers. They must also demonstrate expertise in responsible alcohol service, checking the ID of younger guests, monitoring guests' alcohol consumption, and identifying signs of intoxication. Effective communication and problem-solving abilities are essential for ensuring guest safety and satisfaction.

Host or hostess

As the initial point of contact for guests, hosts play a pivotal role in setting the tone for the dining experience. Their responsibilities extend to:

  • Managing guest reservations
  • Creating and maintaining seating arrangements
  • Assisting and accommodating guests during wait times
  • Seating guests promptly as tables become available
  • Communicating any dietary restrictions or special requests to servers
  • Informing servers about guests celebrating special occasions

Qualifications: With their role as the face of the restaurant, hosts should exude high energy, possess excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and exhibit strong organizational abilities with keen attention to detail. This position often serves as an entry point into the industry, making it an ideal starting point for newcomers eager to break into the hospitality field.

TIP: Read our what does a hostess do in restaurants for more information on this!

Busser or food runner

Bussers and food runners play a vital role in ensuring smooth operations by handling essential tasks such as:

  • Delivering food orders to tables promptly
  • Refilling water glasses to keep guests hydrated
  • Clearing used glassware and tableware throughout the dining experience
  • Wiping down and preparing tables in the lobby and dining area
  • Maintaining cleanliness and organization in server stations

Qualifications: As entry-level positions, bussers and food runners should possess keen attention to detail and the ability to work swiftly to assist servers and guests efficiently. Effective communication skills and the capacity to multitask are also key attributes for success in these roles.

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Crafting an engaging front of house job description

Every front of house (FOH) position comes with its unique duties and skill requirements. However, there are shared characteristics and traits among FOH employees that contribute to the restaurant's success. While not every server or bartender needs to be the life of the party, they must embody friendliness and efficiency. Each staff member interacting with guests should possess specific skills and qualities.

Here's how you can create a compelling front of house job description that attracts suitable candidates and clearly outlines your needs and expectations:

Step 1: Define your ideal front of house employee

Your job description serves as your opportunity to outline the general skills and qualities you're seeking in a candidate. Think of it as your wishlist. Utilize descriptive adjectives to paint a picture of your ideal FOH employee and the key attributes required for success in the role.

For instance:

"We are seeking friendly, service-oriented FOH staff members who thrive in a fast-paced environment! Successful candidates will demonstrate excellent customer service skills, a positive demeanor, and strong organizational and multitasking abilities.

Our ideal candidate is adept at building rapport and engaging with diverse groups of people. They handle guest complaints with empathy and professionalism, remaining composed under pressure. We provide comprehensive training to familiarize you with our menu, service procedures, and restaurant POS system."

Step 2: Outline job responsibilities

Following the job description, provide a clear and concise bulleted list of the specific responsibilities and tasks expected from the front of house team member. While it's understood that teamwork is crucial during busy periods, these responsibilities outline the primary duties assigned to this specific employee. Keep the list straightforward yet detailed, ensuring clarity about their role.

Consider including any training materials or resources they'll utilize regularly, and prioritize the most critical duties at the top of the list. You can refer to the typical tasks outlined for each FOH position, as detailed earlier, and customize them to align with your restaurant's unique needs and expectations.

Step 3: Specify job requirements

In a separate bulleted list, clearly outline the job requirements for the front of house position. These requirements serve as criteria candidates must meet to be considered for the role. The list should prioritize essential qualifications at the top, followed by desirable attributes further down or potentially in a separate list.

Keep the list succinct and focused, ensuring candidates understand the conditions for employment. Here's an example of job requirements for a server position in a fine dining restaurant:

Job requirements:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Minimum two years of experience in fine dining
  • Availability for evenings, weekends, and holidays
  • Exceptional communication and interpersonal skills
  • Flexibility to perform additional duties as needed

Desirable attributes:

  • Food handler certificate
  • SmartServe certificate or equivalent
  • Basic knowledge of beer and wine

This will vary depending on the FOH role you're recruiting for.

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How to set your FOH staff up for sweet success

Now, let's discuss how you can ensure your front of house (FOH) staff is primed for success. It's not just about hiring the right people. No, it's also about providing them with the tools, training, and support they need to thrive in their roles. Here are our top tips:

Give them the best tools and technology

Provide your front of house team with user-friendly restaurant technology to streamline their tasks. Outdated systems and cumbersome workflows can bog down your servers, bartenders, and managers, hindering efficiency. Ordering shouldn't feel like rocket science—your restaurant's point-of-sale (POS) system should be intuitive, easy to navigate, and require minimal training for your FOH staff to grasp its functionality. Invest in modern, user-friendly restaurant POS solutions that empower your team to work more efficiently and deliver exceptional service to your guests.

Speed is paramount in the fast-paced world of restaurant service. Slow technology can be a major headache for servers and bartenders striving to maintain efficiency. Nothing dampens their efforts more than sluggish payment terminals, especially when faced with processing multiple credit cards to close out a single table.

A unified restaurant POS and payment processing services system can revolutionize your operations by automating transaction recording, thereby accelerating the payment process and minimizing the risk of errors associated with manual entry. This streamlined approach not only saves time but also alleviates the burden on managers who would otherwise spend precious hours reconciling POS system sales with credit card statements at the end of a grueling shift. Investing in efficient technology not only enhances your team's productivity but also enhances the overall guest experience.

Give them adequate and ongoing training

Ensuring your front of house (FOH) team is well-trained is key to delivering top-notch service that leaves a lasting impression on your guests. While thorough new hire training is crucial, don't forget about ongoing coaching and training for your seasoned staff members. Continuous learning keeps everyone sharp and ensures your team is always performing at their best.

Here are some excellent topics for ongoing training:

  • Beer, wine, and spirits knowledge
  • Premium product familiarity
  • Effective upselling techniques
  • In-depth exploration of your menu
  • Advanced food safety practices
  • Understanding what sets your restaurant apart
  • Customer service tips for creating exceptional dining experiences

There are plenty of ways to enhance your FOH team's knowledge and skills. Consider scheduling quick coaching sessions during downtime, enrolling your staff in courses (online or in-person), or hosting wine and beer training sessions on days off. Even a brief pre-shift meeting to discuss new products, menu items, or service focuses can make a big difference in keeping your team engaged and informed. Remember, investing in continuous training pays off in the form of happier customers and a more successful restaurant overall.

Give them materials they can refer back to

Empower your front of house restaurant employees, particularly your servers who field numerous guest inquiries, with comprehensive reference materials. From mastering your steps of service to memorizing your menu, there's a lot to absorb. Provide them with a training manual or quick reference guide they can turn to whenever they need answers on the fly.

Picture this: instead of risking the ire of a busy chef by interrupting them during service, your server can effortlessly consult a document detailing the ingredients and any food allergies present in each dish. It's a game changer that not only enhances efficiency but also fosters a smoother operation and happier team members.

Specialty front of house roles

While standard front of house (FOH) positions are common in most restaurants, some restaurants require specialized roles tailored to their unique needs. These positions may cater to fine dining experiences or support event and catering services, among other specialized functions. Here are a few examples of specialty front of house positions:

  • Sommelier: Ever wonder who's behind that impressive wine list at your favorite restaurant? Meet the sommelier! These folks have delved deep into the world of wine, earning their stripes through academic study. Their taste buds are practically royalty as they curate a wine selection that perfectly complements the dishes on offer. Plus, they're your go-to guru for wine recommendations—so don't hesitate to ask!
  • Banquet and private events coordinator: When it's time to roll out the red carpet for special events or VIP guests, you need a banquet and private events coordinator to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. They're like the conductor of the party orchestra, handling all the details from start to finish. From gathering guests' special requests to coordinating with the general manager and head chef, they're the ultimate event whisperer. And when the night's over, they're all ears for feedback to make the next event even better.
  • Catering coordinator: These people are the masterminds behind off-site catering services, connecting with clients, planning every detail, and executing events flawlessly. From setup to cleanup, they've got it covered. And hey, they're not just about making magic happen—they're also busy spreading the word and drumming up business for the restaurant's catering services.
  • Guest experience manager: In the world of hospitality, ensuring guests leave with smiles is paramount, and that's where the Guest Experience Manager steps in. Their mission? To make every visit memorable. From greeting guests with warmth to resolving any issues that may arise, they're the ultimate happiness advocates. They're always on the lookout for ways to elevate the entire dining experience, whether it's through personalized touches or innovative ideas.

Serving up our final thoughts

In wrapping up, it's clear that a strong front-of-house team is vital for your restaurant's success. Each member, from the manager to the servers, plays a key role in ensuring guests have a great experience.

By crafting clear job descriptions, providing top-notch training, and investing in the right technology, you set your team up for success. And let's not forget those specialized roles—like sommeliers or event coordinators—that add extra value to your establishment.

Your front-of-house team are the face of your restaurant. By supporting and nurturing them, you're not only ensuring smooth operations but also creating memorable experiences for your guests. Here's to your team and the success of your restaurant!

Liked this blog? Then check out our additional hospitality resources including our restaurant staff duties guide. 

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