Dear Front of House: A Note from Back of House
What separates good seamless service from a disjointed one? Communication. If the front of house and the back of house aren’t communicating, service falls apart. So, whether this is new to you, or you just need a reminder—here’s a little note from the back of house.
1. We got here earlier
Even though dinner service doesn’t start until 5, we start around noon. There’s a lot of prep that goes into having our mis en place. So, at eight o’clock, when you feel like complaining, realize we’ve been working twice as long as you.
2. Say behind
There are a million reasons to say behind. Why? Here’s a good one—because BOH says so!
3. Don’t hang out in the kitchen
The kitchen is a small and busy space. Imagine all the food that goes out every night. For each plated dish, there’s tons of prep and mess. We never stop moving. Every open space is a walkway that brings food out of the refrigerator and onto plates. If you are standing in the kitchen, you are in taking up valuable space.
4. Know your menu
Knowing the menu saves everyone time. And guess what—it’s your job. So, please don’t ask the same question twice. Know common allergens and what we can do to help. There is a lot to learn, so please, pay attention to the questions around you, and learn as much as you can.
5. Work conditions
Kitchens are hotter, messier, and more dangerous than the dining room. Respect that. We get burned and cut. Sometimes our feet get wet and stay that way all night. We can’t wear the same uniform day after day. Oil stains never come out. Did we mention it is hot?
6. Take a breath
Mistakes hurt everyone. So, slow down, get organized, make an action plan, and see it through. Take the extra time to write down orders and review them before you fire them. When it gets overwhelming, fall back on your systems, and take your time. Remember—slow is fast! 🙂
7. Don’t ring all your orders at once
If you just got triple sat, we know it’s easier to take all the orders together. But don’t ring them in together. Space them out a little. Your food will come out faster and everyone will be happy.
8. Go through your expo
Your expo is literally paid to help you communicate with the kitchen. The kitchen knows the expo’s voice like the voice of their mother. Likewise, your expo knows the kitchen; your expo knows where they keep the anchovies, the capers, and the candied pecans. So, do yourself a favor, and don’t walk into the kitchen asking the pantry chef for something that’s with the pastry chef. Just ask your expo!
8. Know the chain of command
In the front of house, generally, any manager will do. In the kitchen, asking the right people the right questions is super important. If I am a line cook, I don’t make decisions about whether we 86 an item or serve it with a main component missing. I follow whatever the chef above me says. Each kitchen has a different chain of command, so get to know who is in charge.
In the kitchen, we live and die by our ability to work as a team. Following the tips above will help facilitate teamwork, but don’t forget to try to help while you are in the kitchen. If you are dropping off dishes, scrape and sort them. If you are just passing through, try to leave with full hands. If you fill a rack, send it through and replace it.
Thanks for listening.
The Back of House
PS: Leave your tip for FOH in the comments below.
My first restaurant job was working the graveyard shift washing dishes at a truck stop. I’ve since worked in every position in every type of restaurant. My three favorite things about the industry are the people, the contagious energy of hospitality, and the stunning views.
This profession can take you anywhere. I have passed my nights in quite lakefront restaurants and watching stunning ocean sunsets. But, my favorite of all was working just below Yosemite Falls, in Yosemite National Park.
I’ve always been a writer, and this industry has allowed me to travel, stay home with my son, and go to school, all while making good money. It is by far the best paying part-time gig! I am currently finishing a Masters in Technical Communication.