The natural result of communication is miscommunication. At a restaurant it is no different; however, complications and drama occurring between the front of house and back of house can cause real issues for the bottom line. The level of communication will certainly influence a customer’s experience, and poor communication can cause a horrible one.
Working to hinder negative communication patterns between kitchen and wait staff is critical. The first step to this is understanding the frustrations of each section of the restaurant:
Restaurant Front of the House (FOH)
The FOH has the responsibility of greeting and interacting with guests, taking orders, and bringing the items to the table. When a waitstaff becomes overwhelmed by guest demands, this can cause frustration and anger towards kitchen staff if food is made wrong or takes too long.
Restaurant Back of the House (BOH)
The BOH is a combination of the chef, cooks, bussers, and dishwashers who create dishes and ensure their cleanliness. The kitchen’s greatest hindrance is that they cannot see how many tables are filled, the line of customers standing at the door, or when a large table is seated. Additionally, BOH can become overwhelmed by large numbers of orders coming in at the same time due to seating and lack of lag time.
The kitchen staff’s largest liability is the order ticket which is their one piece of information from the front of house. If it is not written down to cook a burger to well-done, it will be cooked to the standard of the restaurant, which is likely to make the guest upset.
When poor communication rules the houses, working relations are likely to sour. It’s inevitable, particularly when any of these scenarios becomes a regular theme:
- Servers blame the kitchen staff for being too slow or making the wrong dish. The back of house defends themselves by saying they cooked what the ticket indicated.
- Only one or two servers are told when an ingredient or item is out, and the rest of the team continues placing orders unaware.
- Kitchen staff aren’t told about a rush and are unprepared for the onslaught of tickets.
- Orders are shouted instead of written down and delivered, which inherently cause issues.
- Food is sitting out ready for the customer and front of house isn’t aware.
All these common issues between the restaurant front and back of house are the results of bad and ineffective communication.
Ways to Mitigate Poor Communication
Some restaurants are building open kitchens to help BOH staff see the business of the restaurant and to allow for easier communication with FOH. Unfortunately, studies indicate that when the kitchen and customers can look each other in the eye, diners prefer their food 17% less than when meals are prepared with the kitchen out of sight. This will also depend on the type of restaurant. People generally enjoy watching pizza or pasta being made; however, don’t necessarily enjoy watching fish or a rack of lamb being prepared.
It is vitally important that both the BOH & FOH understand the perspective and needs of each other in order to have a more successful, less stressful working environment. When either house fails to communicate its situation clearly, the other is bound to feel the effects in a negative way. This can be done, in part, by shadowing during the orientation and ongoing training of staff. The more one can understand about the other’s job, the easier it is to understand each other’s frustrations.
When either house fails to communicate its situation clearly, the other is bound to feel the effects in a negative way. One of the most accepted ways to mitigate a lot of issues is by implementing a robust Point of Sale (POS) and Kitchen Display System (KDS). Some systems include mobile devices where wait staff can order at the same time the customer is ordering.
Lavu [WC1] continues to understand the needs between the BOH and FOH, and how a better tool for managing its operations works in real time. With no more paper tickets, FOH staff will input orders into the POS system, which communicates in real time with the KDS. With the ability to view orders clearly, BOH can stay on top of order times. The KDS can also help with other aspects of business, such as increased productivity and accuracy and decreased waste. The touch-screen display speeds up and simplifies operations as well.
Once a customer places his or her order, the meal experience is devoted to waiting for the dish to arrive. Even when the conversation is engaging and the drinks are served on time, being told that a dish is no longer available ruins the moment. There are times when you can’t mitigate the chances of that happening, but most of the time, it can be avoided. THE POS and KDS can also assist in this area of communication; when the BOH notifies wait staff that a dish is out, customers can be told upfront the dish has run out for the day.
More commonly, someone makes an honest mistake. A side is forgotten, or the wrong order is placed; even the wrong menu can be given. Yet the customer is the one who pays for it—often by waiting a long time to be served, or by getting the wrong dish. Mistakes are to be expected, yet if the kitchen isn’t told immediately about a mistake, no action will be taken to correct it. And the diner will not have the experience that was expected.
Restaurants naturally have a fast-paced environment. It is easy to understand that information runs the risk of not getting passed along, particularly when employees are stressed or rushing. It’s in these chaotic moments that an effective method of communication is especially important. Technological advances have made sharing statuses and sending updates between the front and back of house easy and instantaneous
When training and systems are put in place for effective communication, great things will happen. You can increase your order-to-table time, decrease losses in food waste, and enhance customer’s dining experiences—just by improving communications between the BOH and FOH.