Bridging the Communication Gap between front and back of house

March 21, 2023
Paul Rifkin

Few things impede the flow of service more than a breakdown between the front-of-house and back-of-house, which, once started, can quickly descend into chaos.

Personalities are often at play here, whether it is a strong head chef or a strong restaurant manager, each with different ideas and each with their own loyal staff. Junior staff too often see the disconnect and become unwitting protagonists, further exacerbating the issue.

What you end up with is scenarios such as the following:

The specials are presented by the chef to the front-of-house staff, followed by a snide remark about them never changing, from the back-of-house manager. The chef retorts, “what would you know? You’re not a chef, do your own job and control your waitstaff”. Followed by “they can’t even get the orders right”.

Service commences and a meal is sent back, the junior waitstaff is castigated by the kitchen for daring to bring a meal back, they back off and are clearly upset. The manager forcefully instructs the kitchen to remake the meal immediately, as the kitchen stuff mutters and seeks approval from their chefs that they are right, and the customer is wrong.

Other behaviours can follow where the chefs deliberately heat the plates too much, this is met by waitstaff loading up table orders and sending them all through together, swamping the kitchen.

Such games can continue throughout the service, resulting in a poor customer experience.

Poor communication between front-of-house and back-of-house teams can lead to a toxic work environment that is not only unpleasant but also unproductive. When staff members don’t feel heard or valued by their managers or colleagues, they are less likely to perform at their best. This can create an atmosphere where employees feel like they don’t belong or aren’t part of something bigger than themselves. This type of culture isn’t good for anyone involved in it.

Create solutions to eliminate the grey areas:

  • Eliminate misunderstandings. If a customer asks for something that requires additional ingredients or preparation time, it’s important that both parties are on the same page about how much time it will take and whether those ingredients are readily available in the kitchen.
  • Create a safe environment for communication.
  • Set expectations for communication.
  • Encourage feedback, especially when it’s negative.
  • Provide training and support to help team members communicate more effectively with each other and their customers.
  • The time investment in training has the potential to create a stronger team.

Although the General Manager, Human Resources or Operations Manager will step in to mediate, it is essential this process creates a “connect” or “meeting of the minds” between the front-of-house and back-of-house teams.

Both need to understand the challenges that each other has and how they can support each other.

Sometimes an “outsider” is best placed to identify the triggers and put strategies in place to reduce or remove these.

Create solutions to eliminate the grey areas:

  • Eliminate misunderstandings. If a customer asks for something that requires additional ingredients or preparation time, it’s important that both parties are on the same page about how much time it will take and whether those ingredients are readily available in the kitchen.
  • Create a safe environment for communication.
  • Set expectations for communication.
  • Encourage feedback, especially when it’s negative.
  • Provide training and support to help team members communicate more effectively with each other and their customers.
  • The time investment in training has the potential to create a stronger team.

Often the General Manager, Human Resources or Operation Manger will step in to mediate, it is essential this process creates a “connect” or “meeting of the minds” between the front of house and back of house teams. Both need to understand the challenges that each other has and how they can support each other.

Sometimes an “outsider” is best placed to identify the triggers and put strategies in place to reduce or remove these.

Chef Paul Rifkin

Paul Rifkin – chefpaulrifkin consulting Head Chef Mentoring and Fine-Tuning Specialist for Club Catering chefpaulrifkin@hotmail.com


Tags

Management, Paul Rifkin, staff


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