For restaurateurs: 5 front-of-house pinch-points and how to avoid them

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Restaurant front-of-house team

If the restaurant's kitchen is the heart of your business, front of house is the constantly moving body. Like any other body, it has strengths and weaknesses, and occasional moments of pain.

The biggest issue for front of house is usually high staff turnover, and most pain points lead directly to turnover. High staff turnover is expensive.

If your front of house staffing looks like a revolving door, you have a problem.

So, what should you do to reduce or eliminate it?

1. Marketing Matters

Your front of house staff are part of your marketing. They’re the face of your restaurant, the people that tell customers about daily specials and remember your regulars.

It’s not just enough to get one-time diners in; you want people to love your place so much it becomes a regular experience for them.

Good front of house staff interface with the kitchen, customers and management seamlessly. A busy cover night is like a dance, where servers know every step and how to adjust when something disrupts that.

Make sure everyone on shift knows menu changes and specials in advance.

If you’ve run a big ad and you’re expecting a rush, tell your people before the shift starts. They need to know any specials advertised, because no matter how good they are, most servers don’t actually have psychic abilities.

2. Hire for The Team, Not for You

That doesn’t mean you need to hire someone that you want to drop into a small volcano halfway through the interview.

It means that you need to make sure that person is going to fit into the team well. Personality clashes on the restaurant floor escalate like few other working environments, and one person rubbing-up the rest of the team the wrong way can take a happy environment and turn it into the seventh level of hell.

Customers pick up on tension as soon as they walk in the door. Nobody wants to eat in a pit of seething resentment, so make sure your new hires are a good fit.

Restaurant waiters and waitresses

3. Train Your Team

Training a server does not mean pointing at the various stations and getting them to follow a more experienced staffer for an afternoon like a puppy on a leash.

It means you go through the menu with them, set expectations, explain the chit system and get them to try your food.

Servers at the end of the day are also salespeople. Customers will ask them what they recommend, what it tastes like, and what’s in the dish.

They can’t answer those questions honestly unless they’ve actually tried the dish. Set up a monthly staff meeting with dishes for everyone to try and discuss and see the difference when it comes to servers promoting your food.

4. Customers Are Not Gods

You need customers for your business to survive and thrive - but not every customer is right.

It’s a sad fact that servers get harassed and abused by customers, and an even sadder fact that a lot of restaurants let the customers get away with it.

Your front of house staff deserves your support. They work long hours in your business, and nobody should be abused as routine in their work.

Grow a backbone and show customers who abuse your staff the door, and make sure you train any and all managers to do the same. Your team knowing you have their backs makes for a much healthier working environment, and a happy restaurant is a good place to be.

Restaurant tip

5. Tips Are Not a Salary Substitute

The ultimate way to retain people is to pay them well. You can have great food, a brilliant working environment and the best people, but if your staff can’t afford to live on their pay you will lose them.

If you can’t afford to pay your people well, you need to review your business plan, because something has gone very wrong.

The aftermath of the Covid lockdown has seen people refuse to accept poor wages and working conditions like never before, and now that it’s proven people can work from home, it’s a lot easier to sit in your home and do a customer service job than be run off your feet for minimum wage.

If you expect tips to make up for a low wage, your revolving door is going to turn into a funfair spinning trap.

To summarise: front of house staff, like anyone else, need three things: a decent working environment, good communication through the business, and a decent living wage. Get this combination right and your restaurant floor is going to be its own best advertisement.

And finally - don't forget your restaurant insurance

No matter what size or what type of food you serve, we can help. Don’t forget to check your restaurant insurance policy to make sure your business is properly covered

Need a good restaurant business insurance broker? We’ve got you covered – click here to fill out a short form and we’ll pass your details onto our list of brokers.

Click here for the first part of our restaurant article.