The difference between the Front of House and Back of House

Front of House worker at restaurant

Ever wondered about the "front of house" and "back of house" in hospitality? Let's clarify their meanings, roles, and the importance of understanding how they work together.

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or hotel, you have probably heard the terms “front of house” and “back of house” used often to describe the different areas of a hospitality business. But what exactly do these terms mean? And why is it important to understand the difference between them, and how they work together?

To get to the bottom of this question, let’s start with the basics and take a look at what “front of house” and “back of house” actually mean, including what different staff and skills they require.

What is front of house (FOH)?

The front of house (FOH) basically refers to the area of a hospitality establishment that is visible and accessible to customers, whether it’s in a restaurant or a hotel. This includes the dining room, lobby, hotel facilities such as gym, bar, event venue and any other public areas where guests are served.

The front of house represents the public face of your hospitality business; it’s what guests see, hear and feel - and so it’s crucial to ensure that every aspect of the guest experience of your front of house is positive.

Front of house staff plays a hugely important role in creating a welcoming FOH atmosphere, providing excellent customer service, maintaining the appearance and safety of FOH spaces, and ensuring that guests have an enjoyable experience.

Some common roles in the front of house include:

  • Host/Hostess
  • Wait Staff
  • Bartender
  • Sommelier
  • Concierge
  • Front Desk Assistant
  • Event Staff
  • Fitness and Recreation staff
  • Front of House Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Restaurant or Bar Manager

Because front of house is focused mainly on customer service, many of the skills you need to be an effective front of house worker are ‘soft skills’. These skills can be developed through practice on the job, or while undergoing formal training:

  • Communication and negotiation
  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Organisation
  • Attention to detail
  • Multitasking
  • Cultural awareness
  • Positive attitude
  • Language skills
  • Problem-solving

Front of house can be an incredibly rewarding place to have a career because you get to interact with customers and see the impact you can have on their day: creating memorable experiences and finding solutions for them.

What is back of house (BOH)?

In contrast to the visible FOH side of the business, the back of house (BOH) refers to the area of a hospitality establishment that is not visible to customers. In terms of the physical space of the business, this includes the administrative offices, kitchen, storage areas, housekeeping, laundry, and any other spaces where food and supplies are prepared or stored.

In terms of hospitality business areas, the back of house includes any team that plays a role in running the business behind the scenes. This includes teams such as marketing, social media, finance, sales, rooms division, human resources, security and operations as well as cooks, kitchen and cleaning staff.

No hotel or restaurant business can function without a great team of staff managing all aspects of the business that are invisible to customers. From putting in stock orders to book-keeping, back of house staff are responsible for ensuring that the establishment runs smoothly and efficiently and that the front of house staff have everything they need to provide excellent service.

Some common roles in back of house include:

  • Housekeeping
  • Cleaning
  • Chef / Cook
  • Dishwasher
  • Prep Cook
  • Food Runner
  • Business Administration
  • HR
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Bookkeeping and Finance
  • Housekeeping Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Revenue Manager
  • Facilities Manager

As you can see from the list above, the back of house area requires lots of different types of staff with very different skill sets.

Back of house presents a very wide variety of roles from operations or finance to housekeeping, with the range of skills required for each role depending on the demands of the division. Staff working in kitchens will require training in culinary skills, whereas staff working in marketing or bookkeeping will require some qualification in those fields.

What skill set you need for back of house really depends on what area of a hospitality business interests you, and where you can see yourself developing a career. For most back of house roles, however, it’s not so important to develop the same level of customer service skills required for FOH roles.

Why is it so important to understand the difference between FOH and BOH?

Understanding the difference between the front of house and back of house is important for a number of reasons.

Firstly, if you work in hospitality, you’ll likely end up working in both these areas at some point in your career. In fact, when you study courses like Hospitality Management or Hotel Management, you are often required to gain experience in both front of house and back of house roles as part of your training. This is because if you hope to manage a restaurant or hotel one day, you need to understand how every aspect of the business works across all divisions.

If you end up running a small restaurant or boutique hotel, you will likely be performing roles across both areas. Understanding how each team fits in together across the whole business will help you perform your role, no matter which division or type of business you end up working in.

Secondly, understanding all the areas of front and back of house helps to clarify roles and responsibilities within a hospitality business. Front of house staff needs to know who exactly to ask when they need something from the back of house, and vice versa.

Thirdly, understanding the difference between the front and back of house helps to improve communication and teamwork. When everyone is on the same page about their roles and responsibilities, it’s easier to work together and communicate across divisions. It also increases empathy and team building; when you know how hard the kitchen staff are working for example, you are less likely to get impatient while waiting for an order to come through to the restaurant.

Finally, understanding the difference between the front and back of house can help to improve efficiency and productivity. When everyone knows what they’re responsible for, there's far less chance of overlapping or neglecting tasks, so everyone can work more quickly and effectively to get the job done.

Check our Hospitality Courses to learn more
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