What Is the Front of the House at a Restaurant?

Definition & Examples of the Front of House

Waiter serving food to smiling customers at restaurant
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The term “front of house” refers to any place that customers can go within a restaurant. This includes the dining room, bar, patio, and restrooms.

Managing the front of the house involves almost everything that might affect the customer experience. Problems with any part of the front of house (FOH) can hurt a restaurant's business. Understanding how the front of the house operates is critical to the overall success of any restaurant.

What Is the Restaurant Front of House?

The front of the house designates all of the areas in a restaurant where customers can go. It is distinct from the back of the house, which includes the kitchen, stockrooms, and offices, and is only open to employees.

While the back of house is important, the FOH is where your customers directly experience your establishment. That means that every aspect of the front of house should be geared toward a good customer experience.

  • Acronym: FOH

How Managing the Front of House Works

Running the restaurant front of house includes managing several different areas of the business:

Ultimately, though, all of these come back to customer service, which is key to any restaurant's success. Every manager should train their FOH staff to excel at customer service. Empowering staff to handle problems confidently as they arise—such as a customer who has had too much to drink—keeps everyone safe and happy. When the inevitable complaint occurs, be sure that your staff knows how to handle it calmly and respectfully.

When it comes to your dining room layout and your menu plans, again, all of it revolves around customer service. It's important to view every front-of-house decision from the customer's perspective.

There are countless ways you can show your customers how much you appreciate their business. And it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money,⁠ or any money in some cases. For example, personal attention, especially by the owner or manager, can go a long way in making customers feel special.

Training your staff to welcome guests with good eye contact and friendly body language can help customers feel at ease right when they enter your restaurant.

Hiring for the Front of the House

There are many different jobs within a restaurant, and every single one, from the owner to the dishwasher, is essential to making a restaurant run smoothly. Many think working in a restaurant is easy, but waiting tables, tending bar, hosting, and even properly bussing tables requires special skill sets with which not everyone is equipped. Restaurant personnel who work the dining room and bar need to be friendly, organized, and quick on their feet. Experience is a plus, but the right person can learn quickly with on-the-job training. 

Stocking the Front of the House

The front of the house is the only area customers see, so it should consistently reflect the theme or concept of your restaurant. It should be designed efficiently, balancing ambiance with seating capacity.

Certain pieces of FOH equipment are also important in running an efficient restaurant. A well-stocked wait station will have everything servers and hosts need to provide excellent service. While the seating you choose can maximize the layout of the dining room, it's also important to consider restrooms and waiting areas. There are also technical issues to consider, such as installing a point of sale (POS) system to track sales.​

Promoting Your Restaurant

There are many types of promotions and marketing strategies you can use to bring in customers and keep your front of the house busy all year long. Restaurant promotions, whether run daily, weekly, or monthly, are great ways to show customer appreciation and bring in extra business at the same time. Promotions can range from a nightly happy hour to an annual customer appreciation day with drink and dinner specials.

Menu planning is a great strategy for promoting your restaurant. You can keep the menu interesting by featuring specials such as a steak and seafood night, dishes made with fresh seasonal produce, or a new low carbohydrate section.

From keeping customer service central to your mission to hiring the right people, to buying the right equipment, a well-organized front of the house will help lay the foundation for a successful restaurant.

Key Takeaways

  • The front of the house (FOH) of a restaurant describes every area of the restaurant where a customer can go.
  • It is distinct from the back of the house, which includes the kitchen, dishwashing area, stockroom, and offices.
  • Managing the front of house should be centered on customer service and involves everything from employee training to layout and design.