Back-of-the-house’s important role in creating hospitality

Back-of-the-house’s important role in creating hospitality

By Andy Cook, Contributing Editor

Hospitality is the guiding force of the front-of-house. Whether it’s the hosts, servers, bartenders and/or bussers you see bustling about a full-service restaurant or the person at the counter and those keeping the dining area clean in quick service, these are the people responsible for projecting the value hospitality adds to the experience of the restaurant guest. Right?

It’s true that of all the people whose efforts are critical to the overall health and wellness of the many facets of foodservice – the workers who interact with the guest are certainly where the rubber-hits-the-road in regard to hospitality. These are the people who interpret – in real time – the fluid expectations of guests and creatively adjust their efforts to meet or exceed them. By far, these are the people who receive the lion’s share of the credit (or blame) for a restaurant’s hospitality efforts.

Shift your attention toward those working behind-the-scenes and you’ll see a whole crew of unsung heroes of hospitality making all the efforts of the smiling busybodies in the dining room possible.

In some instances, it’s obvious; many full-service eateries have an open kitchen design where all the efforts of the cooks are on display. We like that as restaurant guests; for some of us, it’s entertainment to watch a busy kitchen crew walking the line between order and chaos. It’s also fun to chat it up with the dangerous dudes who hold sharp blades and play with fire.

Scott Fraser (this month’s Member Spotlight) designed his restaurant with seats facing the kitchen, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I can’t imagine cooking without an open concept – it’s the best of both worlds,” said Fraser. “We get to create and serve, it adds a dynamic to what we do.”

This is hospitality. Whether the kitchen is on display or not, the back-of-the-house’s efforts are essentially just as hospitality driven as the front-of-the-house. These hard working culinary professionals do a lot to move the engine of hospitality; in many ways, what they do goes unnoticed – unless they don’t do it.

They balance the portions and ingredients for maximum effect, they decorate the plates with a pleasing aesthetic of edible merchandising if not a bona fide artistic expression, in and of itself. They fine tune each dish to put it in line with the diner’s special instructions (X on the side, sub this for that, easy on the blank, allergies.) Add to all that, these people are masters of multitasking; able to synchronize every detail of every dish; cooking time, side dishes, station of production, etc., and having the variety of each table come together within moments of each other.

They don’t do it because it’s easy; they put out the effort because it adds to the value of the diner’s overall experience.

There are diners out there, myself included, who seek out a restaurant with counter service overlooking the kitchen, if not a table or two in the back-of-house. In the age of the celebrity chef, people are more in tune to the efforts of the back-of-house; they crave it. There are countless websites and a score of televised programs devoted to food preparation. For some, an ordered dish is simply not ready for consumption until a picture of it has been immortalized on social media.

With minimum wage rising locally and across the country, combined with the low profit margins of the industry, many restaurateurs are looking for ways to balance the income inequity between the front and back-of-house. Whether it be tip pool reform, in the macro, or tip out to the kitchen, in the micro, many restaurateurs are showing they care about and are aware of the back to front efforts of hospitality.

(Source: Washington Restaurant Magazine, March 2015)