Sunday, August 26, 2007

BOH Versus FOH

One of the great rivalries in the restaurant business is BOH versus FOH. For those of you who have never worked in a restaurant, BOH stands for Back of the House, and FOH stands for Front of the House. Back of the House comprises the Chef, Sous Chef, Line Cooks, and Dishwashers. The Front of the House encompasses the Floor Managers, Hosts, Servers, and Bussers. Depending on the restaurant, the Expediter can be either. Some restaurants foster resentment betwixt the two, the smart ones foster a team philosophy.

My worst experience with inter-restaurant wars was with an independent, family owned, high-end Italian chain in Michigan. If you've watched the Sopranos, you know these characters. I was a server at the time, and I would have felt right at home on Riker's Island. These guyz had a real Godfather fixation and tried to browbeat everyone into a subservient role. Imagine arriving to work and having to pay $3.50 to park there (valet was $3, but unavailable to worker-bees). Opening sidework was a 2-hour ordeal, starting with wiping down every single plate and piece of complete silence. We would be standing side by side and not allowed to talk to each other. Then, your individual side-work, which would be done in, you guessed it, complete silence. Then, the dining room would be set to Obsessive Compulsive Perfection. I'm picky, but compared to them, I was Oscar Madison. (For you guys under 30, that's an Odd Couple reference) Next, while waiting for our section to be sat, we would line up next to the Host stand in formation. Again, in complete silence. And you would be shooshed if you talked! As each table would arrive, it was our duty to seat them for the, Hostess.

Dealing with the BOH (Back of the House) guys was even tougher. We were taught a complex language of how we were to ask for our food. One word off, or out of order and you were severely reprimanded by the Neanderthals behind the line. Oh, these Cretins put out some delicious food, incidentally. As long as you didn't get some of their cigarette ash mixed in. And if you were to make any mistake ringing in that order? You bought it. But, you couldn't eat it. That was for the cooks between Marlboros.

There have been good relationships, although they're harder to remember, being rarer. That was one good thing about Macaroni Grill. There was interaction between the FOH and BOH, since the kitchen is an open kitchen. Chit-chat was offered back and forth, and things were generally cordial.

I think the main generator of discord was $$$. When business is booming, those guys behind the lines know the servers are raking in some high dollars per hour. And I know some prima-donna servers don't realize how hard those cooks are working and sweating so that they can make those bucks. I think they should all work a week in each others' clogs. Maybe there'd be a little more harmony, a little more compassion. server alive would last a night as a dishwasher, the real backbone of any restaurant.


Anonymous said...

i was a server first at my restaurant, after a few months i did everything. i was a 'shift supervisor' aka a manager making shit for money, i was a line cook, a dish, prep cook, quite literally everything. generally speaking my week would look like this:

monday: Closing Broiler cook
tuesday: server/server trainer
weds: off
thurs: server
friday: expoditer
saturday: closing supervisor
sunday: opening cook ( meaning i came in, opened the line, did any cooking needed to be done from 10-5

Restaurant Gal said...

In every role I've had in a restaurant, I have had to traverse the boundaries of both houses. It is an interesting dance, I must say.

Anonymous said...

I'm a dishwasher and I had a server whine at me that he couldn't go home till i sent the silver through. He didnt take into account that I had three huge stacks of dishes piling up since the dinner rush had just left and the kitchen was beginning its breakdown. Oh and that I leave many hours after him. That said though most of the front is pretty respectful of the back and vise versa.

Michael L. Atkinson said...

FohBoh is always tough love. The big difference to me is attitude and relationships. Working BOH taught me how to work in a small space and be a good team player - anticipating the next move and not waiting to be asked to engage. Working FOH taught me to be efficient and organized. Always having a roaming eye and anticipating customer needs. So, my sense is the skill sets are very similar but the attitude is different. The best way to create a winning, workable and interactive environment, in my opinion, is to shift final responsibility from BOH to FOH. The final QC is in the hands of the foodservers. Also, pre-shift meetings are a must, even if they take 3 minutes. Their is also another way to communicate with all staff in a restaurant. I recommend that restaurants join, start a private group ($199.00 per month) invite all employees to join and communicate and engage interactively discussing all FOH BOH matters in complete transparency. Amazing things happen when there is no place to hide and the playing field is leveled. And, it's all good news for management and staff.

Adrian and Jeff said...

Greetings to All the Hospitality Industry Heads! I have always been FOH...Bartender and I must say as proud as I am to say that, I must tip my hat to the BOH, or at least a "good" BOH. I lift and carry and drag and move and stock, and carry more beer cases around than I do my own laundry but I know that yall bust your asses back there! And OMG to the Italian Mob Restaurant...complete silence, I think I would be some what nervous working there, either that or I would just drink every day on the job to get through it...CHEERS!