Front of House vs Back of House: What's the Difference?

Sep 16


Georgie Hawthorne

Georgie Hawthorne

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When trying to understand how a restaurant operates, it is important to know the difference between the two vital sections that run its operations; the front of house and back of house. To laymen like us, it seems quite a simple definition. The front of house is where they serve their guests and includes waiters, servers and bussers who are dressed in their elegant and fancy server aprons, while the back of house consists of those people who are involved with the preparation of the food such as Chefs, cooks and other kitchen staff, decked out in their chef whites and chef aprons, such as bib aprons which cover their body from upper torso to the bottom.


The actual definition of these two vital areas in a restaurant or hotel, Front of House vs Back of House: What's the Difference? Articles go much deeper though, and should be clearly understood in order to fully comprehend the operation involved with running a successful restaurant or café.


The front of house involves those areas and people who have direct contact with and are exposed to guests and customers. Such areas will include the entryway, waiting area, hostess station, dining room, bar, restrooms, outdoor seating area etc, and involves those staff members such as the General Manager, Front of House Manager, Headwaiter, Sommelier, Bartender, Server, Host/Hostess, bussers etc. Each of these individuals will play a vital role in making their customers feel welcome and comfortable, and for providing them an exclusive experience while dining at the restaurant. Most of these staff members such as bartenders, waiters, bussers etc will be attired in elegant uniforms and wearing stylish server aprons with the restaurant branding on them.


The front of house is where one sets the aesthetic theme of the restaurant and makes it appealing for customers to walk into, while the staff in this specific section should be highly trained in how to handle guests and guest requests, including how to handle special needs guests. They should have a pleasing persona and be congenial at all times, even when handling difficult customers.


The back of house is where all the behind-the-scenes action takes place in a restaurant. These are areas and people that customers will generally not see or meet, and won’t have any interactions with, unless the Head Chef is required to meet a guest. The back of house is where the food is prepped, cooked and plated before being sent out to the customer, and hence since they are very much involved in the food preparation process, these staff members are required to wear clean uniforms at all times, such as Chef coats and pants, cook shirts, Chef Aprons etc. The aprons used by these staff members is very different to the ones used by the servers and waiters in the front. Kitchen staff generally wear bib aprons, which cover their entire body, from the upper torso down to the legs (usually below the knees) and are designed with a neck loop and waist tie to help make the apron fit snugly around the wearer, and there are no protruding bits that could cause a hazard by getting stuck in machinery or elsewhere.


The back of house section of a restaurant or hotel will include such areas as the kitchen, employee restrooms, administrative office etc, and the staff, especially kitchen staff, will have a hierarchy of positions which is strictly enforced. These positions include Head Chef, Sous Chef, Line Chef, Commis, Dishwasher etc. Whatever the position though, they will all be provided with uniforms that include chef aprons, in order to protect themselves from the hazards of the kitchen, as well as to ensure the highest level of hygiene and cleanliness in food preparation.


Whichever section they work in, it is with the combined efforts of both the front of house and back of house staff that a restaurant can carry out a successful business, and for this there should be excellent communication between the two sections. For example, if the kitchen is out of ingredients to make a certain dish, then they must immediately make the servers and waiters aware of this, and provide them with alternative dishes. The teamwork between the two sections should be seamless, and although they are considered as two separate sections, should move together as one well-oiled machine, because no team can survive on its own, but need everyone’s support from the General Manager to the busser in the front to the Head Chef and the dishwasher in the back. Hence creating an atmosphere of good teamwork and communication is vital for the business to be successful in providing their customers with the best possible dining experience.