Ken Burgin

Kitchen Front of House

Reducing Tension Between Kitchen & Front of House

Friction between floor staff and kitchen is wasteful and unnecessary, but it won’t go away by itself. It usually needs intervention by senior management to bring all parties to their senses – here are the key issues that need to be understood and resolved:

Make sure everyone understands the word ‘teamwork’. Think in sporting terms – a successful team has agreed rules, a variety of skills, they chase a good score, they have good leaders, they only keep the best performers and they’re always finding ways to improve.

Improve the information flow. How is a successful shift or week measured? Number of customers, per-head spend, amount of tips, number of complaints or positive comments? A combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ KPIs will measure success, and most of them need to be shared with those responsible. The kitchen often complains they’re treated like mushrooms: kept in the dark and fed you-know-what. Modern POS systems and dashboards that gather data in one place are now common, and means everyone can be on the same page about what’s working, or not.

Include teamwork in Job Descriptions. Refer to communication skills right from the beginning. There is more expected from senior staff – they’re role models for young staff and those from different cultures. They can’t pretend their job is solely focused on production or customers: staff performance is central to their effectiveness. See Developing Leadership Skills in Young Hospitality Staff.

Better training for floor staff. Nothing drives the kitchen crazy like a dizzy new waiter who doesn’t know the menu, or basic service techniques. Don’t let them loose on customers, let alone near the kitchen.

Clean up the conversations. Gordon Ramsay may be a TV star, but is it OK if your staff speak like that to each other? Some topics should be off the agenda – sex and relationship chatter can be a minefield for harassment. It’s another form of bullying and works against hospitality becoming a mainstream profession.

Train supervisors and head chefs in short, fast discipline. When someone steps out of line in a way that affects performance, necessary feedback should not be avoided. Sometimes further counselling is needed, not harsh words.

Review the booking and order process. When the kitchen is flooded with orders, tempers will rise. Is there work needed to improve the flow of customers? And this is not about serving fewer people, but having less tension and happier customers.

Use technology to smooth the way. POS, QR codes and order terminals are a mature technology, with the added bonus that handwriting is no longer an issue and orders are standardised. Kitchen Display Systems (KDS) can show the order flow in the kitchen and highlight bottlenecks and timing issues that need to be fixed. Take misunderstanding off the menu!

Fix broken equipment. Faulty switches, ancient fryers, printers without fresh ink. Is there enough tableware, glassware and cutlery to avoid delays? Nothing drives staff crazy like a mean boss who makes their job harder.

Keep health and safety on the agenda. Is everyone getting the sleep they need, and keeping off the booze? Are drugs cool, or not? This is not interference, just being active with your ‘Duty of Care’.

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