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Anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry, especially in the US, will have felt the divide between front and back of house. It’s a constant issue and one that many restaurateurs have tried to address recently with the scrapping of tipping systems.
One of our favourite culinary writers, Chris Hill, has decided to tackle this issue in a recent Medium post in which he looks closely at what causes tension between FOH and BOH.
Hill explains that he believes four factors contribute to tension between the two brigades in restaurants:
1. Wage gaps — In most restaurants, the amount of wages a FOH makes is considerably more than their BOH counterparts.
2. BOH thinking that their work is more important, just because it’s more labor intensive and demanding.
3. BOH feeling like their work falls under the realm of having a skill, while they consider their FOH counterparts as mere 'order takers’.
4. Restaurant environments are tense and stressful. Not everyone is cut out for it, but even for those of us who are, it’s easier to fly off the handles when we are stressed and being tested, versus a normal 9 to 5 work environment where you might be pissed at a coworker for not CC’ing you on an email.
Hill highlights the first and most obvious reason as being the pay gaps between the staff members, but he also talks about kitchen crews who perceive their job as being more important than their FOH colleagues.
He goes on to explain that most of the tension actually boils down to high pressure working environments and the stressful environment he believes is one of the largest contributing factors to the tension felt in restaurants.
An issue he thinks can be easily resolved:
1. Remind ourselves that we’ve been the one who screwed up before and we will screw up again.
2. Give whomever made the mistake the benefit of the doubt, and assume that it was an honest mistake. Because it probably was.
3. Assume that the person on the other side that screwed up is doing their very best – just like you. Let’s try to assume that they are just as professional as we are.
4. Understand that in the moment, blaming someone for whatever it is that happened accomplishes nothing. Somebody screwed up, now how do we fix it and make it right? We can properly manage how and why the mistake was made later in the shif t – this hopefully keeps us from making the same mistake again in the future.
You can read a lot more on the issue on Hill’s post and don’t miss out on the chef’s new book, Making The Cut – a book that looks at how some of the world’s best chefs create success.
What do you think? Is underling stress the biggest cause of tension between FOH and BOH? How else can this issue be resolved?