In any workplace that’s under tremendous stress, conflict will likely emerge. In hospitality, that can sometimes take the form of friction between Front of House (FOH) and Back of House (BOH) staff.
The relationships may fracture because of a lack of understanding regarding respective roles, communication protocols haven’t been established or because the environment is poorly organised. Maybe there’s a lack of collaboration, or personality clashes. There are a multitude of reasons why tension runs high. While conflict – at times – might be unavoidable, management should endeavour to nip it in the bud when it arises. Here’s a few things to consider in keeping operations smooth between the two parties.
1) Get both parties on the same page
FOH and BOH staff need to perform their roles effectively, and they need to work well together. If there’s discord or miscommunication, a range of consequences may follow: substitute ingredients might be excluded, wait times misinterpreted and wrong orders processed. In the long (or short) run, it can damage the reputation of the venue.
For management, it’s really important that clear methods of communication are established early on between FOH and BOH. Part of this might involve training and development to ensure the codes and short-hand, turnover times and other details are understood by everyone involved. Perhaps it’s worth introducing all staff to the table management software (and incorporating a broader range of features) so everyone knows how and why the venue is organised in a certain way, and to eliminate superfluous, stressful responsibilities.
Clear communication might not happen organically. It may require different steps and procedures to make certain that everyone is on the same page, and the venue runs like a well-oiled machine.
2) Create an environment where close (or at least professional) relationships are developed
They might not be close friends, but some camaraderie and rapport – or, at least, a professional working relationship – between FOH and BOH staff is really important. Creating an environment where both parties feel comfortable offering encouragement – or constructive feedback – can help to ensure that the venue is well-placed to reward positive behaviours, and minimise errors. Consider relationship building exercises to consolidate the bond between the two parties. It might be eating meals together on a regular basis or – if possible – offering financial or social incentives when they hit relevant benchmarks. There might also be a place for performance reviews, where management might give an individual feedback on strengths or areas to improve. Individuals and teams respond to different initiatives, so customising the strategy is critical.
3) Address requests and concerns promptly
If the working environment is tense or unpleasant, it will engender conflict and erode relationships between FOH and BOH staff. There are so many factors that can create a dissatisfied workplace and – for management – discovering what they are may involve consultation with the two parties, a genuine interest in different personality styles and a willingness to act on their complaints. It’s really important that management quickly and efficiently works with FOH and BOH to determine what’s causing tension, how to take action and what it would take to create the best working environment possible. The next step is acting on suggestions, and staying alert to future conflicts.
4) Set up your venue for success
If a venue operates poorly or inefficiently, it’s bound to create unnecessary conflict. It might be the layout or physical space that needs changing. Perhaps yield management strategies aren’t used effectively, leading to too many/few covers per time-slot, and additional pressure regarding wait times. Maybe the menu is too large – or hasn’t been updated – which is leading to feelings of staleness or anxiety from kitchen staff. Perhaps the technological infrastructure is outdated, or there’s limited upward mobility, and staff are unmotivated in their roles. If conflict between FOH and BOH begins to emerge, it might be a good time for management to reflect on their operation, and make changes accordingly.
Developing and maintaining relationships is a tricky task for management in any industry, let alone in an environment as intense as a hospitality venue. It may take time for both parties and management to learn when intervention or breathing space is needed in the heat of conflict. But, establishing strong communication procedures, regularly engaging with staff and adjusting the venue’s organisational approach might play a part in avoiding unnecessary or longstanding friction, and creating harmonious and synchronous relationships between FOH and BOH staff.
Disclaimer: This guide is general in nature and does not take into account your individual circumstances. Before acting on any information, you should consider whether this is right for your business.
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