“FOH” & “BOH”: What you need to know
By Barry Mills
FOHBOH. Split that in half and you have two equal parts to the inner workings of what makes a restaurant run. The “front of house”(FOH) is all aspects of the restaurant forward of the kitchen wall, and, if there’s one, an expo “window.” The “back of house” (BOH) is simply the kitchen. Considered “industry terms,” the FOH
and BOH are machines that any aspiring restaurateur should be more than familiar
A restaurateur is someone that I’ve always aspired to be. Once a pizza delivery boy, I’ve been working my way up in the industry ever since my delivery days. Soon enough I found myself in the “back of house” making pizzas and calzones, eventually taking over the dough-making responsibilities — made fresh daily! From there, I was prep, line cook and kitchen manager at various kinds of restaurants in Atlanta. During my time working in the back of house, I learned that those jobs made up only half of the restaurant as a whole.
To be an operator, you have to excel in many things. It does you little good if you are great at one thing but can’t do everything else. I knew it was time to explore the other half. I ventured beyond the wall into “the front of house.” Throughout the years, I worked as a server assistant, server, server captain, bartender, dining room manager and lastly, general manager.
The FOH and BOH machines work together to make a restaurant run well. Each is constantly interacting with the other to offer the best experience to our diners possible. There is seniority, multiple persons and personalities and a dynamic that you are only aware of if you have been so lucky as to have worked in both areas of the restaurant. Any server who has been in the industry long enough will tell you, it is in your best advantage to be close friends with the kitchen or at least grab a drink with the expo every once in a while if you want to have any pull when the kitchen is in the weeds and your tables have 30-minute ticket times.
Whether it is fine dining or casual dining, there’s always a BOH and FOH working together to make the restaurant run. While on the surface most people would assume that casual and fine dining are pretty similar, there are large differentiations. Pilots and train engineers are both in the transportation industry, but I wouldn’t be quick to switch those positions out next time I’m on a transatlantic.
Casual and fine dining is selling different experiences for the customer, and each customer has different needs and reasons for choosing one over the other. They are both selling a dining experience of sorts, but the needs are different. Casual is typically about convenience and value, getting a decent meal at a cheap price with as little hassle as possible. Fine dining is typically more aligned to customers seeking a dining or social experience and willing to spend a premium for higher-end environments and food.
Throughout my career I’ve learned that neither front of house or back of house is more important than the other, no matter what the environment. Being a restaurant owner is like majoring in a bunch of minors. If opening a restaurant is your dream, follow it; just be sure to do your homework along the way. It requires tons of generalized knowledge way outside of the back or front of house such as business, finance, management, marketing, culinary arts, beverage management, law and EMP(mechanical electrical & plumbing) to name a few. Having significant experience in both BOH and FOH settings gave me an integral head start in understanding the total requirement it takes to operate a restaurant as a whole.
After spending a decade working through the ranks of Atlanta’s restaurant and hospitality industry, Barry Mills has added a new job title to his resume with the opening of FLIP burger boutique and HD1: restaurateur.