front of house restaurant positions

Every successful restaurant needs a top-notch front of house restaurant staff to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and customers are completely satisfied from the moment they walk through the door.

As of 2018, there were 15.1 million restaurant workers in the US, and 9 in 10 restaurants had fewer than 50 employees, according to the National Restaurant Association.

More important than size, however, is that your restaurant front of house team is comprised of workers with a variety of skills and talents, so finding the best person for each of these front of house positions is absolutely crucial for overall success. In general, front of house restaurant staffers should be friendly, outgoing, customer service-oriented, and able to handle situations on the fly. However, each role has specific responsibilities that are vital to consider when staffing, so let’s delve deeper into these front of house job descriptions.

The Owner (aka, the head honcho)

Not only is the owner the person who makes all of the financial and business-minded decisions for the restaurant, but they’re also typically the one who creates the restaurant’s brand and has a hand in setting it up from the start. Because of their high level of involvement in the business, the owner takes on all legal responsibility for the restaurant as well.

Qualifications
While a particular education level isn’t needed to open a business, a Bachelor’s Degree in business, culinary arts, hospitality, or management or industry experience is extremely helpful. New owners should be prepared to work long hours; be educated on legal issues, worker safety, and customer protection; and have great leadership, organizational, problem-solving, communication, and customer service skills.

The General Manager (aka, the person in charge)

It is likely that the owner will not be available to handle the restaurant’s day-to-day operations, so a general manager is hired to be their voice and act as a sort of liaison between them and the rest of the staff. The daily tasks of the general manager include:

  • Delegating roles and tasks among staff
  • Creating schedules for staff members
  • Determining rules for the staff to follow
  • Hiring and firing staff
  • Training new staff
  • Establishing good customer service protocol
  • Making administrative decisions
  • Setting up business technology
  • Creating a good restaurant flow
  • Maintaining clear communication between the back and front of house staff
  • Overseeing front of house guest services
  • Ensuring the ideal guest experience
  • Reporting progress and issues back to the restaurant owner

Qualifications
Most restauranteurs will want to hire GMs with at least a Bachelor’s Degree in hospitality, business, or management who also have 5-10 years of experience in the industry. GMs should have expert-level knowledge of driving sales and meeting goals, as well as top-notch customer service and interpersonal skills.

Owner, General Manager Shift Manager front of house graphic

The Shift Manager (aka, the stand-in for the GM)

Because many restaurants tend to hold long hours, it may be impossible for the general manager to be there at all times. This is where a shift manager comes in to take on some of those managerial responsibilities and alleviate some of the pressure. Their tasks include:

  • Supervising front of the house operations
  • Making sure that restaurant staff are successfully accomplishing their tasks
  • Appointing staff roles
  • Handling staff complaints
  • Assisting with any guest complaints
  • Training staff
  • Reporting back to the general manager

Qualifications
A shift manager should have a minimum of a high school education or equivalent, accompanied by industry and managerial experience. Like the General Manager, their interpersonal and customer service skills need to be outstanding, and they should be goal-driven. They should also be comfortable with pulling double-duty and be able to help out the rest of the staff during peak hours.

Host (aka, the welcome wagon)

Often the first point of contact for guests, the host maintains an important role in establishing guests’ needs and expectations and then conveying that information to their server. The host is also responsible for:

  • Setting up guests’ reservations
  • Organizing seating charts
  • Accommodating guests as they wait to be seated
  • Seating guests as tables become available
  • Making sure that servers are aware of guests’ allergies or food restrictions
  • Letting servers know if their guests are celebrating a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary

Qualifications
Since they are the first point of contact for guests, a host should be high energy, have great people and communication skills, be organized, and have an attention for detail. This is one of the more entry-level FOH positions, so it’s a great option for anyone trying to break into the restaurant industry.

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Servers (aka, the ones who take care of guests)

Arguably the most visible staff members in a restaurant, servers are responsible for ensuring the satisfaction of all guests. Many restaurants assign each server a station to help things run smoothly, and their tasks include:

  • Taking guests’ food and drink orders
  • Ensuring that water glasses are always filled
  • Providing guests with insights on the menu or daily specials
  • Setting up the dining room prior to service
  • Acting as the liaison between the guests and the kitchen
  • Processing bills after the meal has concluded

Qualifications
Because of their extensive face time with the guests, servers need to be friendly, accommodating, and have great customer service skills. Since many full-service restaurants prefer to hire servers with some industry experience, many new servers will start out as hosts, bussers, dishwashers, or working in a quick service or other food-related business.

Busser (aka, the ones who support the servers)

Sometimes, servers may act as their own bussers. However, in fine dining establishments, in particular, bussers hold a separate role to assist the server and help them dedicate maximum attention to the guests. A busser’s tasks include:

  • Serving dishes
  • Filling water glasses
  • Clearing tables throughout the meal
  • Cleaning tables after guests leave
  • Ensuring that stations are clean and organized for the staff’s use

Qualifications
Being a busser is another entry-level position and a great way for new workers to enter the industry. They should have great attention to detail and be able to move quickly to clear the tables for servers and guests. They should also be good communicators and multi-taskers, as they may be asked to run food and attend to a variety of customer needs.

Bartender (aka, the drink maker)

Bartenders are primarily responsible for the upkeep of their space behind the bar and are expected to have knowledge of wines, spirits, and certainly any drink specials that the restaurant offers. A bartender’s tasks include:

  • Set up the bar at the beginning of their shift
  • Serve drinks to guests seated at the bar
  • Make drinks for servers to bring to tables
  • Ensure that the bar is clean and tidy throughout
  • Shut down the bar at the end of the night

Qualifications
Bartenders should have a high level of knowledge in beer, wine, and cocktails, whether it comes from work experience or a bartending training program. Additionally, they need to have the same customer-facing skills that servers have, especially if food is served at the bar. A bartender should always be hyper-aware of their guests and their intoxication levels, and have the communication and problem-solving skills necessary to keep guests safe.

Bartender, Bar manager, front of house positions

Bar Manager (aka, the one in charge of the bar)

While some restaurants have both a bar manager and a sommelier, some may combine these two roles into one.

A bar manager shares the same responsibilities as bartenders in addition to the following:

  • Overseeing the bar staff
  • Maintaining bar staff schedule
  • Training staff
  • Regulating the bar inventory
  • Purchasing drink ingredients, including alcohol, mixers, and garnishes
  • Crafting new drink recipes
  • Keeping the bar menu up-to-date
  • Updating the bar POS system

Qualifications
Bar managers should have experience in the industry, preferably behind the bar. A great bar manager will have business management, inventory, and accounting skills, the ability to delegate tasks; and great conflict-resolution, communication, and interpersonal skills. While not necessary, a higher education degree in management, business, or hospitality is generally preferred.

The Extras

While most of the front of house positions above can be found in the majority of restaurants, there are other roles that will only exist in certain kinds of establishments. Some involve aspects of fine dining, while others support an event/catering side of the business.  

Sommelier (aka, the wine expert)

A sommelier is responsible primarily for the restaurant’s wine list. They have earned their title from studying wine at an academic level so their taste is to be respected as they craft a wine list that perfectly complements the restaurant’s dishes. They are also on hand to offer wine recommendations to guests.

Banquet and Private Events Coordinator (aka, the in-house party coordinator)

When special events are held at the restaurant – or VIP guests are in attendance – a banquet and private events coordinator is necessary to make sure everything runs seamlessly from start to finish. They are the guest’s first point of contact and will take in all of the guest’s special requests for their visit. The banquet and private events coordinator also coordinates with the general manager and head chef to ensure that the event is executed perfectly and feedback is well received.

Catering Coordinator (aka, the off-site party planner)

Some restaurants may choose to also operate off-site catering services, in which a catering coordinator is most definitely useful. They will connect with guests, plan and organize the event with them, and then ultimately execute the event flawlessly. When the catering is complete, the coordinator will take in all feedback and implement it for future success. This role can also include marketing the restaurant’s catering service, in particular, with the hopes of drumming up more business.

If you’re an owner getting ready to ramp up your hiring, be sure to consider the unique attributes that each restaurant front of house position requires.

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Written by   |  
Dawn Papandrea is freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Family Circle, WomansDay.com, and more. She loves trying new restaurants with her family and friends in her spare time.