In many restaurants the front of house (FOH) and back of house (BOH) can seem like two completely different worlds. Their day-to-day duties and pressures are often vastly different from one another and keeping them in sync can be a constant challenge. For example, both groups have been impacted by the rise in off-premise dining and the changes brought about by the pandemic, but in different ways. In many restaurants, FOH staff are balancing on-premise diners with an influx of to-go customers and delivery drivers, while workers in BOH positions are dealing with an increase in orders and managing the logistics of plating and packaging them properly.
Finding and retaining qualified restaurant staff is hard enough. Data can help you navigate through the complexities of FOH vs. BOH operations. With that information, you can manage and evaluate your restaurant staff more effectively. Here are the broader trends we’re seeing in the industry and how you can leverage data to understand how your staff is performing.
How Black Box Intelligence tracks restaurant staff metrics
We monitor restaurant trends by aggregating and analyzing the data we collect for our clients. As part of our Workforce Intelligence solution, we generate quarterly reports showing changes in staffing for FOH and BOH. The report is formatted to display a two-year view of what the clients’ staffing looks like now compared to pre-pandemic. That data can be broken down more granularly by looking at specific titles (such as kitchen manager, assistant manager or general manager).
For full service restaurants, we also track employees per unit (FOH). For example, YTD, the median for FOH employees per unit is 31.5, compared to 39 in 2019. If the ratio is too unbalanced, you’ll be able to see that, and compare it to guest sentiment data. This is a little harder to track for QSRs since the operating model is different. QSRs tend to look at staff as overall crew, and the lines between FOH vs. BOH are blurred. For QSRs, we look at staffing levels per unit and see how those levels compare with sales (for example, a restaurant may be doing 20% more sales with fewer staff than they had in 2019).
What the latest data says about FOH vs. BOH staff
So, what is the data telling us about FOH and BOH restaurant positions? Unsurprisingly, staffing levels are shrinking in both segments. Cuts to FOH restaurant workers have been larger, partially because they are a larger group. But operational shifts are also driving the trend. With so many off-premise orders, fewer FOH workers, especially wait staff, are needed.
Kitchens, on the other hand, are operating at high capacity, so that’s why BOH staffing levels haven’t dropped as significantly as the front of the house. But the high capacity means that many back of house workers are facing burnout, which can lead to increased dissatisfaction and turnover.
With everything that’s going on in the labor market, it’s not surprising that employee turnover is up for both groups. And with the front of the house in particular, turnover is higher compared to pre-pandemic levels. This may be due to the fact that employees have grown tired of policing customers and having to enforce masking rules on top of worrying about their own health. They’re leaving for other opportunities that pay more, offer more flexibility and/or don’t require interaction with the public.
FOH staff also hear all of the complaints from the customers about food being slow or poorly prepared. The kitchen staff is insulated from that, especially since managers know that they are understaffed. FOH has to deal with customers who aren’t so understanding.
For more insights on what restaurant employees want, download The post-pandemic restaurant employee: Who wants to work and why, a report we developed with Snagajob on the needs and concerns of hourly workers.
Get granular FOH vs. BOH workforce Data
To get better insight on your front of house and back of house staff, consider BBI’s Workforce Intelligence solution. We provide granular metrics on your workforce so you can better understand your staff and compare your performance to your peers and competitors.
And Guest Intelligence data can help add further context to those metrics. For instance, if food prep and food quality sentiment is going down, that can reflect that your BOH staff is short-handed or in need of additional training. Sentiment around service speed, attentiveness and mentions of “short staff” can tell you about how FOH is performing. You can also look for mentions of keywords like “host,” server,” “manager,” etc.
Whether you choose a standalone solution or combine it with one of our other products, Workforce Intelligence data can be a vital tool to help you balance your staff’s needs, your guest’s expectations and the bottom line. Speak with an expert to get started.