An essay from Chef Rick Powless to all FoH staff, because you are all a part of our Food Service Industry family, and when we work together, we produce something rather beautiful for our customers… A positive experience they won’t soon forget.
As a Chef, a Hospitality teacher and a family man, I feel an immense responsibility to ensure that the Food Service Industry is held to a standard that highlights the beauty of what we do. What is it that we do, you may ask? Let me remind you of what many a Chef have been repeating through millennia.
We take a raw product and hold it within our hands. We touch it, we smell it, we taste it then we shape it…we take something so simple and we use all of our senses to create a food product that invites you into our lives. We toss these ingredients lovingly, season them, plate them and create food art for you. We know many of you then make plate adjustments to take that foodie photo that entices your followers to share in your culinary experience. This creation becomes an extension of who we are and makes us vulnerable to you, our patron. Humbly, we share ourselves with you through our dishes. You, the server, are an extension of who and what we are when you present our “art” to the anticipating customer.
We repeat this process over and over as we, the kitchen staff (BoH-Back of House), work in conditions that many would never even consider partaking in. The heat can be unbearable, the pace is blurring, the constant commands, responses and clanging of plates can deafen the sensitive ear. Many in this industry smoke, drink and spend our money on wild and crazy tattoos. We are family and even when it gets tough, we support one another. This is who we are, and this is what keeps us molded as one…this business is like none other. That drink we share as a team, as a family at the end of the night is our modest reward for a job well done…and many satisfied customers who have left us behind to continue on with their evening.
Why is this important, you ask. Here is my simple answer. Not only are the cooks, dishwashers, prep cooks,sous chefs and chefs all integrate into one big family, but FOH (front of House) staff are also considered to be family. The host/hostess, the server, the bartender,the porters and bus boys/bus girls are one of us. When we work together to complete a successful service, we all feel like champions. The smiles upon our faces, the laughter amongst friends, the hugs and hand shakes all say more than words ever could.
But when it goes awry, bitterness sets in and we become foes. FoH vs. BoH. Cooks vs. Servers. And it can get ugly. We are all well aware that this industry doesn’t pay well, and tips are what most of us depend on. If you (FoH) are sharing with BoH, it is most important not to jeopardize this relationship. If you do not share with B0H and your tips are yours (or you share with other FoH), pay close attention to detail. It can cost you. Servers, PLEASE become more professional.
Recently, I was dining out with my family and I witnessed what I can only assume to be a BRAIN FART by some serving staff. Really, do you NOT know that the customer is always watching you? You are being tipped based on what you do, say and how you react to the variables within an instant. Let this be the reminder to you to pay close attention.
- If you touch money, you do not touch food. This is the unwritten standard between FoH and BoH. It will get you verbal abuse from the Chef if you cross this line. What do I mean? I watched a server rearrange a plate in the window because when she removed the plate, the garnish fell off. She took her hands and started to rearrange everything on the plate when the Chef noticed and then it began. DO NOT DO THIS.
- I Saw a server actually rub her nose furiously to eliminate the itch, then take a plate from another server to take to a table. Seriously, who does this? NASTY.
- Watched a server actually scratch her behind then start pouring drinks for a table. Flavouring agent? Seriously, why would anyone do this in eye shot of a customer?
- Servers (both male and female) in the server’s station (visible to the customer) fixing their hair and then come right back out into the dining room without washing their hands. Enough said.
- In these times, I get that both men and women will put their hair up in a bun or pony tail. Please try to maintain your appearance if you are serving a customer. A server with really long hair, and even though it was pulled back into a pony tail, she had a lot of hair strands falling all over her face which kind of irritated me. This is why many complaints come back to the kitchen saying that the customer found hair in their food.
- I then witnessed a server carrying plates of food through the dining room to a table. He had the plates actually resting against his stomach. One can only hope that he had on a brand new shirt and that he had just begun his shift. Otherwise, who knows what was tagging along on his clothing.
- This was the most disturbing of all. I actually watched a server who had her long hair loosely flying about, and in front of the customers and the MANAGER, she pulls her hair back into a pony tail and continues to serve customers.
Most of what all of these situations have NOT going for them is the fact that not one of them washed their hands before handling food. It is truly blatant to groom yourself in front of customers and really…no one really wants to see that.
Such a true lack of professionalism. This is why customers tip poorly, or not at all. You are not just a representative of the business you work for, nor are you just a representative of the food or kitchen that you are a “family” member of, but your appearance, your attitude and how you carry yourself when interacting with customers says a lot about who you are…as a person. You are better than that.
Chef Rick Powless