Servers Have It Rough, But Help Could Be On the Way
A new initiative hopes to shed light on an oft-ignored segment of the restaurant industry.
There is no shortage of challenges for the front of house, an industry term for those who work in customer-facing restaurant roles. A new project, launched by a collection of international hospitality organizations, aims to investigate these shortfalls, with the goal of developing better support systems.
Last month, The Front of House Project—conceptualized by digital publisher Fine Dining Lovers, in conjunction with a handful of partners like the Basque Culinary Center and Relais & Chateaux—launched two global surveys targeting both diners and hospitality workers.
“It has been hard to ignore the devastation that has been building over the last three years, and while a lot of support has been shown for the restaurant industry, it has focused on the restaurant as a whole, as well as the chef and kitchen,” says Ryan King, editor-in-chief of Fine Dining Lovers. “It was clear that [the] front of house was just not being given the attention they needed. Fifty percent of a dining experience is down to the amazing work of the front-of-house crews.”
The surveys, which were developed over the course of six months and edited by Vaughn Tan, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at University College London's School of Management, ask diners to select from a list of several possible beliefs to ascertain the respondent’s view of “good service” (i.e. “Waitstaff are attentive but don't get in my way or interrupt my meal repeatedly,” or “Waitstaff know the food and drinks menu in detail and can explain it to me”). The survey also poses questions like, “Do you believe that the customer is always right?”
The survey asks respondents in the industry things like what resources their current employer is lacking and quizzes them about their views on career-development opportunities. “Have you encountered discrimination of any kind from fellow restaurant team members while working in front of house in any of the restaurants you have worked at?” the questionnaire asks.
Both versions of the survey attempt to investigate how and why a guest may choose to shirk a reservation, and what impact that has on service.
King says that so far the questionnaire has received about 7,000 responses, though the surveys will be open until Aug. 25. The resulting data will be made accessible to all through a free-to-access digital report.
“The industry is on its knees,” he says. “We are in a critical position right now and this information may give us the opportunity to shape and direct the industry in the best way possible for the future.”