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Monday, August 1, 2011

Job Profiles: Front Line / Counter

It is important to remember that in the restaurant world, all experience counts. Most chefs and many restaurant owners all started in a fast food scenario or worked their way up from washing dishes. No job is beneath you, and it is all valuable in your career ladder. Service industry skills are valued by all industries. Everyone is looking for people with outstanding customer service skills, and the restaurant is a good place to get them. That being said...
Anyone that has worked in a fast food restaurant knows the position of front counter (counter) or front line. This person is the direct interaction between the customer and the restaurant. The front counter employee has several duties, but these should be their priorities:
  1. Greet/Treat every guest with a smile and a friendly attitude within a quick amount of time.
  2. Keep the dining room/lobby/front clean.
  3. Keep the bathrooms clean.
No one wants to feel ignored, unwelcome, or like they are hassling someone so the greeting is very important. Everyone, no matter their position, should greet the customer in an authentic and friendly manner. "Welcome to WhereEver Burger" verses "So glad to see you on this Sunday afternoon. Thanks for joining us at WhereEver Burger. Are you interested in the Sunday Sandwhich Special?" If you greet someone with a genuine love for the job with real hospitality it will make it very hard for them to start yelling at you if you make a mistake or the order is wrong. If you don't care about how you treat them, they will not care how they treat you.
The other side to the coin is that, the greeting needs to be fairly quick. The front counter employee should ALWAYS be in sight of the register (POS). If you can see the register, it is likely that you can see anyone waiting. This should not be a problem because the front counter crew should always either be at the front counter cleaning, stocking, expediting (packing), taking an order or in the dining room cleaning, stocking, or taking care of a guest. The only time they won't be able to see a guest coming is when they are cleaning the bathroom or using the bathroom. In either case the counter person should tell the manager or someone else to watch the front line while they are away.
The front line (behind the actual counter) should be kept stocked with all trays, cups, condiments, sides, containers, bags, and anything else they need. This area should remain clean as well, if you don't keep it clean it gets cluttered quickly, which makes it easier to confuse orders and slows the whole operation down. The lobby needs to be as clean as a surgery scrub room, well, maybe not that clean, but just as clean as possible. It should not be STICKY! (Almost nothing is worse than a sticky restaurant lobby). Everything should be clean from the napkin holder to the salt and pepper shakers. The lobby should be checked every 15 minutes or as often as possible. As a restaurant manager if I see even one empty tray on a trash can I feel that the lobby needs to be checked.
Bathrooms need to be checked every 30 minutes if not more often (every time you check the lobby, check the bathroom). Checking the bathroom doesn't mean going in noticing it's a mess then leaving it. It means checking the toilet paper, paper towels, soap, sanitizer, toilets, sinks, trash, walls, and floors, then filling/cleaning it all.
You are not a cook, so limit the amount of time you spend in the kitchen. If you have to do dishes, let someone know you are away from your register.
You are not a manager, if someone wants to speak to a manager or yell at you, go get a manager. The guest can yell at them not you, chances are you don't make enough money to put up with that nonsense.
Don't let anyone else make change or use your register. Thievery is too prevalent in the restaurant world to trust anyone to handle your money. You are responsible for the money, if you mess up you will get written up.
Follow these general guidelines and I can assure you things will start to look up for you at work. Obviously every restaurant is different. I haven't worked at every restaurant so I can't say how the job roles are for every place, but this is a solid set of rules to live by.

Long ago I served my time working the front counter.

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