Front-of-house staff require a combination of professionalism and personality. Brigita Perry talks about finding the balance.
04 April 2018 | Brigita Perry
What professional backgrounds do front-of-house (FoH) staff tend to come from, and how do those skills feed into their new roles?
There's no set career path when it comes to employing FoH staff. I used to work on cruise ships in the Caribbean before settling into my career in hospitality and FoH management.
At Sea Containers, our team includes a jazz singer who has toured North America, a clothing designer and part-time performers. They all fit into our client's ethos and ensure that the first impression always counts.
It takes a certain personality type to work in an FoH role, and traits include being personable, professional, friendly and organised. However, they all have a desire to help others, work together and deliver great service.
What are the core focus areas when providing training to FoH teams?
At Anabas, our training is a continuous process to ensure that our staff are the best they can be. We begin by mapping the customer journey, working in partnership to understand their requirements and develop staff training accordingly.
Part of our culture is to deliver brilliant basics. Our FoH staff's job is to represent Anabas and the client to the best of their ability - from image and presentation to service standards and delivery.
Training isn't just about teaching; it's about guiding and shaping your workforce. Informal methods work well such as learning on the job, shadowing, mentoring and practical skills sessions.
Training needs structure and fluidity so it can remain adaptable to the circumstances. It takes first-hand experience to know when to be professional and when you can be more relaxed and have fun or a joke with customers. Building a rapport takes time and these skills cannot be taught formally.
We encourage staff to take responsibility and provide a solution-focused service. They are taught to be aware of their surroundings and use their experience to be proactive, dealing with problems as soon as they arise, if not before! We also encourage them to be themselves.
What is the turnover rate among FoH staff, and why do you think this is so?
Staff typically stay in FoH roles for two to three years before seeking new opportunities. For many, it's a stepping stone but for others, it's the first step on the career ladder.
We work hard to understand every individual's goals and their potential to provide legitimate career paths that allow them to grow within our company. As Richard Branson has said, "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to."
In what ways does the provision of FoH teams differ across industry sectors?
The perception of work has changed as have the hours people work and where they do it. The office has become more important as a business tool to communicate culture, values and ethos. Buildings are becoming less about the space itself and more about the environment created.
The FoH role is an extension of that. I have worked in many sectors and each industry has a different 'vibe'. This manifests itself in different ways - from the way staff dress to how they are expected to behave, which should be mirrored in the FoH teams. If we are to represent our clients in the best way, we must understand what they're trying to achieve.
How can FMs maximise the value of their FoH teams?
FoH is about embracing the client's work culture. We encourage staff to represent our client and this includes working with the FM team to deliver a seamless service.
FoH staff are often the first point of contact and make the positive first impression. When it comes to supporting the FM role, we deliver concierge services, technological support and hospitality services.
How has technology/software impacted the way FoH teams do their jobs?
Developments in technology over the past decade have helped improve efficiency, increase security and save workers time from doing mundane tasks. This means staff have more time to offer added-value services to customers.
It's common to see iPads, and self-check-in points in receptions nowadays. While technology can improve processes, it shouldn't be used as a replacement for human interaction and face-to-face engagement. Nothing can match the feeling a positive interaction with a receptionist or security guard can bring.
Brigita Perry is front of house manager at Anabas