Collaboration between the Front of the House and the Back of the House drives a restaurant in the right direction. Restaurants focus on having two strong teams, however solidifying into one strong team provides a successful restaurant that can handle many forms of pressure. FOH + BOH = Success. I, Caitlin Power, and Colin O’Hara have maintained this relationship and collaboration as General Manager and Chef de Cuisine by working closely together towards the same goal. We have provided a teamwork atmosphere for our staff that you can see when you walk in the door.
How did you each grow into your current positions and how has that influenced your relationship?
Colin: I started as a line cook when Catalyst first opened 4 years ago and was just promoted to Sous Chef when Caitlin started. I focused on our large private parties and maintaining focus on the line. Caitlin and I learned a lot together.
Caitlin: I started as an assistant manager at Catalyst in 2013 and as well focused on the private events. Colin and I really worked well together. I’ve experienced the heat of a kitchen and the fighting that occurs under pressure and we really didn’t face that. We encouraged the business and quick pace. Something we always did was thank each other and thank our teams whenever we finished plating and serving a course.
Over time, Colin was promoted to Chef de Cuisine and I to General Manager and we’ve really gone through the paces together.
How do you disseminate the culture of FOH/BOH synergy from the two of you to the staff?
Colin: We meet and evaluate and discuss situations and we really challenge each other. We get through it together, even if sometimes we don’t want to. When we are on the same page we really get a lot done and are very successful with our teams.
Caitlin: The staff sees our understanding of each other and respect for one another, it reflects on them. We support each other’s hard work and opinions and voice that to our staff. We also connect with each other’s teams and take the time out of our own position, which is valuable
What effects does a strong FOH/BOH relationship have on the internal team? On the guest experience?
Caitlin: it deeply affects the mood and ambience of the restaurant. A strong happy and collected team says a lot about a company. How we act and feel impacts them and that impacts the table. I always encourage my management team to talk to one another, make sure you’re on the same page and work on things together.
When time is short, what are some quick tips for continuing the foh/boh dialogue in place of a formal meeting?
Colin: formal meetings are great and we typically conduct those with the entire team but sometimes it’s good to just meet one on one. Caitlin and I sometimes meet for a quick coffee break or mainly at the end of the night and talk.
Caitlin: we try to conduct several formal meetings however it isn’t always realistic when busy. Talking at the end of the night means it is still fresh, which can sometimes be difficult if it was a challenging night. However, it’s effective to talk soon after a service because you may plan on discussing something another day but you run the risk of it slipping your mind or another discussion being needed the next day instead.
Colin: a lot of the time our talks are evaluating ourselves or our teams vs each other which makes for an open dialogue
Would you ever consider cross-training as a method for achieving a balanced foh/boh relationship among the staff?
Caitlin: We’ve had a few moments where a server or bartender expresses interest in the kitchen and we allow them to stage and get a feel as well as a few back of the house. It’s always helpful for them to experience something out of their comfort zone and causes them to be more aware of something they may not have been before.
Colin: Seeing one of the servers probably cook for the first time is pretty hilarious. We have a close team. they hangout outside of work and get to know each other’s experiences better and grow interests in each other fields