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Scott Schulfer

FOH Meaning: Front of House Restaurant Terms And Lingo

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The front of house (FOH) is where, as a guest, you directly experience a restaurant or bar. It is where memories are made. Every dining room, waiting area, table, seat, stool, booth, bar, and any other public part of a restaurant is the FOH.

It's where servers mingle with guests, bussers dart to and from, hosts and hostesses stand watch, and the restaurant manager roams. It's also where some strange FOH meanings, slang, and phrases are used. Read on to learn all about them!

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What Does FOH Mean?

FOH means Front of House, which refers to the public parts of bars and restaurants that guests interact with. Think the dining room, bar, cocktail area, patio, private dining rooms, waiting area, and coat check.

This is opposed to the meaning of BOH, or Back of House, where the various types of chefs and other kitchen workers perform their duties.

FOH Restaurant Lingo

#-top: The number refers to the size of the party that will be seated; a 3-top is three people, a 4-top is four people, and so on.

86'd: If an item is no longer available, it's 86'd. Some say the origin is from prohibition when a bar named Chumley's in New York City would direct all of its patrons out the 86 Bedford Street door while the cops were coming in the other entrance. Some others say entirely different things about 86 meaning.

Behind: Called out to let fellow employees know their location, usually said while walking briskly with a handful of plates.

Beverage director: Responsible for creating and maintaining the beverage menu and program at a restaurant or bar. Additionally, tasked with coming up with ideas to increase bar profits.

Burn the ice: Pouring hot water into an ice bin to melt the ice; if, for example, someone tries to dip a glass into the ice bin instead of using the ice scoop, and the glass breaks, it's time to burn the ice.

Busser: Responsible for clearing and resetting tables.

Campers: Guests at a table or bar who won't leave; prevents turning tables, selling more, and making more tips.

Chef's table: A table with a close, clear view of the kitchen and back of house activities; typically reserved for VIPs and special events.

Comp: Short for complimentary, to remove something from a bill.

Corner: Similar to behind but said when turning a blind corner: helpful echolocation to avoid a collision. Other variations include "hot corner!" and "coming around!"

Covers: One cover represents one diner sat and one meal served; if a restaurant seats and serves three tables of four, that's 12 covers.

Cross-sell: Cross-selling is one of the best practices that increase the average value order in restaurants and bars. Servers can recommend additional dishes or beverages that complement the main dish. For example, if the customer orders a seafood dish, the waiter can recommend a Chardonnay to go with the fish.

Cupcaking: This is a practice used by servers when they spend a lot of time talking and sometimes even flirting with guests. Usually, that’s done to secure a better tip. However, the reason could be that the waiter is trying to win some time for the kitchen to get ahead with the order.

Cut: When management ends someone's shift, that someone has been cut; it could be because traffic is slow and there's no need for the coverage, or because their shift has naturally come to an end.

Deuce: This is a common term for a table for two guests.

Double: Working two shifts in a row.

Double sat: Getting two new tables in a section back-to-back; can be a blessing (more money) or a curse (see: "in the weeds").

Drop the check: Delivering the check to a guest at the end of service.

ETA: The FOH meaning of this acronym is the same as in other instances – estimated time of arrival. It’s usually used for dishes as drinks can be prepared much quicker.

Floor manager: The manager who is present in the dining room, the kitchen, the bar, and is generally visible and available for staff and guests throughout the shift.

FOH: The meaning of FOH? The front of the house, or where the bar and dining areas are, as opposed to the back of house (BOH), otherwise known as the kitchen.

General manager: The top of the hierarchy, the general manager is responsible for the operation of the entire business: kitchen, front of house, bar, hiring, purchasing from distributors, you name it. The general manager comes up with strategies for how to increase restaurant sales. The buck stops with them.

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Grat: Short for gratuity, or tip; typically used when the gratuity is auto-applied due to party size.

Heard: Responding "heard!" is confirmation that you hear and understand something.

Host/hostess: Responsible for greeting customers as they enter, taking reservations, managing the waitlist, and seating customers.

Huddle-up: Also known as a pre-shift meeting, the huddle-up is when restaurant management addresses staff before a shift; topics covered include what to push, upselling opportunities, 86'd items, predicted covers, and more.

In the weeds: When someone is so overwhelmed that they can't catch up and service quality takes a hit. With that said, some staff can be weeded out (another version of the phrase!) and come out of it just fine.

Joiner: This term refers to customers who join the table late or unexpectedly.

No call no show: When a party has a reservation, doesn't show up, and doesn't call to reschedule or cancel.

Party: The group of guests, typically paired with their size: "a party of 4," "a party of 8," etc.

Pick up: To handle a table that's in someone else's section, typically if there is no server in that section or that section's server has just been double sat or is in the weeds.

Bar POS system: The point-of-sale system, or bar POS system, is the little kiosk you see waiters and bartenders punching orders into.

Push: To purposefully try to sell a specific item, usually if there's an excess of it or its shelf life is coming to an end, e.g., "Hey, everyone, push the duck tonight."

Reservation: The commitment a guest makes to visiting the restaurant at a certain time with a certain size party.

Run: To bring food from the kitchen or drinks from the bar to a guest; some restaurants have dedicated runners for each shift, some use their expos, and some rely on the kindness of passing servers.

Section: The collection of tables a restaurant server is responsible for.

Sidework: All tasks and operations that the FOH staff handles besides waiting. That includes filling salt in shakers or folding napkins.

Slammed: Similar to "in the weeds," though without the connotation of being overwhelmed. Typically, being slammed means a server, bartender, or chef is busy, but not losing control.

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Soft launch: A service before a restaurant or a bar is officially open, typically provided to friends, family, and special guests; a preview. It's also known as a soft opening by some in the hospitality industry.

Sommelier: The consummate wine expert in the building, dedicated to managing the wine program, building great wine lists, and helping guests choose the right wines. You can check out a sommelier documentary to see exactly how they boost a restaurant.

SOS: The FOH meaning of this acronym is sauce on the side. For example, a burger can be with barbeque SOS.

Station: See: "section."

Table service: Traditionally, this means any dining experience that involves a guest sitting at a table and being waited on; more recently, it's come to mean some fine dining meal preparation done tableside, like deboning a fish or slicing prime rib.

Tasting menu: A menu with smaller, sample-sized portions of numerous dishes, usually served in courses and at a set price.

Turn and burn: Quickly getting guests in and out to maximize sales and tips.

Upsell: This technique is similar to cross-selling. The FOH meaning of upselling is to convince customers to order a more expensive option from the menu.

Wanna learn more? Check out our restaurant terms and bar and restaurant dictionary

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