Party in the front, business in the back: a template for organisational success


Party in the front, business in the back: a template for organisational success

Party in the front, business in the back: a template for organisational success

Business Development Manager Matthew Smith on why the 'reverse mullet' business model can pay off when it comes to consistent guest experience.

Last year, at Propel’s summer conference, the founders of London based street food chain Pizza Pilgrims, brothers James and Thom Elliot, gave an inspiring talk. They described the model behind their business, the principle of which ensures it’s run like a slick machine without compromising the fun, spontaneous front-of-house vibe that keeps customers coming back. The simple, fresh and delicious menu is matched with service that’s relaxed and spirited, and it’s a combination that has won them rave reviews.

They explained that front of house guest experience that feels natural and fun relies on a finely honed organisational set-up behind the scenes. A whole lot of process and procedure is required to ensure that the business runs well, supporting the front of house team to deliver friendly, personal and entertaining service. They call this the ‘reverse mullet’ model: “Party in the front, business in the back.” It’s a memorable new name for something that any hospitality provider worth their salt understands intuitively.

When I ran front of house teams in restaurants before joining HGEM, I learnt that well thought-out organisational processes are the essential backbone to a happy, successful team. This backbone enables front of house team members to appear spontaneous and free-spirited in their interactions with guests. There’s an element of illusion in this; of course, the guest should never be aware of what’s going on back of house at all. But… without the backbone, the whole operation can easily fall apart.

Creating structures, whether ostensibly boring ones such as playbooks that help staff to remember what to do when, or more engaging individual targets that set a challenge (beat last year’s takings for the same day, for example), gives the team clear goals to shoot for and guidelines that unite them. This keeps individual team members on-message and ensures everyone pulls together.

Where there are lots of different staff and a number of managers, a weekly manager’s meeting is absolutely key to ensure consistency of service. These regular updates also improve awareness and communication throughout the team. Likewise, having a set process for handovers between teams (the day team and evening team, for example), can really help to achieve the smooth running of service and its visible pay off: consistent guest experience.

The best teams are always the ones where guests feel confident that they’re in good hands, and there doesn’t seem to be an obvious divide between front and back of house. A unified team won’t try to pass the buck. Those excuses you sometimes hear in restaurants (“The chef missed the order,” or “My colleague is training,”), are an indication that there’s a blame culture rather than an inclusive team spirit. This has a negative impact on guest experience and creates bad feeling. In order to avoid this, a culture of positivity needs to be invested in and supported at an organisational level.

In years to come, technology will support organisational processes in the industry more and more. For many operators, automating ordering, booking and customer service processes is already helping to facilitate the smoother behind-the-scenes running of their businesses, ensuring their mullet is expertly groomed, freeing up front of house staff up to direct their energies to the interpersonal touches that make a meal, or a stay memorable.

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