Whether you were in Rochester, or Rome, for the better part of 2020 and a good portion of 2021, the hospitality industry ground to a halt. The global pandemic forced governments to employ preventative measures, causing businesses to remain closed until vaccines could be developed and deployed. The financial difficulty caused forced a significant number of hospitality workers to put down their bar tools or hang up their aprons and seek work in other industries, or retrain. Read more about the hospitality staffing crisis.
Whilst many businesses were forced to shut down due to the loss of sales and encroaching debts, many other bars, clubs and restaurants found an almost endless wave of sociable folk looking to shake off their lockdown blues and party, drink or dine with their friends.
This gave hospitality managers a new challenge – hiring staff competent to meet the demand. Read more about attracting hospitality talent.
In many places, hospitality wages have never been higher, as the supply of workers is on the low side and as most of the skills required in hospitality are developed on the job, it’s a fairly attractive time to be joining the job market as new entry. It’s also an attractive time for members of staff already in the market to upskill themselves quickly and apply for a different role which they may enjoy more or may be be better suited to them
So, we thought this is a perfect time to explore the different types of jobs what roles are there and how do they operate?
First up – the bar. Bar staff are quite self explanatory, this collection of roles are those that take care of the bar area. They are responsible for the running of an efficient, safe and fun bar area with the ultimate goal of providing exactly what guests need.
Bar Backs/Glass Collectors
The entry level position is typically “glass collectors” or “bar backs”. Often starting in their teens, glass collectors typically ensure that the bar is stocked with adequate glassware, that there aren’t a ton of empty glasses left on tables and that glasses and surfaces are cleaned. These positions are usually lower paid, but unless a bar is using disposable cups, are vital to the cleanliness and profits of any bar.
Bar backs may carry out some of these functions as well, but also ensure that the fridges are stocked, fruit garnish is cut and may ensure that the various cocktail mixtures are ready to go. Over time, bar backs may be trained up to become bartenders.
Bartenders tend the bar. They take customers, or waiters orders and ensure, handle cash transactions and keep the bar clean. Some bars are simple and only require a bartender to know how to open bottles, whilst other bars will require the bartenders to have a great knowledge of products and cocktails.
There are lot of things which make bartending interesting. There’s the opportunity to try interesting new drinks, experiment with flavour factors and build relationships between fellow staff and customers. The more passionate bartenders enter into cocktail creation competitions, become brand ambassadors for various spirit companies and become involved in a fun subculture of bartenders.
Bartenders more interested in the management side of things might work their way up into team leader positions. This will invariably involve training and mentoring new staff, carrying out stock checks, orchestrating deep cleans of the bar and working alongside the owners or bar managers to plan for events, or make menu adjustments.
Next up, the kitchen. Kitchen staff are typically the various levels of chefs who prepare the food in either restaurants, bars, coffee shops or anywhere else where food is served. Whilst culinary schools might train staff to prepare high-end cuisine, most kitchen staff start at the bottom and work their way up. Whilst fast food joints, or bar restaurants might not have as formal a hierarchy as upmarket restaurants, all food-serving joints tend to have their KPs.
Kitchen Porter (KP)
The KP is the entry level of kitchen staff. Like the bar back, or glass collector, their main role is to clean. This may mean standing around a hot, steam-espousing, fast-acting dishwashing machine and ensuring that all the crockery, cutlery, potts and pans are clean enough to send out to the restaurant floor. They’d likely be involved in the sweeping and mopping of the kitchen floor, bins and completing other hygiene related activities. Over time, KPs would get trained on cutting vegetables, which would introduce them to the first level on the cheffing ladder – Commis Chef.
Commis Chef (Junior)
Good commis chefs are attentive apprentices attempting to soak up as much knowledge as possible about the kitchen environment. They may have completed some training at a technical college and are starting off their careers in the field in this post, or they may have been KPs first. Commis assist the more experienced chefs and absorb their skills
Chef de Partie (Station)
Chef de parties, or station chefs are vital to the success of a kitchen. The station chefs cook the food being served to diners. They are in charge of different stations, with different chefs for different categories of food. One may do meats, others fish, others vegetables. Bigger kitchens may even have sauce, pastry or sauté chefs. Chef de Parties often act as quality control, passing the dishes onto the sous or head chefs before they are sent out.
Sous Chef (Deputy)
Sous chefs are the second-in-command in the kitchen. Whilst their roles may overlap with the head chefs at times, the deputies are typically more hands on and in busier restaurants, there may even more than one. They oversee the day-to-day activities, ensuring that nothing goes wrong, or that problems are rectified if they arise. They will order ingredients, keep up-to-date inventory lists, ensure cleanliness and provide the head chefs with everything they need, including information. They may work with the chef de parties to develop new ideas and dishes for the sections and will pitch them to the head chef.
Head Chef (Chef de Cuisine)
It may be surprising but head chefs sometimes do little of the actual cooking. They have worked their way into a position where they are managing the kitchen and its staff, ensuring they are carrying out their work with due diligence and to a high standard. They may be involved with some of the recruitment of the chefs and will often train or oversee the development of junior and station chefs. Read about how Chefs use Pilla to manage compliance in the kitchen and make best of their time.
Front of House. Front of House staff are the waiters, hosts, receptionists, food runners, sommeliers and maitre d’ which greet guests, make recommendations, ensure that orders are taken and delivered to the diners.
These are the immediate greeters of guests who check reservations, make sure that guests are sat down and comfortable but will typically hand over the order collection duties to waiters and waitresses.
Waiting staff do the mainstay of collecting orders, making recommendations to the staff and running the orders to the kitchen. Often, they’ll also bring the prepared food to the diners and check to make sure that they’re happy with the food and service received.
In more upmarket restaurants, they may have sommeliers who will make wine suggestions to perfectly accompany and complement meals. Sommeliers will undertake wine tasting courses such as the internationally recommended WSET, which will range from basic spirits and wine knowledge at level 1 to level 5, which can have a sommelier find employment offering private wine collection advice to the wealthiest people in the world. In even more upmarket restaurants, they may even have water sommeliers, with menus of mineral waters collected from exotic locations all over the world.
Most restaurants have a larger profit margin on drinks than they do food, so it is often incredibly beneficial for the restaurant to have waiters who know how to upsell wines or after dinner cocktails.
Head Waiter/Maitre d
The head waiters or maitre d’s will ensure the running of the front of house is carried out to incredibly exacting standards and seek to hire and train waiters.
Waiting can be stressful. In some psychological studies, waiting has come up more stressful than the role of brain surgeons but it can also be very rewarding, if you like delivering a great experience to customers and in certain restaurants, or areas, tipping can be great.
Arguably the secret to any restaurant is a perfect harmony between front of house and kitchen staff. Front of house have to communicate to the customer what is sold out, or what specials there are whilst passing onto the kitchen allergy warnings and what plates have been particularly popular. Ensuring that there is little to no animosity between both front and back of house is something which management should endeavour to do.
Management. In any restaurant, bar or club, you’ll need some great leadership. Whilst some academic institutions offer hospitality management courses and even bachelor or masters degrees in the subject, the vast majority of managers work their way up from the ground up. The best bar managers were once bar backs, restaurant managers either sweated it out in the kitchens or by doing their due diligence in front of house roles.
Management in most hospitality roles is largely about helping staff in other roles do their job as well possible. It involves setting up training schemes, hiring and interview processes, stock control, buying new products, organizing payroll, negotiating deals with suppliers, managing customer disputes, planning events, and carrying out sales and marketing campaigns.
The best managers are great communicators and have respect for different parts of the business and will be able to do at least some part of every role in case things are unexpectedly busy, or if at least one part of the business finds itself understaffed.
The kitchen manager is typically the head chef, the bar may have a bar manager who has worked their way up the ranks, whilst there may be other managers who are involved with more administrative parts of management.
The assistant manager makes sure that everything runs smoothly. They are often in charge of selecting and developing employees, overseeing inventory processes, with the focus on creating strong and sustainable profit margins. Most of the time they come from a front of house background, however there is nothing stopping a kitchen staff member working their way up to the role.
In a bar, the assistant manager supervises bar staff and looks to ensure that they understand the products they work with and the processes involved with cleaning, cash handling and customer service. Some will really encourage upselling spirits and cocktails, whilst others may just be trying to keep a steady hand.
Much like their AGMs, bar and restaurant general managers, will have to hire and train staff, set standards, manage stock and will be involved with managing disputes and customers.
They may have to enforce alcohol licensing, along with health and safety regulations, deal with abusive and difficult customers, liaise with security, or other parts of the business. They may also have to create/adhere to budgets, look to maximise profits and manage cash flow through promotions and events.
To get into management, you generally need a good amount of industry experience and understanding of how a venue operates but don’t need any specific education. Most of the time, experience is developed from working in the industry and shadowing different managers who will pass information and knowledge down of the things not necessarily part of cheffing or bartending – payroll, legislation, etc.
Management roles can be well paid, but it is quite rare that a manager will have a normal 40 hour working week and it’s much more likely that they would average around 60-70 hours. With staff, products, council/health board visits, complaints, owners and random incidents to handle, it is a high responsibility role and not something that would suit everyone.
As a manager, you should be prepared to do everything that you would expect of your staff members. Whether it is preparing garnish, emptying the bins, or serving food. It isn’t an easy position and sometimes you may be strained, feeling like you have a target on your back. Be kind, be responsible. Read about how General Managers use Pilla to run a smart venue.
Logistics, Back Office and Cleaning. Often unseen, but vitally important logistics and cleaning positions are required in almost any establishment. Cleaners very simply ensure that hygiene standards are met in all of the usual ways – mopping, sweeping, vacuum, wiping, etc.
There are various logistical roles in hospitality. This could be the keg/stock master who ensures the right products are in the cellar and that bar flows in the lines, or the drivers who bring dirty uniforms to the laundrette, or those who set up the tents and temporary bars at events. Some of these staff members are hired by the establishments themselves, whilst others are either separate services, or agency staff brought in on a temporary basis.
For bigger bars and restaurants they may have their own back office staff who handle a lot of the marketing and admin which managers may not have time to oversee. They may take calls and bookings if there hosts and/or receptionists are unable to carry this out, organize events, act as human resources and handle brand ambassador or product sales people.
Overall there are a wide variety of hospitality roles. If you’re looking to get into it, have a think about why you are getting into it. Many go into hospitality due to their passion about one particular area – maybe they saw a movie about cool bartenders (Tom Cruise in Cocktail) or chefs (Boiling Point, Burnt, Chef) and if this is the case for you, ask around and enjoy soaking up the knowledge.
Others go in at low levels on temporary basis to support other pursuits such as studying or artistic goals. There should be no shame in this, as everyone needs money to survive, but it’s important to respect that you should still expect to work hard and get along with people in the industry for different reasons.
One thing to remember is that pressure may be a factor in the role you think might suit you. It’s difficult to say whether front of house or the kitchen is the most pressured part of hospitality. The legendary chef Anthony Bourdain equated kitchen staff to be like pirate crews – Strong personalities in constant clash, arguing and fighting, falling out with each other and hopping from ship to ship, or in the case of chef’s kitchen to kitchen.
That being said, chef work can be incredibly rewarding, getting to be creative with new dishes and being part of providing unforgettable experiences to customers. Of course it often means tasting and developing taste buds and wages are getting better as the supply of chefs is rarely large enough to meet the demand.
Take your time to have a think about which role you’d like to become involved with and have a look at the eating and drinking joints in your area that you’d really enjoy.