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Advice please on how to start a career front of house?

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6 replies to this topic

#1 claresheradan

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 08:36 AM

I am looking for some advice for my son, who is now nineteen.

He is currently at Leeds College of Building three days a week with an academic year to go, finishing in June, he would like to finish this course which will be worth 3.5 A levels. However, he also works at Pizza Express in Harrogate now full time, he has been there about 3 years first as a washer up, then a receptionist now a waiter.

He absolutely loves restaurants and wants to pursue this as a career, front of house. Please could we have some advice on the best route to train? I assume college catering courses are a waste of time? I have looked into 'charm school' - he is naturally a people person, but to get to high end places he would need to be knocked into shape, they all just seem to be for poshos - how to keep your wine cellar etc.

Also wondered if it would be worth doing a four week cookery training at Leith's to learn more about food, he does cook occasionally. This is expensive but wonder if it is a good grounding?

Any ideas on which would be a good way to start would be really appreciated.

Many thanks

#2 Lisa Shock

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 09:26 PM

I don't know about the UK, but, in America, culinary schools and regular universities offer hotel/restaurant management degrees which essentially are FoH programs. Students learn about managing people, purchasing, bookkeeping, costing out menus, POS systems, inventory control, etc. -plus a little bit about cooking. Yes, there will be classes on wine and high-end service in general, but, that's part of FoH. Without, say, some wine knowledge, it would be difficult to supervise a sommelier.

#3 Mjx

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 11:14 PM

It would also be a good idea to wait tables for at least three months. When you're familiar with what is happening on both sides of the service equation, it is far easier to pinpoint the source of inevitable kerfuffles (i.e. difficult diner/incompetent waiter). It's also an excellent way to confirm whether or not one is truly a 'people person', not to mention, waiting tables while acquiring the skill set he's seeking would be concrete evidence of genuine commitment to this area of work.

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#4 Nayan Gowda

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 07:44 AM

Why doesn't he talk to some of the well respected restaurant operators in the region eg, Anthony Flynn, Tom van Zeller, Nigel Howarth, Paul Heathcote about wanting to further his front of house career.

They are all approachable people and will hopefully be able to offer him some advice
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#5 claresheradan

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 09:13 AM


Many thanks. That's all great advice. We will approach some local restaurant operators. I have already approached a friend who is senior at the Ivy who though the cooking course was a good idea then really a ten year programme of working in good restaurants taking on more responsibility in each role. He will probably start in Manchester then move to London.

It would be good to hear from anyone who has been to Leith's recently.

Not sure why original question diminished in type size as it went on??

#6 CalumC

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 10:44 AM

I spent 4 years in Leeds at uni and consequently working in a hotel restaurant and bar there. It's a very good area to build a Foh career, small enough to be able to meet the right people. I wouldn't worry too much about chasing qualifications, employers are far more impressed by actual experience working in places known for service and atmosphere. I checked Trip Advisor most days to see what punters are saying about where I work and had a manager that did the same thing, being aware of your restaurants reputation helps with how you sell yourself to your next employer. It should impress your current manager too, if you show an interest in how well your restaurant does, management notice.

I guess my point is that it's important to immerse yourself in the industry, read Caterer and Restaurant magazine, read everything in fact, talk to the chefs and managers about things, show an interest. Good Foh isn't all that common so it shouldn't be long before you're noticed.

It's Sunday, I'm a bit zapped but let me know if you want any more stuff specific to Leeds.

#7 radtek

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 11:15 AM

I'm curious to know what your son's current course of study is. Having got into college he must have had decent scores. Regardless, work experience and some food and beverage/managerial courses does go a long way. I'm a big supporter of the didactic experience balanced by the practical side. Many grow and progress through OJT but I think it's harder and takes longer. Plus you need someone to actually take you under their wing, to promote and nurture.

My brother despite a PLM business degree went into hospitality management after working as a waiter and bartender throughout university and beyond. He's been in management without formal education in the area for the bulk of that time and now well into his 50's has recently passed his Sommelier exam. He has been solely on the beverage side for at least 12 years with a great deal of responsibility involving many locations, employees and millions of dollars worth of liquor, beer and wine. So it can work both ways.

After holding almost every position front and back of the house I rose to the position of General Manager (serious headache) at the age of 21. Earned two different degrees since then; frustrated got out of the biz after 20 years and went into the medical field. :rolleyes: Talk about the proverbial pan and fire!