What is Front Office? Functions, Desk Layout, Duties & Responsibilities of Front Office Staff

  • Post last modified:16 April 2023
  • Reading time:28 mins read
  • Post category:Hotel Management

What is Front Office?

The front office is the main controlling center of all guest services and also coordinates the back office functions with these services. It serves as a main channel of two-way communications i.e. from hotel to guest and guest to hotel.

The front office is the name given to all the offices situated in the front of the house, that is, the lobby, where the guest is received, provided information, checked-in, his luggage is handled, his accounts are settled at departure, and his problems, complaints, and suggestions are looked after. Foreign guests use the front desk to exchange currency, find a translator, or request other special assistance.

The front desk often serves as the hotel control center for guest requests concerning housekeeping or engineering issues. In addition, it may also be a base of operations during an emergency, such as a fire or a guest injury.

Front Office Functions

Front office functions include reservations, registration, room and rate assignment, check-in, guest services, room status, maintenance and settlement of guest accounts, and creation of guest history records. The front office compiles and maintains a comprehensive database of guest information, coordinates guest services, and ensures guest satisfaction. These functions are accomplished by personnel in diverse areas of the front office department.

The main functions of the front office department are:

During Guest Cycle

Pre-arrival, arrival, ongoing responsibilities, departure, and after-departure activities.

Guest Services

Reservations, registration, occupancy services, checkout, and history.

  • Maintain accurate room status information.

  • Process future room reservations, when there is no reservation department or when the reservation department is closed.

  • Coordinate guest services.

  • Provide information about the hotel, the surrounding community, and any attractions or events of interest to guests.

Guest Accounting

Establishment of credit, charge posting, night audit, and settlement.

  • Maintained guest accounts and monitored credit limits.
  • Produce guest account statements and complete proper financial settlement.

Front Office Organisation

The front office department of a hotel comprises various sections. Depending on the size of the hotels, the sections may vary. In small or medium-sized hotels the sections may be merged and handled accordingly. The following are the sections of the front office department.

  • The reservation Section is responsible for booking rooms in advance. It is responsible for receiving the room requests, reservation analysis, and documentation of the room requests received. This section of the department depends upon the size of the hotel; if the hotel is small, there may not be a separate section for reservations. This section is mainly found in mid-sized and large-sized hotels.

  • Front Desk Section is responsible for receiving the guest, registering the guest, assigning room and room keys, and remote controls for television and air conditioners if such services are available, and assistance to the guest during their stay. They are also a source of information for government offices.

  • Bell Desk is mainly responsible for luggage handling of the guests. It consists of group of uniformed staff for guest services. This section is maintained separately in large hotels only.

  • Travel Desk Section handles the transportation facility of the hotel guest. It assists in booking air tickets, hiring a car, and other transportation facilities. It also arranges/organizes city tours, and sightseeing tours for guests on request.

  • Business Centres serve guests with laptops, internet, mobiles, facsimile, LCD projectors, photocopiers, and secretarial request facilities. This is the latest addition in large and medium-sized hotels, in line with the electronic era.

  • Concierge Section provides information about the hotel, its services and amenities, city, town, country, travel, transport, banks, etc. They can also handle the guest luggage and bags if the hotel does not have a bell desk section. The receiving and distribution of mail and message, packets, newspapers, and magazines in the early mornings to the guest rooms are also attended to. In addition, it may also handle the hiring of the car and booking of air tickets and other transportation facilities if there is no travel desk in the hotel.

  • Cashiering Section is responsible for maintaining and recording guest accounts and bills and folios of guests and either cash or credit settlement of guest folios at the time of departure.

  • The communication and Telephone Section handles the guest telephones and messages, both incoming and outgoing of the guest.

Front Office Organisation Chart

The Front Office organization chart is designed according to functions. The chart clearly defines the control and also provides guests with more specialized attention.

Typical positions and functions under the Front Office Department are:

  • Front Desk Agent: Registers guests, and maintains room availability information

  • Reservation Agent: Responds to Reservation Requests and creates Reservation Records

  • Cashier: Closes guest folios, and properly checks out the guests.

  • Uniformed Bell Service Agent: Handles guest luggage, escorts guests to their rooms, and assists guests with any bit of information requested.

  • Switchboard Operator: Manages the switchboard and coordinates wake-up calls.

  • Night Auditor: Controls the job of the Accounts Receivable Clerk, and prepares daily reports to the management (eg: Occupancy Report and Revenue Report).

Duties & Responsibilities of Front Office Staff

Front Office Manager

The Front Office manager must be a skilled planner who channelizes the various resources viz. people, money, time, work methods, materials, energy, and equipment to suit the objectives of the property. He should maintain cordial relationships between the front office and other hotel divisions and departments by encouraging communication between all areas of responsibility.

  • Basic Function: To supervise all front office personnel and ensure proper completion of all front office duties.

  • Duties & Responsibilities:
    • Evaluate and decide the need of personnel in the department.
    • Participate in the selection of front office personnel.
    • Train and update staff skills.
    • Schedule the staff duties.
    • Supervise and help workloads during shifts.
    • Evaluate the job performance of each front office employee.
    • Maintain working relationships and communicate with all departments.
    • Maintain master key control.
    • Check room status
    • Resolve guest problems quickly, efficiently, and courteously
    • Update and monitor group information and requirements.
    • Review credit limit report.
    • Enforce all cash handling, other modes of payment, and credit policies.

2 Front Desk Agent

Also designated, as Receptionist or Front Office Assistant in some hotels, is the first person a guest sees on entering the property and the last person the guest sees on leaving.

  • Basic Function: To assist guests in all front office-related functions in an efficient, courteous, and professional manner that maintains high standards of service and hospitality.

  • Duties and Responsibilities:
    • Register guests and assign rooms; accommodate special requests, if possible.

    • Assist in pre-registration and blocking of rooms for reservations.

    • Thoroughly understand and adhere to proper credit, other modes of payment, cash handling policies, and procedures.

    • Know room status, locations, types, and rates.

    • Use suggestive selling techniques to sell rooms and to promote other services of the hotel.

    • Coordinate rooms’ status with the housekeeping department; notify all check-outs, early check-ins, special requests, etc.

    • Make reservations, modify, or cancel as requested.

    • Post and file all charges to guest, master, and city ledger accounts.

    • Handle issuing and closing of safe deposit boxes for the guests.

    • Read, maintain, and pass on the log and bulletin board at each shift.

    • Coordinate with the engineering and maintenance division for guest room maintenance.

    • Know all safety and emergency procedures and accident prevention policies.

    • Report any unusual occurrences or requests to the manager.

Reservation Agent

Normally found in larger hotels, in smaller hotels Front office agent handles this job.

  • Basic Function: To handle all future reservations, matching the needs of the guests with the hotel.

  • Duties and Responsibilities:
    • Process reservations by mail, telephone, telex, cable, fax, or central reservation system referral.

    • Process reservations from the sales office, other hotel departments, and travel agents.

    • Know the type of rooms, location, layout, status, rates, package plans, benefits, etc.

    • Maintain reservation records by date and time of arrival and alphabetical listings.

    • Process cancellations and modifications.

    • Prepare letters of confirmation and communicate to the prospective guest/representative.

    • Know the hotel’s policy on guaranteed reservations and no-shows.

    • Process advance deposits on reservations.

    • Prepare expected arrival lists and communicate reservation information to the front office.

    • Assist in pre-registration activities when appropriate.

    • Promote goodwill by being courteous, friendly, and helpful to guests, managers, and fellow employees.

Switchboard Operator

They are heard by the guest but are rarely seen. They represent the hotel through their voice on the phone. They build a very significant image of the hotel to a prospective guest. The work has drastically changed due to the electronic age, but basic voice assistance is always a warm welcome.

  • Basic Function: Receives and directs incoming and outgoing calls to individual guests, staff, or departments.

  • Duties and Responsibilities:
    • Answer incoming calls.

    • Direct calls to guestrooms, staff, or departments through the switchboard or PBX system.

    • Place outgoing calls.

    • Receive telephone charges from the telephone company and forward charges to the front desk for posting.

    • Take and distribute messages for guests.

    • Log all wake-up call requests and perform wake-up call services.

    • Provide information about guest services to guests.

    • Answer questions about hotel events and activities.

    • Provide paging services to hotel guests and employees.

    • Know what action to take when an emergency call is requested or received.

    • Be aware of all the emergency service nos. and systems relating to the same.

Front Office Cashier

  • Basic Function: Guest accounting tasks require efficiency and accuracy. The tasks of the front office cashier center on the guest accounting cycle. The front office cashiers post revenue center charges to guest accounts. The hotel’s revenue centers communicate information on charge purchases to the front desk. Cashiers then post these charges to guest accounts to ensure that the charges will be settled at checkout.

    Where computerized systems are installed, the Point of Sale operations is directly posted to the Guest Ledger whenever the guest utilizes a particular service. The cashiers also receive payment from guests at checkout. They coordinate the billing of credit cards and direct-billed guest accounts with the accounting division. The cashier at the close of each shift balances all guest accounts. They also manage safe-deposit boxes/lockers, and a variety of banking services including foreign exchange.

  • Duties and Responsibilities:
    • Operate front office posting equipment/ system.

    • Obtain the house bank and keep it balanced.

    • Complete the cashier pre-shift supply checklist.

    • Take departmental readings at the beginning of the shift.

    • Complete guest check-in and checkout procedures.

    • Post charges to guest accounts. 7. Handle Paid-outs (VPO).

    • Transfer guest balances to other accounts as required.

    • Settle guest accounts in cash, credit card, and Company account by transferring balances to the respective ledgers.

    • Post-non-guest ledger payments.

    • Make account adjustments.

    • Balance departmental totals and cash at the close of the shift.

    • Manage safe deposit box/ locker.

Uniformed Bell Service Staff

  • Basic Functions: Meeting, greeting, and escorting guests to their rooms and also the reverse of it i.e. escorting guests from their rooms to the front desk, to their means of transport, etc. They also do errands, handle messages, and page guests.

    They also act as the eyes and ears of the hotels since they are strategically stationed and also make trips to many floors and rooms. Work closely with the front desk staff, room service employees, and other hotel personnel in providing guest assistance with luggage, transportation, and miscellaneous needs.

  • Duties and Responsibilities:
    • Maintain a good personal appearance at all times. Wear the standard uniform and name tag.

    • Escort guests to and from their rooms if required and also assist in carrying their luggage.

    • Keep the lobby directory up to date.

    • Watch for any unusual persons or activities and report them to management.

    • Transport hotel guests to and from the airport on request. Keep limousines and other hotel vehicles clean and in top-running condition.

    • Maintain an orderly, secure checkroom for guests.


  • Basic Functions: They are specialized in assisting the guest – regardless of whether inquiries concern in-hotel or off-premises attractions, facilities, services, or activities. Must provide concise and accurate directions; make reservations for flights, theater, or special events, obtain tickets, organize special functions such as VIP cocktail receptions, and arrange for secretarial services, if needed.

  • Duties and Responsibilities:
    • Develop a strong knowledge of the hotel’s facilities and services and of the surrounding community.

    • Provide guests with directions/information to attractions or facilities in or outside the property.

    • Make guest reservations for air or other forms of transportation when requested; obtain necessary itinerary and tickets.

    • Make guest reservations for the theater and other forms of entertainment when requested, obtain necessary tickets, and provide directions to facilities.

    • Organize special functions as directed by management.

    • Arrange secretarial and other office services.

    • Coordinate guest requests for special services or equipment with the appropriate department.

    • Check with roomed guests periodically to ascertain if they have any special needs.

    • Handle guest complaints.

Night Auditor

  • Basic Functions: Must be skilled record keeper since the job requires him to track room revenues, occupancy percentages, and other front office operating statistics and prepare, a summary of the financial performance for the day. He is basically an employee of the accounts division. Has to verify all account postings and balances made during the day by front desk cashiers and agents. In some properties, he may also act as front desk agent during the night.

  • Duties and Responsibilities:
    • Postroom charges and taxes to guest accounts.

    • Process guest charge vouchers and credit card vouchers.

    • Post guest charge purchase transactions not posted by the front office cashier.

    • Transfer charges and deposits to master accounts.

    • Verify all account postings and balances.

    • Monitor the current status of coupons, discounts, and other promotional programs.

    • Track room revenues, occupancy percentages, and other front office statistics.

    • Prepare a summary of cash, cheques, and credit card activities and a summary of the results of operations for management.

    • Understand the principles of auditing, balancing, and closing out accounts.

    • Know how to operate posting machines, other front office equipment, and computers.

    • Understand and know how to perform check-in and checkout procedures.

Front Office Desk Layout

As the front office is the entry and exit point for a guest, the main entrance and approach play a very important role in the selection of hotel for a guest. A guest entering a hotel does so through the main entrance which leads to the reception area of the hotel which is also called the lobby of the hotel.

The lobby is elegantly designed to accommodate the front office staffs and for the smooth service to the guests. Since the lobby usually serves as a meeting or gathering area for guests and their visitors it should be well planned and furnished to give a best intuition.

The lobby of the hotel includes the general circulation and waiting area which leads to check-in, information, cashiers counter, bell desk, travel desk, cloak rooms etc.. The above figure shows a typical layout of a lobby. The layout may vary from hotel to hotel. Some hotel may even have a coffee shop, restaurant and shopping arcade.

Front Office Equipments and Furnitures

The following are the common equipments and furniture found in the hotel lobby:

  • Front Desk
  • Bell desk and concierge desk
  • Lobby desk
  • Travel counter
  • Room and reservation racks
  • Computer, Printer, UPS and other related devices
  • Credit card imprinters
  • Telephone – EPABX, PBX, PMBX, EPBX
  • Telex, Facsimile machine
  • Mail, Message and Key rack
  • Duplicate key rack
  • Time stand
  • Wake up device
  • Folio tray
  • Security monitor
  • Luggage trolley
  • Luggage net
  • Date and time punching machine
  • Bulletin boards
  • G.R. card holder
  • Mail forwarding file
  • Page board
  • Safe vault and in-room vault
  • Photocopying machine
  • Room rack
  • Postal weighting scale
  • Voucher rack
  • Account posting machine
  • Cash register
  • Magnetic strip reader
Article Reference
  • Alan T. Stutts, James Wortman (2005), Hotel and Lodging Management: An Introduction, Wiley.

  • James A. Bardi (2002), Hotel Front Office Management, Wiley.

  • Ahmed Ismail (2002), Front office operations and management, Thomson Delmar Learning.

  • Michael L. Kasavana and Richard M. Brooks (2005), Managing Front Office Operations, Educational Institute of American Hotel & Motel.

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