What Do Restaurant Hosts Actually Do?
elcome to the restaurant industry! The first thing I want you to know and really understand is that your role as host or hostess is very important to everyone that works in the walls of that restaurant.
Your presence, personality and knowledge holds power at that front door.
You are the first representative of the restaurant that a guest sees, you must know your role and play it well.
You begin the tone of the evening. You are the first person that radiates the energy of the restaurant. You are the host of those diners and in those moments, the restaurant is yours.
While it is not your responsibility to entertain the patrons that walk through the doors, it is certainly your responsibility to receive them warmly and settle them in properly.
As a host, you must be comfortable using your voice, loudly and confidently. After you seat the guests you will need to use it to communicate everything about the guest’s to their server. In a busy, chaotic restaurant, soft spoken people won’t be heard.
osting can be explained and understood simply by talking about life in your own home. When you are expecting important or uncommon company what do you do?
- Prepare something to drink
- Make dinner
- Make sure you have things to talk about
- Make sure you have things to entertain your guest
- Clean your bathroom
- Take a shower
- Look good
- Get excited
- Tell your friends that so-and-so is coming over tonight
- Make sure your company has accurate directions to your house
- Make sure your company knows where to park
- Know where everyone is going to sit
- Plan where you are putting peoples coats when they arrive
- Know where to go after dinner if everyone decides to go out
- Have an extra bedroom if someone gets too drunk or stays really late
- Know the role of the other people you live with
So, let’s consider how you transfer the above party prepping steps into hosting at a restaurant.
1. Cleaning: the host stand and entrance area, menu covers, restrooms, etc.
2. Drinks: You will have to know the position number of the seats at the bar, know where to fetch water for a guest and where to gather guests when their table is ready.
3. Dinner: You will have to know the menu. Someone is going to ask you a question about the chicken or call with questions about the menu. The more you know, the more comfortable you will be, the more comfortable you are the more you feel at home, the more you feel at home the better host you are.
4. Things to talk about: make guests feel comfortable. There are going to be times where a guest will have to wait for their dinner companion to arrive, as the host you have the power to talk to them and make them feel welcome and comfortable.
5. Entertainment purposes: Newspapers, magazines and more importantly a bar. Know what you can offer a lone guest.
6. Clean restroom: How many times have you been somewhere away from home and had to use the restroom? How absolutely disappointing is it when the restroom is dirty? It sucks. It’s gross. It’s totally preventable.
7. Shower: Brush your teeth, comb your hair and put on deodorant. Look good! You are a part of the total impression of the restaurant.
8. What to wear: maybe you’ll have a uniform or maybe you’ll be allowed to wear what you want. Take into consideration what to wear, how clean it is or how you look in it. Dress professionally yet dapper.
9. Get excited: or don’t, but act it. Your excitement is usually tangible to your guests. It makes them feel happily received and lets them in turn be excited that they came over.
10. Answer the phone: to questions such as “I’m heading North on XXX, how do I get to you from where I’m at”? You should know your area well enough to answer questions such as these. If you do not, simply ask your manager the common routes that people take to get to your restaurant so you can guide most guests to your restaurant.
12. Parking: guests may come in frustrated, asking you where they should park, or they may call. Know where to direct them.
13. Map out seating: You should know where people are going to be seated once they arrive and you should have a back up plan if some of your turn times are tight. The more you understand your dining room and what your tables are capable of becoming the more power and creativity you will have in seating people.
14. Check coats, umbrellas, hats and gifts: Become familiar with your coat check system. If your restaurant does not have a coat check… be the first to create a coat check system and make the tips that come from it.
15. After dinner recommendations: “where the best place to go for XYZ”? Many people are from out of town or are not familiar with the neighborhood so they will count on you to tell them the best bar, cigar bar, nightclub or even strip club.
16. Drunk guests: have your local taxi service on speed dial and have a “go to” hotel that is near the restaurant that you can call to reserve a room for Mr. or Mrs. Intoxicated.
17. Know the servers: There is usually a server who is best suited to communicate with in the dining room when you need a table turned, when you need advice on where to seat someone or any of the other millions of reasons you’d need to talk to a server. Or you may work with a lead host or Maitre d’ that will be your go to person. You may need to triple seat someone, who is your strongest server under pressure? Is your manager helpful, someone that you can go to when you need help, or are they usually drinking at the bar? Know your team!
A Hosts Training Guide
You’re mission as the Host or Hostess is to make each guest of your restaurant feel welcomed, unique and of the utmost importance.
Things to consider, a step by step guide to hosting.
● Remember, you only have once chance to make a unique and personable first impression. Use this opportunity to set the tone for the guests evening.
● Acknowledge the guest the moment they walk in. Don’t make the guest be the first to show friendliness or give a greeting. That is your honor.
● Nothing will make a guest more agitated than feeling like they are being ignored. This is not something that is only annoying in the confines of your restaurant. Being ignored sucks. Period.
● .The moment the guest walks through the door, if you can not speak to them immediately, a simple glance/nod, will show your acknowledgement of their presence.
● Do not greet the guest simply by asking, “Two this evening?” That’s the equivalent of the server walking up to a table and saying “what do you wanna eat”? There is no verbal foreplay and everyone appreciates a little foreplay. The correct opening sentence would be something to the like of, “Good Evening! Welcome to ______. Will you be dining with us this evening or are you here for drinks”? Ask them if they had a reservation. If they do then you can relay the information to the controller or you can seat them. If they do not then you can direct them to the appropriate locations; such as the bar, lounge or maybe into the dining room, assuming there is room for a walk in.
● Do not use the Host desk as a barrier to the guests. Nothing says hospitable, open and friendly like standing behind the protection of a host stand…just kidding. Get out from behind the host stand and greet the customer like you mean it.
● If there is ever a line that begins to form, step out and greet the next person in line (assuming there is more than 1 host working the front door). No one likes to be at the end, or even in the middle, of a line, especially when you have no idea how long you will be in it or what the outcome will be once you’re at the front. It is important to communicate with your guests; guide them to tables, inform them of the wait and their options, point them to where their party is or answer any questions they may have.
● If less than half of the party has arrived, then inform the guest(s) that they are more than welcome to have a drink at the bar, or in your waiting area. When the rest of the party has arrived, we would then be glad to get them seated. (Every restaurant has different seating rules. Some allow for seating the table when only one guest has arrived, although it is proper etiquette for the first of a partly to wait for at least one more diner to arrive before asking to be seated.)
● Be honest with guests but never quote a time! You may think that the table needed will be ready in 5 minutes but the truth is, you have no control over how long people sit at a table. If you tell the guest something to the effect of “we are just waiting on current guests to finish their experience. They are currently enjoying deserts but as soon as they are finished and gone we will set the table and seat you”, then the guest understands their position more clearly. If you quote a time and the the table is not ready when you said it would be, be prepared for a p.o’d guest.
● If you are on the phone when a guest enters the restaurant, politely ask the person on the phone if they would mind holding. Give the guests in front of you your undivided attention. After all, they have taken the energy to actually walk into your restaurant. The only exception to this rule is if you are giving directions to someone who is driving and lost. Putting a lost driver on hold could make them miss an exit or a turn and cause great delays and upset everyone in the vehicle.
● When it is time to seat your guests be aware of where you are seating them. Keep in mind the rotation of servers that you have recently sat. Try to prevent double/triple seating servers. Being mindful of seating is for the good of the server as well as the guest. An overwhelmed server is not nearly as efficient or on point as one that has things smooth and under control. Servers have a structure to greeting a table, when a server notices that you had seated another table in their section while they are still greeting a table, they will then have to move quickly through that greet in order to get drink orders and move on to the next table. At many fine restaurants the menu tour can take up a good deal of time. Tack onto that greet time any questions that a guest may have and a server can be at a table for quite awhile.
● Be aware of WHO you are seating WHERE. If you use OpenTable as your reservation software, pay close attention to guest requests. The customer has taken the time to make a request, you in turn should take the time to honor it (if you can). Sometimes there will be no notes for the reservations and you will have to use good-old-fashioned instincts. For example, if you have a couple that appears to be having a romantic dinner.seat them away from large parties, birthday parties, bachelor(ette) parties or people that are drinking a bit more.
● As you walk your guest to their table start up a simple conversation with them. This is an excellent time to build rapport. Find out if they have dined at the restaurant before and gather other useful information. Any information that you can obtain from them is wonderful. Share that information with their server to help them tailor their experience further.
● When the table is seated, either set menus on the place settings, or hand the menus directly to the guest. Do not just throw the menus on the table and walk away. Give some explanations of the menu and/or the process that is about to begin. E.g. “Here is our Libations menu to begin. You’ll find all of our beer, cocktails,wine selections and Non Alcoholic beverages. You’re server will greet you in just a moment and take your drink order if you are ready. Is there anything I can do for you before before I step away?” This will let the guest know that you are willing to help them as well as their server. Having a lot of people looking after you is a great feeling.
● If you have to go to the bar to grab a group of guests for a reservation,inform them that their table is ready for them and politely ask them if they would like to close out their bar tabs or have the bill transferred. If they would like it transferred, seat teh guest then fetch the transfer ticket from the bar and give it to the correct server. (Every restaurant has a system for this and it may not be the one I just laid out. But, it is better that you go into your shift preparing to gather as much information as possible.)
● When doing table checks, it’s a good thing to have a photographic memory. Try and to pick out distinctive characteristics of the guests; this will help when a table leaves through the front door, you can automatically know which table that it is needs to be cleared and set for the next table.
● Try and do your best to know the names of the reservations and what table they are seated at. This will become useful for any part of the guests dining experience. When simply walking by the table and the guest asks if you can get something for them, you can reply with an, “Absolutely Mr. Silverstein.” This is evidence to the guest that you value them being in the restaurant and that this dining experience is a unique and special one. Also when the guest is leaving the restaurant you can give them a sincere goodbye using their name.
Good luck, have fun!
This Article was written by Jennifer Anderson with the awesome help of Jeremiah, Front Door Manager, Gram & Dun
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