How to be a good hostess
How to be a great hostess: Part 1
Kicking ass and taking names (reservations)
The only reason you are in business is because people come to your restaurant to eat and drink, but first they make a reservation to do so. Taking a reservation in the correct way takes more than getting a name and a time. A good hostess is a fact-finder and communication pro. Being a good hostess/maître d’ makes service go smooth for everyone: the guest, the server, the bartender and the kitchen team.
Before you even answer the phone to take a reservation you should know a few things about your restaurant.
- What times do you have reservations available?
- Do you take reservations during the dinner rush, usually around 7:00 P.M and 7:30? If not, why not? And how do you communicate that the guest?
- Is there a waiting list? How can one be added to it and what is the procedure for it?
- Do you offer “first come first serve” in the lounge or dining room?
- Do you need credit card information from the guest for a certain size party? Where do you keep that information safely? When, if at all, will they be charged? (More elite and/or busy restaurants sometimes charge a fee if a large party does not show up for their reservation.)
- How long does a reservation reserve a table for? (I.e. can they dine all night or is the reservation good for three hours so you can seat the table again?)
- Do parties have to arrive at the same time before being seated? Is there a waiting area?
- How long do you hold the table before marking the reservation as a “no show?” Do you tell the guest this? Are you strict about it?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- Will you call the guest the day before their reservation to confirm their reservation? (You should.)
- Where will restaurant guests park?
- Directions. People will ask how to get to your restaurant. You should have a clear idea of where you are located and how to explain that to guests.
Once you know the answers to the previous questions you are ready to take a reservation. You should always get the following information from the caller:
- Contact name, telephone number. Who is making the reservation? Is it the same as the party that will be dining or is it a concierge or secretary? What is the best contact number to reach the host of the party?
- Party of: How many people are a part of the reservation?
- Time: What time do they want to dine with you?
- Food restrictions and allergies. This is especially helpful in limited menu restaurants. Giving the chef a heads up on menu modifications will help them prep the correct amount and type of food. This knowledge is also vital to the server as they can offer guidance in making selections and shows that they have a high level of awareness to the guest’s needs.
- Celebrating? People decide to go out to eat for a variety of different reasons. Knowing why each guest is coming in will help you provide them with the best experience possible. After all, a reservation made to come in after a funeral and a reservation made to make a marriage proposal are two very different types of guests. They both should receive the best experience, but the energy and situation is different. Knowing your guests empowers you make their experience the best possible.
- Time frame: Some people are planning on dining with you: many courses, eating slowly, drinking a lot. If they have a show to see at 7:00 P.M. will a 6:00 P.M reservation offer enough time?
Peat and repeat (Very Important!)
You’ve just got all the information an amazing host needs to take a reservation, now repeat it back! It’ easy and so, so, sososo important.
Alright Mr. Pete Smith. We can not wait to see you and your three dinner companions this Saturday, the 17th at 6:45 to help you celebrate your wife Carol’s birthday!
By repeating the information back to Pete, he has the opportunity to change things.
“Did I say Saturday? I meant Friday! Silly me. Oh, and my wife’s name is Sharrol, not Carol.”
Crisis averted! (Well, maybe not crisis, but…you get my gist.)
Now that you have all of that information you can get serious and plan a night! You’ll simply put everything together and use it to table map the night. Mucho importante!!!
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