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November 8, 2008 3:57 PM   Subscribe

HostingFilter: (no not the geeky kind...) I just got a job as a host in a franchised restaurant. I know food and wine, but I don't know 'people' or restaurants. As a customer, what would you like to see more (or less!) of when you're being greeted and seated? Any helpful tips from service veterans?

Please note that I will not be serving food or drinks. I'm just the bubbly door-girl.
posted by sunshinesky to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
All I can say is as SOON as possible acknowledge that I am there, even if you can't take care of me immediately. If you are on the phone with someone making reservations, look up and smile and maybe give the just-one-second index finger, etc. If you are just about to walk a party to their table turn and let who ever just came in that you see them and will be right with them. And always put customers before ANY personal convo with other staff.
posted by beccaj at 4:17 PM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding beccaj. Specifically, if you are working with other hosts, please don't cluster with them at the podium. Many chain restaurants in my area seem have a gaggle of young women as hosts, and their body language as they stand together and ignore the customers drives me fucking crazy.
posted by cabingirl at 4:49 PM on November 8, 2008

My main criteria is that you not sneer at my condescendingly when I ask for a table for one. And after the first time I tell you that I'd prefer to sit in the dining room, my preference would be that you not continue to try to convince me to sit in the lounge.

My only other criteria is that wait times be given as accurately as possible, though I know it's hard. Telling me 5 times that it will be just a few minutes until it's been 20 minutes is much more annoying than telling me once that it's going to be at least 45 minutes and possibly more.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:06 PM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Restaurant veteran here....

1) Genuine friendliness
2) Pace yourself to the guest. Don't speed 5 feet ahead of them to lead them to a table, leaving them wandering behind you. Walk at their pace and make small talk.
3) Don't chew gum, eat etc at the host stand.

4) If your restaurant has both tables and booths, show subtle awareness of their needs. I sat elderly folk neat the front of the restaurant (less walking) when possible no matter what the rotation happened to be. Heavy set guests would often have trouble sitting in some of our (way too tight) booths, so I'd head for a table first or ask which they'd prefer. There is NOTHING more embarassing than trying to seat a guest and discovering they don't fit in your booth! Families with high chair needs got sat out of high traffic paths (safety of the kids).

5) If you're running over on the wait, don't hide. Acknowledge it. People are going to notice.
I used to bring out some free bar chips or snacks into the lobby when needed in that case.
6) Be super friendly with the kids. Say hi, ask their name. Bonus points for remembering their name and saying goodbye to them by name.
7) Smile when you answer the phone. It really does come through.
8) Open doors if you have time.
9) Be aware of fair seating to the servers. Stick to rotation, but don't give one person all the families, all the one tops, all the drunks, etc.
10) If you seat a huge wave of people, warn the kitchen they're about to get smacked.
11) Try to stagger a little so the above doesn't happen.
12) If you must triple seat a server, if you can, take a drink order or ask someone to help them out for a minute. That one minbute reprieve makes everything smoother.
13) Make sure the restroom stays clean.
posted by mazienh at 5:14 PM on November 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

The ONLY time it's appropriate to say "Hi guys!" is when you're talking to a duo or group of men who are about 30 or under.
posted by tristeza at 5:24 PM on November 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

If I furtively whisper to you about someone's birthday in my party about to be seated, do not exclaim, "Oh my GOSH, do you want a cake or something?!"
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:00 PM on November 8, 2008

There's a lot of great advice in here already. A few things I might mention:
posted by baphomet at 9:29 PM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

4) If your restaurant has both tables and booths, show subtle awareness of their needs. I sat elderly folk neat the front of the restaurant (less walking) when possible no matter what the rotation happened to be.

Not to derail or anything, but this gave me a chuckle because we were instructed to do the same thing, which caused the afternoon servers to dread pulling the section closest to the door-- they called it the "geezer motel" or something-- since working that section meant you'd be swimming in septuagenarians all day, who are perceived as spending/tipping less, camping more, and being needier.
posted by baphomet at 9:33 PM on November 8, 2008

I worked as a hostess during my freshman year in college. Here are some aspects of the job that others have failed to mention so far:
  • Bribes. Depending on how popular/exclusive your restaurant is, once every few days you will have gentlemen discreetly slipping you $20-$50 once they accost you. There seems to be a consensus amongst us hosting folks that whenever this happens, you are expected to smile, seat the party as quickly as possible (as in, theirs is the first name on the list now) and split the bribe with your fellow hosts, if any. If any other parties complain, just tell them that the customer had a prior reservation.
  • Creepy regulars. As a young bubbly girl who is paid to be nice to everyone who enters the restaurant, you will inevitably end up as the current love object of several creepy dudes. In addition to the seemingly endless supply of older men asking you to come sit down and share a couple of drinks with them (they are harmless, just say you can't, you're working and you chances are that you will never see them again), there might be guys who turn into borderline stalkers, quizzing waiters about when your next shift is or where you live. Don't try to deal with them yourself, as that is most certainly not part of your job, but immediately talk to your managers if you have any concerns about them.
  • Leaving work. Never be embarrassed to ask someone to walk you to your car/bus stop after dark, especially if you have to deal with the above-mentioned "regulars".
  • Pretty shoes. As a hostess, you will be expected to dress much more nicely than anyone else in the restaurant. This is great if you enjoy dressing up for work, but it usually means that you will have to stand for hours and hours on high heels. Read these post to help with that problem, but in my experience you get used to it pretty quickly.
  • Racism. It's not really something I should have to write about, but depending on the area where you will be working, you will have to deal with a lot of stereotypes than baphomet's "geezer motel" mentioned above. For example, I've had most of the servers working a weekend night come up to me and ask me not to sit any Hispanics, Asians, or African-Americans in their sections. The best way to reply to that is to just announce that you are following whatever rotation schedule your boss handed you that day, but be warned that certain waiters can hold a grudge against you if they don't get the tips they expect, especially people with small amounts of power like floor managers who can deny you the shifts you want. (Yeah, "classy", the restaurant where I worked, but this was a real problem that was also true in another place where I was a waitress/bartender, and you as a hostess have to be comfortable with making these sorts of decisions.)
  • Conflicts, like the one described above or anything else. Remember, finding and training new hostesses is much easier than finding qualified servers. In a way, you control how much the servers will be making in tips that night, so most people will be very, very nice to you: expect tons of hugs and friendliness like you've never encountered before from your waiters. But in my experiences, restaurant staff write their own little soap operas every day, so sometimes a waiter might go out of his way to be a jerk to you (Did you seat a Hispanic couple at his table when he explicitly asked you not to? Yeah, like that.): just remember that you are easily replaced, but servers... not so much, and take it in stride.
    Other than that, enjoy your job! Hosting is likely to be more fun than any other job you'll ever have!

  • posted by halogen at 10:32 PM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

    I'm sorry, the last sentence I wrote is not what I meant to say. I'm a biochemist now. My job is certainly fun, just not in the sneak-the-cocktails-the-bartender-gives-you-in-to-go-cups, take-up-smoking-just-so-you-can-have-smoking-breaks, make-friends-with-the-kitchen-staff-and-go-home-with-giant-boxes-of-paella kind of way.

    Who am I kidding. Biochemistry's not fun.
    posted by halogen at 10:38 PM on November 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

    Resist the urge to one-night stand bartenders, waiters or god-forbid.....shift managers. Hang out and drink with them...yes. Sleep with!

    Not sure if you were looking for this type of advice or not. I am speaking from unfortunate authority!
    posted by beachhead2 at 2:10 PM on November 9, 2008

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