First Impressions Are Important, and That’s Why Restaurant Hosts Deserve More Respect
A restaurant’s website, local news write-ups, and other diner reviews can shape one’s opinion on whether to dine at a restaurant or not, but that’s not where the dining experience (and first impression) takes place.
It all starts at the host stand.
The hosts and hostesses play a key role in restaurants and, unlike most of the other people a restaurant patron may interact with over the course of their meal, the host is paid a salary, not in tips. There’s no incentive to up-sell anyone a more expensive table or a better wait time.
This means their job is to present a pleasant and overall positive welcoming experience for every single customer that walks through the door.
In addition to presenting that first impression of your restaurant, hosts are responsible for maintaining that impression throughout the course of every customers’ dining experience.
Whether you’ve got an online or direct call-in reservation system, hosts are responsible for taking those reservations, confirming them, and then planning out how those reservations will work in the scheme of things over the course of the meal. An always-pleasant demeanor and extreme attention to detail are necessary for all in-person and phone interactions.
Keeping a clean-looking and organized interior is also part of their organizational responsibilities. They make sure the bathrooms are properly stocked, that the menus are free of wine and food stains, and that the pager system is in order before a huge rush—all of which contribute to enforcing that positive impression of your dining establishment.
Hosts not only need to have the foresight to plan out seating arrangements for reservations, but they also need to anticipate diners’ needs before they even ask. If a family of four walks in with a baby in a stroller, the host should ask about a highchair or booster seat while gathering up the menus and some crayons for the kids.
If an older couple comes in and it appears one of them is having a hard time walking, they should bring them to the closest available table to cut down on the distance they’ll have to travel. It’s these sorts of insights that will set the right tone for your customers’ dining experience.
Hosts are not responsible for any other employees but themselves, but they are responsible for the management of the flow of traffic through the doors of the restaurant. Greeting every single customer with a smile and a “Welcome” is important. Guiding those customers to where they want to go is even more so.
And when there is a long wait to get a seat in the dining room or at the bar, hosts need to have the grace and calm to deal with potentially unhappy patrons, people trying to cut in line to get a table, and making sure tables are being sat in the right order so that no one server is getting hit any harder than the others. And if that should happen…
Restaurant servers have a lot of assistance in the form of dedicated server’s assistants, bussers, food expeditors, and management. However, there are times when all of that help is not enough for a restaurant overflowing with business. With a well-staffed host team, hosts are able to lend a hand when possible.
For instance, when seating the fourth table in a row in server Danny’s section, they could take an extra minute to run through the specials with the table and offer to grab them something to drink. That’ll buy the server some time and not leave the patrons feeling ignored for the next five minutes as Danny rushes to get everyone else’s drink order in. The same goes for helping to filling up waters, picking up food orders, or clearing off tables.
The host staff are responsible for that first impression of your restaurant—and they also play a part in ensuring that experience continues throughout the meal; indirectly or directly.
Building a team that has a firm understanding of their role and the desire to make each and every customer happy is key for any restaurant that seeks a well-rounded and positive dining experience for their patrons.
Contributor Suzanne Scacca is a FOH veteran of the restaurant industry and who now writes about the joys of cooking and consuming food.