In the June issue, Editor Michael Sanson discussed three dining experiences where the host/hostess didn’t reflect well on their respective restaurants. He suggested that too many restaurant owners/managers don’t consider how important the host/hostess position is to the success of the restaurant. What follows are excerpts from readers who reacted to the column.
The ineffectiveness of the host/hostess restaurant position is a perennial customer service problem. As a restaurant business consultant, I have consistently advised independent restaurant owners to seriously consider reclassifying this essential position as a Customer Service Manager. The host/hostess position, because it’s often a minimum wage position, often attracts ineffectual applicants. The upgraded title suggests you expect more.
Holland Restaurant Management Consulting
Fort Pierce, FL
Hosts are encouraged to be minimalists because they are led to believe that they need not do anything more than seat tables. My solution to all three of your scenarios is applied in the training program we have here at Millwright’s restaurant: Everyone trains as though they are Captains (a throwback term to reference essentially our head servers).
The same intensity of knowledge that my Captains have is offered to every single person that works in the front of the house. They receive a beverage manual that describes every wine, beer, and liquor on the menu and a service-training manual that describes 68 steps of service that we employ.
No one makes it to the host stand without this training. The hosts here all know that they have potential to move up if they want it. Money is a motivator, but status is, as well. If the hosts are shown that they are valued and trained, the results are amazing.
All of my hosts know by heart our wines by the glass, can describe any food you ask about, and would never show up with clothing that didn’t reflect well upon the image of the restaurant. None of them would ever leave a guest alone without a reason and return time.
Yes, it’s maybe another 20 hours of training, and the cost is a little over a hundred bucks per employee, but that’s far less than the money you yourself would have spent going back to any of the three restaurants you mentioned for a second visit.
Brent Bushong II
Millwright’s Restaurant & Tavern
I absolutely agree that the host/hostess position is one of the most important in the restaurant. Here are my thoughts regarding the scenarios you described.
Scenario one: Where was the manager [when the hostess kept leaving her post]? It’s not always practical to schedule more than one hostess, so we stress to all servers and bussers that they also be seaters so that the hostess is not away from the front door during busy times.
Scenario two: Our dining room personnel and bartenders are in uniform (jeans and polos/Dickie shirts), however, we give our hostesses quite a bit of leeway to dress like they are giving a party. Managers must wear slacks, polished shoes, belts, and shirts that are tucked in except if they are wearing a camp-style shirt. We also have an iron and ironing board in the office.
Scenario three: I do not like hostesses behind any kind of table or barrier. When we took over this particular location, we replaced a fortress with a beautiful old table with two nice lamps. Our hostesses stand in front of the table.
Compadres Rio Grille
Napa Valley, CA