I have never worked in a restaurant until now, but after two years in retail (my first experience in the workplace for about 25 years - while I raised my kids), I was ready for a change.
My favorite part of retail was helping customers, so staying in a service-based industry seemed like a good idea. My biggest worry was that I wouldn't make enough money to be able to keep raising my teen daughters, but the manager who interviewed me told me that (based on what I was earning in retail) it wouldn't be a problem, so I took the plunge.
It is common for a restaurant to begin a new hire as a host - even if you have experience in restaurants already. The reasons for this are fairly simple.
- You need to learn the table numbers.
- You need to learn the employees - servers, managers, cooks, etc.
- The restaurant needs to see how you work in a high-stress situation (i.e. when it gets busy.)
I worked with an experienced host that first day. It helped me learn the basic operations, how they set up the tables, how to pre-bus the table (bringing the dirty dishes to the back without colliding with someone - as someone embarrassingly demonstrated very well a couple of days ago...)
The salt is on the right, the pepper on the left - which could help you to remember port and starboard on a ship, but has nothing to do with that as it turns out. It's just a convenience since most people are right-handed and reach for the salt first. It's doubly important if you have someone who is sight-impaired... it prevents any unhappy accidents.
Already, after less than a week, I am hosting on my own unless it gets super busy - and am often pulled from other tasks in order to assist another host.
(A server prepares to take an order. Source)
My Duties as a Host
The most important job of the host is to keep the flow of the restaurant going. Before a guest arrives, I have already:
- made sure there are adequate menus clean and assembled (we have three different brochures which are put together in a particular way).
- worked out which server is next in the rotation (to ensure a well-shared workload and fair access to tips)
- worked out several tables that will be available - the one I'm going to offer as well as several other options in case the guest has a different idea of where they need to sit.
The guest must always be happy with their restaurant experience!!!
As the guests arrive, it is my responsibility to...
- Greet them as they enter the restaurant.
- Provide them with adequate menus (including kids' menus with crayons as appropriate)
- Show them to their tables
- Communicate with the server if anything was different about the seating - such as a table that's not already assigned to the server.
On the way back to the front of the restaurant, I clear and clean tables as necessary (or if I'm not busy), make sure the computer record of clean/dirty/occupied tables is updated and pick up used menus for cleaning and reassembling. Sometimes, if a server is busy and I need clean tables to seat guests, I will go ahead and clean - just so I have tables for people.
Other tasks include:
- Answering the phone
- Taking reservations
- Informing the kitchen how many guests are seated, but have not yet placed an order
- Keeping the front end tidy and clean, including the restrooms.
When it gets super busy and either the servers are full or the kitchen gets backed up, then I have to manage a waiting list for guests as they come through the door - taking a name and giving them an estimate as to how long it will be before they are seated.
In all cases, I remain in constant communication with management and the kitchen.
Some restaurants have multiple people as hosts, dividing up the duties among different named hosting positions, but we only have that when it gets super busy - and then, it's more ad hoc just to get things accomplished.
We are a team - striving towards a common goal - to satisfy guests so that they come back again and again - which makes everyone's job easier and more rewarding!
author/designer at A'mara Books
photographer/graphic artist for Viking Visual
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