What is a Hostess?

Also known as: Host.

A hostess is someone who is responsible for greeting customers at a restaurant with a smile, welcoming them into the establishment, seating them, and providing them with a menu. They are the organizer, the herder, and the first and last impression of the restaurant.

Keeping the restaurant orderly, making sure the customers are content, and keeping track of what's going on at each table are just some of the ways a hostess helps to keep a restaurant and its guests happy.

What does a Hostess do?

A hostess represents the service and overall hospitality of the staff of the restaurant. Hostessing is a honed craft; if the hostess knows how to make people feel like they genuinely care for them, she can become a restaurant's biggest asset in no time.

While guests are waiting to be seated or waiting for take-out orders to be ready, it is the job of the hostess to make sure that the guests are made comfortable and kept informed of the status of their orders or wait times. If the restaurant is very busy, it is the duty of the hostess to explain to impatient customers that they're doing everything they can to accommodate them. They can offer conversation or a free drink at the bar while they wait.

It is important for a hostess to keep an eye on what is going on in the kitchen, in each of the servers' stations, and at the bar, and to be aware of how their actions can potentially affect all of these areas.

Hostesses need to look and act polished, friendly and calm, not bossy, loud, vulgar, or bored. The hostess will often dress a bit differently than the rest of the wait staff to make sure she is easily recognizable should a guest need her services. The level of formality a hostess must adhere to can vary depending on the type of restaurant she works in. In formal restaurants, the hostess may be required to dress a certain way and exhibit exceptional manners in keeping with the restaurant's overall decor.

While the negative aspects of being a hostess aren't quite as extreme as those faced by servers, they are similar. A good majority of the people hostesses deal with will be pleasant, but on occasion they'll have to deal with some truly unpleasant people. They may have guests who will get angry that they can't have the best table in the house. They'll get guests who try to sneak in last-minute reservations, guests who get angry because they think things are moving too slowly, and even the occasional upset waiter who is not happy with how many tables he has.

If the hostess is having a bad day, it is important not to let any frustration that they may be feeling show or reflect in their service, making sure to be polite and to let the customer know that they value their presence. A hostess should not blame other staff members, as this reflects badly on the hostess and the restaurant as a whole. Customers might then presume that if the place is poorly run, then the food might not be worth waiting for. It is important to leave all emotions or ego at home. By being professional and keeping high standards, hostesses can help to keep the restaurant running smoothly and help to keep customers feeling happy and wanting to return. When customers leave, it is important to thank them sincerely, and to genuinely tell them that it would be wonderful to see them return.

Duties of a Hostess

  • keep track of each station
  • make a chart of each server's station, and what tables are in it
  • learn the table layout by heart
  • review all reservations for each shift, and assign suitable tables
  • make sure each member of the wait staff get a fair amount of tables
  • monitor the table rotation
  • keep notes on how many people are in a party, time of arrival, etc.
  • know which servers can be counted on to take extra tables
  • keep track of which tables are cleaned and available for new guests
  • estimate wait times for guests
  • answer the phone and take reservations
  • make sure there are complete place settings for each guest
  • make sure the table is clean
  • move tables together to accommodate larger parties
  • make special arrangements for children or disabled people
  • make eye contact and focus on guests when they ask questions
  • when seating guests who have been waiting, thank them for their patience

Things not to do as a Hostess

  • flirt
  • text
  • swear
  • chew gum
  • apply makeup
  • gossip

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What is the workplace of a Hostess like?

Hostesses are usually found at the front door wearing a big smile and ready to greet guests in restaurants, lounges and other public establishments. Although some hostesses work full-time, most work in part-time positions. This type of work tends to be extremely busy during the evenings and on weekends.



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Further Reading

  • What Does a Restaurant Hostess Do? www.wisegeek.com

    The specific duties of a restaurant hostess can vary depending on the restaurant in which she works, but in most scenarios, the hostess is the public face of the restaurant who greets guests when they enter the facility.

  • What Characteristics Are Needed Be a Good Host in a Restaurant? work.chron.com

    It takes a special personality, geared for superior customer service, to make this role work effectively.

  • Secrets from the Host Stand: 10 Things a Restaurant Host Wishes They Could Tell You www.seriouseats.com

    Restaurant hosting is a difficult job. As members of the League of Underappreciated Workers, they join audio engineers, bus drivers, and registered nurses as those who are only acknowledged on the rare occasions that they screw things up. It's a rough go, and hosts and hostesses are expected to do it all with a smile on their face lest they publicly suffer the wrath of the dreaded Yelper.

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