By an Anonymous Former Server, as part of our new 'Tales from a Former Server' column
Like every other restaurant noob, my career in hospitality began at the host stand. I loved being a hostess, more than serving, because it is basically the easiest job in a restaurant. You make an hourly wage, only have to deal with people in small increments, and you get to stand around and do nothing for the majority of the time. But just because the job requires minimal brain work doesn’t mean you can slack off when it counts.
I hate when I walk into a restaurant and immediately feel like I am inconveniencing the hostess because she’s too busy looking at her phone or giving me the stink-eye because she’s bored as hell and doesn’t feel like walking 30 feet to seat me. That, and she’s probably 16, so there’s extra, unintentional attitude.
So if you’re a host/hostess, here is my advice for you:
The Butterfly Effect. As a greeter, you are the first person a guest comes in contact with, and that interaction will affect the rest of their visit. If you are rude, curt, or generally unpleasant, chances are guests will have a bad taste in their mouths right from the get-go. The server then has to make up for your surliness and may or may not be able to do it. This affects tip, which makes servers turn into whiny jerks, which makes them yell at you, which makes you not sit them. Basically, chaos will ensue. So just smile and set a server up for success. In the end, it’ll work out for you, too.
Oh, and don’t put your back to the door. Rude.
Attention to detail. I understand that your little hostess world does not extend past the host stand. I even understand that you are probably paid hourly and therefore tips do not matter to you. But for the love of God, just practice a little attention to detail (ATD). If you seat a table with no silverware, I may not notice. And then Margret over there doesn’t have a fork with which to enjoy her overly-modified Cobb salad. Now she’s snapping at me while I take another table’s order and I want to snap her neck. (Woah, look at that, it’s the butterfly effect all over again.)
Quit being lazy. Don’t continuously seat the same section because it is close to the host stand. Don’t tell a table you can’t get them something because you’re not a server. Don’t walk past a dirty table without cleaning it up. If you can, then do. It’s that simple.
Use common sense. Yes, you have a seating rotation to follow. But if Sarah keeps getting 2-tops while Susan is rollin’ in the dough as she gets 4- and 5-tops, you’re doing it wrong. Tables are tables, but headcounts are even more important. Try to keep everything even so that some servers aren’t running around in the weeds while others sulk in the corner, wishing they were making money.
Affirmative action. DO NOT MAKE MY SECTION THE KIDDIE CORNER. Or, even worse, the geriatric ward. If you seat me with a 6-top consisting of one adult and five children, then give me a break and don’t seat me with another child for a while. Because chances are that check will be weak — a waste of my big top — and I’m sure little Johnny is going to destroy any and all condiments.
If they can’t fit, do not sit. If I have to explain why this is a bad idea, there is just no helping you. Two hefty people do not belong at a small 2 top situated in the corner of the restaurant. It’s seriously just awkward for all of us.
Be the bigger person. Servers are going to come down and yell at you for whatever reason. Why did you seat me with teenagers? They’re not even going to order alcohol. Another birthday? Why are you skipping me?
As servers run around, trying to keep their tables happy, they have tunnel vision and no idea why you do what you do. Just nod, smile, and move on.
Remember: if you nail hosting, chances are you’ll get moved up to being a server. And that, my friend, is where all the fun and money is.