Just a Host? Think Again: Why You Need This Underutilized Team Member

By Andrew Carlson, Foodable Industry Expert

Have you ever walked into a restaurant, and as soon as your arm started extending out to grab the handle, the door swings open with a smiling face greeting you to the restaurant? Or if you’ve opened the door, were you instantly captured by the smile and greeting of someone at the host stand?

Most people just see this person as someone who sits you down at the table and then disappears back into the front of the restaurant to greet the next wave of guests.

But did you realize that your host or hostess is the most underutilized team member in your restaurant? Let me break down four ways that you can utilize your host to elevate your service and elevate your brand.

They Can Start Planting the Seeds of Specials

I will never forget walking into a restaurant in Minnesota and instantly being greeted by the host. She looked at me and said, “Will anyone else be joining you or is it just dinner for one?” I let her know that it was just myself and she grabbed the menu and started taking me to my table.

She noticed that I was glancing at the food on the tables and as we approached my seat, she said, “By the way, the special tonight is the steak. It’s seasoned to perfection and has a nice smokiness to it. I have never had a better steak than here, and I’m a big meat eater myself.”

I thanked her and she said she would return with a water. When I opened up the menu, in the center was the chef’s special, which was the steak.

The truth is, it wasn’t the actual special that caught my interest. What caught my interest was her enthusiasm for the product. She had such a genuine love of the food at the restaurant that she was excited to talk about it all.

If it wasn’t for the host, I probably would have blown right through the chef’s specials and onto something else. But because of the way she engaged with me on it instead of letting the server just rattle it off, I just had to try it.

They’re the First Line of Defense to Keeping Guests Happy

One of the best things that you can do for your restaurant — and your sanity — is to empower your team to do everything in their power to keep the guests happy.

Brunch is basically a sport in Los Angeles, so I’ve seen my fair share of wait times when it comes to getting a table for Sunday brunch. I went to a restaurant in San Diego and was told that the wait was going to be about two hours. I didn’t have much going on that day and I was spending time with people I thoroughly enjoyed, so we said we would wait.

We were waiting outside since it was directly on the beach and about 45 minutes had gone by when the host approached us. He looked at us and said, “It’s hot outside and the wait times are long. I do apologize and thank you for your patience. Would you care to start off with a mimosa?”

I was taken aback for a minute. I said sure, thinking there would be a trick. The rest of my group got one as well and he brought out the glasses. After about another 45 minutes of conversation with my party, we got in! But the wait didn’t seem long because we were taken care of.

The host didn’t have to keep us satisfied with a beverage. But by doing this little thing, they created a loyal customer. I’ve gone back to that restaurant every time I visited San Diego and recommend it to everyone that asks for the best brunch in San Diego.

It may seem like a little thing, but it’s always the little things that add up throughout an experience that your customers will remember.

Do You Have a Loyalty Program? They Can Pique Your Guests’ Interest

Loyalty programs are essential to retaining customers in a competitive market. You know that, but how do you get customers enrolled into it without sounding desperate?

Instead of having your server just ramble on about the loyalty program (if they even mention it), have your host circle throughout the restaurant. If during the greeting, someone had said, “This is our first time here,” in that moment, the host should know to touch that table again.

The host should approach the table throughout the meal and ask how everything has been so far. If they say “wonderful” or something similar, that should be the host’s cue to explain the loyalty program.

All they have to do is say something along these lines.

“I’m so happy you’re enjoying your experience. Have you had a chance to take a look at our desserts? If you enroll in our loyalty program, you get a free dessert. Who wouldn’t want a free dessert? Plus, we’ll send you specials and other fun items that you can redeem when you return!”

Look at it closely. It didn’t say if you return, it said when you return. You don’t want to give the customer any ounce of doubt that they will not return. They get a free dessert, plus they are already planning on coming back again. It’s a win-win situation and your host just closed the deal for you.

They End Your Customer's Experience With a Sweet Farewell but Not Goodbye

Like stated above, you always want to figure out how to get the customer to come back before they leave your restaurant.

There’s nothing worse than a customer leaving and the host just saying “have a great night!”

That may sound great on paper but that doesn’t do anything. It’s important that the host invites the customer back and hopes to see them again. But instead of just a blanket greeting, the host should try to engage with them one last time. “Have a great night. See you again next week?” with a smile.

This may seem silly at first, but I’ve seen customers return simply because they were invited to come back. It also helps if the host remembers names and faces upon their return. That is always guaranteed to make a guest feel welcomed and special.

If you implement these changes, you will begin to elevate your service and get the customer to have a desire to return to your restaurant again and again.

Test one or two of these tips out and let us know how it impacts your customers!