Director of First Impressions
The hostess at a restaurant has a major task on her hands. The importance of her job is so rarely explained to her that most do not know the extent of their importance.
They are, in fact, the Director of First Impression. Sure, a good server and excellent food does have the power to make up for a poor host. But how much better is the overall dining experience when the night is started off with an exceptional welcome?
Everything is better. The food tastes better, the wait time for the wine seems shorter, the prices seem more reasonable. For the server, the guests are more generous. For the restaurant, the reviews are more favorable.
The power of a hostess is immeasurable.
So how does a host provide excellent service?
Here are 5 ways a Restaurant host can provide the ultimate customer service.
1. Always open the door for the guest.
Everyone likes to have the door opened for them. Man or woman, young or old. It’s a nice gesture and it sets the tone for a good experience. A host should avoid secluding themselves to standing behind the podium or stand. Instead they should find opportunities to get out, stand close to the door and look for opportunities to open the door to any new guest coming in.
Also, they should be aware of guests that are leaving the restaurant. Ask them how their evening was and invite them back to see you again soon. Hold the door for them as they are leaving and bid them farewell. This will bookend a perfect evening that you started when they first arrived.
Yeah, this is a big one. A smile should be plastered on your face for your entire shift. At least while you are out on the floor. Find a way to fake it if you are in a bad mood.
Guest walks in, open the door and the greet them with a big sincere smile and welcome them to your restaurant. Ask them, with a smile, if they have reservations. Get their names, still smiling, and find their reservation. Take them to their table smiling the entire way so that the guests in the dining room can see it. Sit them at their table and, with a smile, use their names and tell them to enjoy their meal.
Walk back to the front of the restaurant with a smile on your face. Smiles are contagious. Spread them as frequently as possible.
3. Help the Servers.
Servers can sometimes find themselves in the weeds. This means that they are bat-shit busy and are in the middle of a mini-breakdown. This usually is a result of the fact that a host gave them 2 or 3 tables in the span of 5 minutes! HELP THEM!
Don’t abandon the hostess stand but if is not busy up front and if that spot is covered by another host, then help the server out as much as you can. Offer to help fill drinks. Offer to bring dirty plates back to the kitchen. Ask the server if there is anything you can do to help them. This teamwork will not only be appreciated by the staff but will also be impressive to the guests.
4. Be a concierge for the guests.
People need a lot of help. They can’t find the bathroom. They are impatient and need a refill. They’re starving and want a second loaf of bread! There are many things that guests need help with. Be on the lookout. Be aware of guests that are wandering around looking for something. Be aware if a guest is fidgeting and is in obvious need of something. Ask them if you can help. Help if you can, if not, tell them you’ll get someone that can. Find their server or a manager.
It’s ok to get the manager. The idea is to make the guest’s experience as enjoyable as possible. People love when a manager comes to their table. It shows the guest that they are important and the restaurant cares about them.
One last thing on this. As you sit the guest at their table, tell them your name and ask them to let you know if you can help with anything at all. It’s good for them to know they have someone at the restaurant they can turn to if they have a question.
5. Act like you own the place.
I was a bar tender at a restaurant a few years ago. There were several occasions that I was asked if I was the owner. I didn’t look like an owner. I didn’t dress like an owner. But I acted like the owner.
How do you act like an owner? Acting like an owner is simple, and it makes everything else simple too. You care. You need to care about the success of the restaurant. You need to care as much as the owner does. That’s how you become a great host. You stop at nothing to ensure your guests are having the greatest night of their life. A night they will talk about amongst themselves and with their friends and family for years to come.
This one step will make the restaurant more money, will give the servers better tips and will give the guests a better experience. You won’t be a host for very long if you can master this step.
Think of the restaurant as a show. You are a cast member and the guests are your audience. Wow them. And remember, smile constantly!
My name is Keith Laskey. I am an insurance agent, a server, a bar tender and a former Cast Member at Walt Disney World. I go nuts over exceptional service just as much as I despise poor service. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on the service you have received in the past.
photo courtesy of http://clarusapex.com/en/topics/hostess/