Let’s break down this most important position. A lot of people in the hospitality industry here in the states like to dismiss this position and unimportant and unnecessary. I used to be one of them.
I was wrong
Of all of the positions related to the front-of-the-house, this one works most closely with the manager, and therefore, is more in tuned with what is truly important in the restaurant on any given night. The manager will go over the evening’s important information with the host.
If a customer has a special dietary need, it is the host who passes that information on to the kitchen, and to the server. If there is a request for a specific table, it is the host who sees that the request is met. If there is an anniversary, or a birthday, it is the host who relays that to the server.
That’s not all
The server has blinders on, and can only see what is going on in their section. The kitchen only sees the orders in front of them. The host is at the front door, and sees the whole picture. They know who is slammed, and who is not. They know when it is okay to seat a table, and when it is not. They know whether or not they should send people back to the bar.
All of those points I mentioned earlier operate under the assumption that they have received the proper training from the manager, or owner. Very often, this is not the case. I often sit back in restaurants and watch while clueless (or untrained) hosts seat the same waiter 5 times, and then head back to the front desk and start texting away, completely unaware that the poor server is running around like a chicken with their head cut off.
Give those hosts the proper training. Have you just double-seated a server? Give the next table to someone else. Pick up that water pitcher and help a server out. When you are back in the bar checking on some customers, grab that tray of drinks and bring them out for the server. Stop by the kitchen and run some food. Offer to open a bottle of wine if the server seems busy. At least go get some clean wine glasses for them.
In Europe, and in Canada, the host is usually just a pretty face, put out front to attract customers to the joint. It is slightly different here in the states. There is more expected out of that position. At least there should be. It only works if they get the training they need.
Show them how to answer the phone. How to take a reservation. How to use Open Table. How to use the POS system. How to run a credit card. The proper way to serve food. Make sure they know all of the food. How to ring in a to-go order. The right way to box up a to-go order. Is is put in the bag properly? Are there napkins? The right utensils?
First and last impression
The main thing to remember is that the host is the first and last impression the guest has in their dining experience. A properly trained host can make those both positive. Why not have that properly trained host really set those guest up for a great evening? A little smile and a sense of humor can go a long way in making the server’s job that much easier.
Why not make sure that when the customers are leaving, that the host is there to help them with their coats? Help them to the car with packages? Thank them for coming in? Asking them to come back? Train this most important position. The list goes on and on…