Does Your Restaurant Host Have the Most?

 In Bar & Restaurant Operations, Customer Service

Here’s a question: How much thought goes into your hires for the position of host/hostess?

If you’re doing little more than sticking an employee inside the front door because of his fantastic jawline or her girl-next-door personality the answer is probably “not enough.”

A job we consistently see bars and restaurants mishandle is that of host. Though they don’t have the more obvious role of a bartender, server or cook, hosts are quite a bit more important than you might think.

Customer service can’t be neglected when you’re slammed, and that is precisely when a strong host is needed most. The host is your restaurant’s ring master; they are the middle-man between customers and the kitchen. At your absolute busiest they might be the difference between a successful shift or complete disaster.

So what, then, should you look for when filling this post? We’re reminded of an adage used in many different industries with regards to hiring for jobs that place an emphasis on customer service:

Hire for attitude, train for skill. 

The host is going to encounter people with a lot of potentially difficult questions. How long until our table is open? Why isn’t my to-go order ready? I have two last-minute additions to my reservation — can they join us? Why not?

In terms of customer service, the most important factor will be whether your host is able to field queries from occasionally stressed-out customers with poise and grace. That’s not a trait you’ll be able to teach somebody, either. They’ve got it or they don’t.

You can teach a person how to navigate the computer that manages your reservations, but you can’t teach them to keep a positive attitude when a guest is virtually screaming at them because they’ve had to wait ten minutes longer than promised.

And make sure you’re keeping in mind the difference between service and civility. Civility is a baseline of manners we expect in all personal interaction. What you need here is somebody who can provide service. They’ll need to go the extra mile to ensure every possible need of the customer is met. Ideally they have the type of personality that anticipates problems before the customer has the chance to mention them.

Ultimately you’re probably better off hiring somebody with no restaurant experience who seems unfazed by stress than you are veteran of the industry prone to confrontation. Seek out the proper personality and the rest will fall into place.

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