What Does a Hostess Do At a Restaurant?

Written by Kit Jenkin

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Every restaurant needs a face of the organization - someone friendly and inviting that will make guests feel seen and taken care of. After all, making guests feel welcome will improve the customer experience of the restaurant. 

The hostess of a restaurant greets new customers as they arrive. They are often in charge of seating new guests, taking reservations, managing table turnover, and preparing tables for use. 

While this might seem straightforward, a hostess’s job can be fairly complex. It requires someone with strong interpersonal skills, an ability to predict future events, and a great ability to manage the desires and expectations of their clients. 

Here’s what a hostess does at a restaurant. 

Welcoming guests

This is the first and most important duty of the hostess. The hostess usually acts as a gatekeeper between the entrance or lobby and the rest of the restaurant. They must make sure that the guests that enter get the table they reserved or need. 

As the first person the customer sees upon entering the establishment, the hostess usually must greet the customers in a way that reflects positively on the restaurant and builds anticipation for the experience to come. Creating a good first impression with the right host will lay the foundation for a positive and memorable hospitality experience.

Talking with guests 

People are more likely to feel comfortable in your restaurant if they are engaged in good conversation. Part of the hostess’s role may be chatting and familiarising themselves with guests when they arrive. This could also be to occupy guests who are waiting for tables so that they don’t get too impatient while they wait. 

Topics of conversation with guests might be tempered by the kind of organization you work for. A hostess that works for an exclusive bistro or cocktail lounge may be freer to converse with customers in a manner that a hostess for a family restaurant may not be able to. At all times, the hostess must hold themselves in a manner that reflects positively on the restaurant where they work. 

Providing information about the menu, seating arrangements, and more

Being the gatekeeper between new guests and the rest of the restaurant, the hostess must be able to let new guests know about all the details involved in the dining experience. This can include likely wait times for food, which tables may be best placed for certain guests’ particular needs and any details about that menu that guests may need. 

Knowing your restaurant’s menu is particularly important. Some restaurants may have special requirements for certain dishes - that customers order certain dishes beforehand so that the kitchen has time to prepare. Stock levels may also mean that some dishes may not be available. The hostess needs to have all this information on hand in case they’re asked. 

Acquiring knowledge about dining needs

Some restaurant guests may need special considerations. For example, a disabled guest may need special seating arrangements. A family may need a highchair in order for their children to eat at a table. Or certain guests might have dietary requirements. 

The hostess should inform the wait staff and kitchen of any requirements of the guest in question, or, tell the manager if the guest has a serious allergy. 

Seating guests

Once a guest’s reservation has been confirmed, or they have determined there are enough tables in the restaurant, the hostess must seat each party at the appropriate table. It’s vital that the hostess guide the guests to the appropriate table as certain tables may be reserved for other parties.  

Monitoring the restaurant floor

The hostess will often be responsible for monitoring activity on the restaurant floor. This could include identifying instances where coworkers need help or if guests need assistance in some way and offering to step in, before they have to ask.

By having an overview of the dining area, the hostess is able to take in vital information that informs how they work for the rest of their shift. For example, if upon seating some guests the hostess notices that a chair at one of the adjacent tables is broken, that may affect how many people are able to be seated at that table, which may cause backlogs in seating if new guest parties only come in certain configurations. 

Taking reservations

At many restaurants, the hostess is in charge of processing calls, emails, or messages from reservation apps and reversing the appropriate tables for future guests. It’s up to the hostess to ensure that the restaurant isn’t overbooked and that the restaurant has enough resources to meet the demands of every service. 

Many restaurants use booking apps like Apointedd to process their reservations. With apps like these, you can remind guests of their reservations via SMS, sync internal and external calendars, and manage staff duties.

Table preparation

In seating guests, a hostess may be required to prepare table settings, change tablecloths, and arrange seating for their guests. This responsibility may require the hostess to become aware of processes in the kitchen, such as stock levels and dishwashing. 

This responsibility may also require the hostess to do more stocking and cleaning work. It will be up to the hostess to ensure the proper levels of menus are stocked at the table or front podium at all times. The hostess may also be responsible for cleaning duties like wiping, mopping, and vacuuming in certain situations. 

Preparing the entrance/welcome area

The hostess is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the entrance and welcome area to the restaurant. As the first part of the restaurant the guests see, it is vital that this part of the restaurant be kept as presentable as possible. 

Keeping this area presentable could mean cleaning windows, floors, and walls; stocking menus; removing an unnecessary obstruction from the entrance; maintaining the reservation book/computer terminal; and more. 

Responding to complaints

Inevitably, a hostess will need to respond to a complaint. This may come over the phone or in person, and it is important to respond in a professional and measured way to ensure the situation doesn’t get out of hand. Dealing with difficult customers can be tricky, and it’s vital that every hostess be trained in conflict resolution and customer service techniques to ensure that the dining experience remains good for everyone and that the complaint in question doesn’t result in an unhappy customer. 

Make every role in your restaurant the most important with an Epos Now POS

When you’re managing your own restaurant, it’s vital that every role be performed to maximum efficiency. But with so many different moving parts involved in running a restaurant, how can you keep a handle on everything, much less make these parts work to the best of their ability?

With an Epos Now Restaurant POS, you can find more ways to satisfy customers by offering simplified tableside ordering, delivery, contactless payments, and more.

  • Track time-at-table and manage floor plans in real-time to boost table turnover
  • Streamline back of house operations with a comprehensive Kitchen Display System
  • Group by course and order type to speed up preparation and reduce customer wait times
  • Pass orders directly to your kitchen to improve order turnaround times and accuracy
  • Receive online orders through into your kitchen as soon as they come in
  • Eliminate manual paper tickets and confusion to improve service
  • Respect social distancing and reduce the need for staff to manually submit orders to the kitchen
  • Remove errors with a single view to any last-minute order changes

Contact Epos Now to learn more about our systems.

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