Once upon a time, hosts and hostesses at restaurants set the tone for the dining room and the menu. The mystery of the always sexy, flirtatious hostess, the charm of the well dressed, tanned, movie star styled owner, the perfect personality of the waitress or waiter, along with the stage set backdrop of a casually elegant table, sporting a crisp white linen cloth always gave guests a taste of things to come. But the business has changed. In most restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco, the hostess is still the symbol of style. And, the appearance and hygiene of the first person you see in the restaurant sets the tone for the evening. But in many restaurants it has become perfectly acceptable that the host, hostess, and some of the staff has taken on the looks of a grunge rock groupie who got left behind after the last gig.
I graduated from the restaurant school of “give them a great experience”, therefore I believe the host or hostess should be as professional looking as possible. Don’t interpret this as meaning that some movie star styled beauty has to be strutting the floor with menus in hand and customers in tow. Not so. But it doesn’t hurt to have the person greeting the customers look as though they took some time in preparing to come to work. And, here’s why.
The hostess plays a major role in any restaurant. She should have a complete overview of the dining room and know exactly what is scheduled, what tables are open, and where customers who do not have reservations should sit. She should know the section numbers without glancing at a piece of paper. She should have a personality that can appease an upset patron, can smooth the feathers of a ruffled customer, and can make a decision without seeking guidance from a supervisor since most customers assume she has the authority to do so.
A hostess is more than just a symbol of style. She must possess the art style. She has to know when to hold ’em and fold ’em. One angry four-top, walking out because of an unsatisfactory table choice can do more harm to a restaurant than most managers realize.
Here are a few things to look for when hiring a hostess
1). She doesn´t have to be off the cover of Vogue or the pages of Vanity Fair, but she should possess and project a sense of style.
2) She should have the ability to manage people. If she doesn´t the dining room staff will make her job miserable.
3) She has to be able to work under pressure. Nothing is harder than staring four six tops in the face telling them it will be another few minutes while Michael Morse is screaming "Where´s my table. I am a local."
4) The hostess should be willing to do more than just seat the people. Menus, water, bread if needed and even clearing a table or running food should all be part of her repertoire.
5) She should have some training as a waitress. It has been proven that hostess with the knowledge of waiting tables- even if done as a trailing shift or two- makes better hostesses.
6) Frumpy doesn´t sell. If the hostess you hired on Monday went through a frump makeover by Friday, let her know that it is unacceptable. Some applicants look great when interviewing and then think that since they are part of the family they can drink milk out of the bottle. Not so. Let the hostess know that the image she projects is as important as the food that comes out of the kitchen.
And, finally, pay your hostess a decent wage. She is one of the most important people in the dining room. She is the conductor of the orchestra. She has to have the ability to turn away from the line at the door, pan the room, and in an instant know who is coming, going, or staying for after dinner drinks. And, that is a talent that should be rewarded, with style.