What Makes a Good Restaurant Host?
Writer William Arthur Ward said, “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” A pleasant facial expression and welcoming body language instantly welcome restaurant guests through your doors. In most cases, your restaurant host engages customers when they are coming or going. However, a host in your restaurant may have a slew of other job duties, from assisting with to-go orders to taking reservations, making this an area for a versatile staff member.
Think about your last restaurant experience. Did the host on duty warmly smile and greet you? Or did they rush off with your family barely keeping up? How your restaurant host responds to guests, handles conflicts, and manages customer flow is imperative to excellent customer service. Deloitte survey results show that the most important quality in a restaurant is, “happy, friendly, and attentive” staff.
A good restaurant host is a pro at customer service and people skills, exudes professionalism, can multitask, and works well with others. So, what exactly makes a good restaurant host?
Engages restaurant guests
A well-trained host greets guests immediately but doesn’t stop there. They talk to customers during the seating process. Tim Kirkland, CEO of Renegade Hospitality group, told FSR Magazine, “Restaurateurs can train hostesses to instead of grabbing three menus and racing you to a table, they just walk with customers and ask, ‘Have you ever been here before?’
- Provide hosts with examples (or mini scripts) for guest interactions.
- Encourage eye contact.
- Spend as much time training a host as you do any other staff.
Responds to guest needs
A good host anticipates the needs of each guest and assures a seamless customer experience. A survey by OpenTable finds, “65% of guests say seating preferences are a key reason they’d come back to your restaurant.” However, “53% of diners looking for those custom experiences have not made requests around seating.” Your host isn’t making assumptions about a guest’s status. Instead, your staff attempts to place guests at your best available table.
- Elderly guests may prefer a table near the door.
- Guests with assistive equipment may need accessible seating.
- A couple on a first date may not want to sit near a family with multiple children.
Demonstrate a team spirit
Above all, a good host demonstrates incredible team spirit. An exceptional host jumps in to clean up a spilled drink or quickly pull more chairs when extra guests join a table unexpectedly. Plus, a well-trained host communicates customer details with other staff to ensure a seamless guest experience.
Other qualities of a good restaurant host
This challenging position sets the stage for guest visits. That’s why restaurant owners must hire people-friendly staff members and invest in training. A good restaurant host:
- Maintains customer flow and server rotation.
- Manages conflict with composure.
- Has good phone etiquette.
- Knows the menu, seat numbers, and POS system.
According to American Express, “seven in 10 US consumers say they’ve spent more to do business with a company that delivers great service.” With that in mind, restaurateurs who emphasize customer experience, starting with a guest’s first interaction, will attract loyal customers and create brand ambassadors.