Before we get started I figured I should give you fair warning. I may have gotten carried away with the memes in this one. Hope you enjoy, and happy holidays.
Being a host can be a tough gig. More often than not, people have the impression that hosts are all:
When in actuality being a host really is…
Despite the fact that most hosts are new to the restaurant industry, the job requires a fair amount of multitasking and politics. In addition to seating tables, you can typically expect the host to fill in the gaps wherever needed by doing odd jobs like: filling waters, clearing tables & restocking restrooms. But out of the array of duties that a host is responsible for, seating tables is probably the most difficult. And I’m not just talking about walking guests to a table and handing them their menus (although this can get annoying rather quickly):
I’m talking about the implicit tactical strategy that’s involved in seating server sections (and managing the accompanying personalities). In a perfect world you’d seat tables in a clear rotation, but life doesn’t always work out that way
As a host you’re responsible for seating guests throughout the sections of your dining room to ensure that each of your servers is receiving enough seats throughout their shift. Not only must you consider which servers are openers versus closers, but you’re also working against the natural layout of your restaurant. Some sections of your restaurant might be more desirable than others (booth or window perhaps?), while other sections might feature multiple 2-tops to another section’s 4-tops. The host is responsible for managing expectations, and unfortunately bears the brunt of frustration from servers if things don’t always go according to plan.
That’s why I wanted to talk about some strategies that might help:
1. Talk to your servers
I realize this hardly sounds helpful, but hear me out. Talking with your servers helps gauge how they’re feeling that night—are they interested in a section full of 2-tops with high turnover? Or maybe they want to head out by early that night, so serving the large party of 10 at 6pm would be perfect for them. Whatever the case may be, you’ll find a happier team overall when you’re able to accommodate as many preferences as possible.
2. Be flexible
If a particular section has been rough to seat (maybe it’s a slow lunch hour and all of your guests want to sit in booths), then ask your servers if someone else wants to cover a table in that section. Your server with the empty section won’t be bored anymore, and the server assigned to the busy section would probably appreciate the help.
3. Always consider labor costs
Few things are more frustrating to an owner than seeing a lot of staff standing around joking in the service areas or on the patio–or worse, at the host stand. If you clearly have too much help than you need for the evening, it’s time to make a cut. I always recommend taking volunteers first (if you’re able to).
And don’t forget your closing server either. If one server’s section is starting to wrap up but they have an empty table you need to seat, find out if your closing server is able to take that table prior to seating your guests. It’ll help prevent any confusion between the staff as to whose table that actually is.