The host stand is the first thing your customers see when they enter your restaurant. That first impression can be an opportunity or a potential stumbling block, and no matter which way you impress your customers, the host sets the tone. It’s like any new relationship: every word and action takes on an importance unique to the situation. Just like a first date, your customer is wondering why they should trust you.
Your host staff should excel at putting the customer at ease. I doubt I need to tell you to train your hosts to be friendly, warm, and inviting. If they don’t have that down pat then your restaurant has bigger problems. Beyond the basics like knowing how to seat a section without double-seating and always striving to go above and beyond the customer’s expectations for service, here’s some tips to help your host turn your customer into a life-long friend:
Encourage individualism. Training your host staff to look and act alike might seem like the best way to create a good first impression every time, but in fact you take away their personalities when you try to control them. Instead, let your host’s personality highlight how personable and accessible your restaurant is. Obviously, people with warm, positive personalities are better suited to hosting, and your hiring choices should reflect that job reality.
Allowing your host staff to express their individual personalities also has a positive effect on your regular customers because they get to engage with a different type of interesting and happy person every time they patronize your establishment. That makes customers look forward to the next time they go out to eat.
Allow different interpretations of style. This goes hand-in-hand with the first tip concerning individualism. The reality is that a uniformed host staff is a boring host staff. Your servers are uniformed because they are operating as a team to bring you the best service possible. Your host, on the other hand, is the face of your restaurant and their primary objective is to engage and welcome the customer. Nobody wants a drone who looks like everyone else in your restaurant to welcome them, because it makes them feel less important.
Allowing hosts to express their personalities through their own (tasteful) styles presents an intriguing face to the customer and makes them want to engage.
Create a culture of exceptional service. Now that you’ve got these interesting and unique personalities running around seating and taking care of guests in your restaurant, you need a common thread to tie them together. That thread is the idea of providing exceptional service to every customer every time. If each host on your team buys into that concept, then they will find unique and creative ways to accomplish that goal with each customer.
In many ways the host stand is the personality of the restaurant, because that’s the first place the customer looks for cues on how their relationship with you is going to work out. The hardest part for a manager is letting the personality of the host represent the restaurant. However, allowing a little creative freedom at the front door of the house is by far the best way to make your restaurant seem like a relationship the customer wants to keep.