The first impression your guests receive of the hospitality and competency of your staff is the professional host or hostess standing at your front door. This hospitality industry veteran of forty years greets all returning guests by name and asks about each of their children. The Maitre D’ orchestrates the staff through hand gestures to insure that no guest ever is forced to wait for a table. They effortlessly coordinate the reservation to guarantee that no revenue is lost and no guest is inconvenienced. They are like the conductor of an orchestra and bring the most out of each of the players.
Or at least that is what we all dream for.
In the real world, the person standing at your front door is most likely the youngest and least experienced member of your staff. They work part time after school and during holidays. For most it is their first job and for the rest it is usually their first job in the restaurant industry. They are generally the least trained at how to do their job and have the most thankless role in the restaurant. One sentence from the paragraph above is true though. The first impression your guests receive of the hospitality and competency of your staff is the professional standing at your front door.
For this reason, I feel there are three very important concepts that need to be considered when managing, training, and staffing your host stand.
Host/Hostess Training Is Important: Your front door staff are vitally important to revenue optimization and the overall guest experience. In spite of this, most restaurants give them only a basic orientation and hand them over to another employee for their training. This does not insure quality training because even your most experienced host/hostess is necessarily a great trainer. As a consequence, crucial information and an understanding of why decisions are made, is not given to the new team member. This results in a much longer learning curve for the person running the floor that a structured training program could significantly shorten.
There Must Be Accountability: Every other member of your front of the house team is working for tips whether they are direct or indirect. This presents each member with the incentive to constantly improve at their job. Your front door staff does not have the same motivation. This often leads them to feel that if they are moving the guests away from the lobby, that they are doing their job well. The problems created from lack of rotating sections and pacing the guests pouring in can cause havoc for your servers and back of the house team members. Monitoring guest counts throughout the shift will create an incentive for your hosts and hostesses to follow the correct procedure instead of the easiest.
Consider Staffing Sources: Restaurants often fail to capitalize on seeking out front door staff from non-traditional sources. A lunch shift that requires a host/hostess from 10:30am until 2:00pm cannot be considered a full time job. It is however the ideal schedule for a stay at home parent of school aged children. Some of the best hosts/hostesses I have worked with were receiving high school credit for working at the restaurant during the second half of the school day. Offering to take some time to mentor a college student studying restaurant management, can land you an incredibly bright host or hostess. Don’t limit yourself to the applications that come through the door. Seek out talent with a schedule compatible to your needs.
Too often the front door staff of a restaurant is an afterthought. Managers will hire a warm body who can smile and walk to a table. A professional host or hostess can make a tremendous impact on your restaurant’s revenue and the experience your guests have. Taking time to hire, train, and monitor these staff members will improve most every facet of your restaurant’s operations. This is time that will produce a tremendous return on the energy invested.