PayScale: What is the job description for a restaurant hostess?
As a hostess, I am in charge of the entire flow of the restaurant. I control and navigate a system of how often and in what order each server is seated in their section. This in turn affects the kitchen flow which includes how quickly food tickets come out and the order in which the kitchen makes these food tickets. I am the customers’ first and last impression of the restaurant, so I am expected to be genuinely kind and accommodating. That same attitude must be kept over the phone with potential guests. Over the phone I answer questions and take to-go orders. On top of showing my best guest-first attitude, I am in charge of keeping the bathrooms and the front area of the restaurant clean and presentable. Toward the end of the night, when much fewer people are coming to dine, I help the busser and servers clean and reset the tables. I also offer help to the managers and the food runners who watch the food window and send food out to the correct seat and table numbers. In the food industry, like many other industries, it is all about teamwork. If one area of the restaurant fails, then soon enough the rest of us will too.
PayScale: How did you get started in this job? What were your first food service job opportunities?
When I was 16 years old, my Mom told me it was time to get a job - especially if I wanted a car. I applied everywhere in my town - grocery stores, boutiques, clothing stores and restaurants. At the end of one of my days of job hunting, I was told there was an open interview starting in five minutes. I decided to stay and got the job. I worked at Coho Cafe for almost two years before feeling like I needed new scenery. I tried being a receptionist, but with the downfall of the economy, hours were severely cut and it was time to move on. I went back to the restaurant business and have been in it ever since. I have stayed in this industry for two reasons: Every shift is different, but exciting and fast-paced, and I love interacting with new people. I am required to keep my people skills and my ability to multi-task at above-par level. These skills I have acquired and sharpened will also help me in my future career in marketing and public relations.
PayScale: What do you love about your restaurant hostess job?
As stated above, I love the fast-paced environment that never stays the same, and I love interacting and entertaining people. But one of my favorite memories that changed my life has to do with neither of those things. A favorite story of mine comes from two “regulars” (a husband and wife) whom I met while working at Coho Café. After meeting this couple, I began to talk with them more and more each time they came in. Eventually they told me that they had stopped coming in on certain nights because they knew I wasn’t working. Every once in awhile Jerry would even slip me a $20 bill, “just for being great.” I noticed Jerry’s health had been declining over a couple months and I stopped seeing LouAnn and Jerry coming in. I found out from my manager that Jerry had passed away. LouAnn and I had become “friends” on the popular networking site, Facebook. I decided I needed to reach out to her. We went to Coho Café for lunch and we still keep in touch today. I don’t think it gets much better than gaining a good friend from the job you do.
PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face as a restaurant hostess?
Working with people can be tough sometimes. I have had to deal with completely irrational people and figure out ways to meet their needs with limited resources. If people have a bad experience, they will usually take it out on me; I have learned just to stay calm and list options for them. I try to fix the problem before grabbing my manager, but sometimes there’s not much I can do. When the rush comes on Friday and Saturday nights, it can also be tough to prioritize the 10 tasks I may have going on at any one time. This weekly trend has taught me to just focus on the tasks and realize they can’t all be done at once. My prioritizing and organizational skills have also had to improve to keep up with the demands of Friday and Saturday nights.
PayScale: What advice would you give to someone pursuing food service job opportunities?
My best advice to someone trying to break into the restaurant industry is to accept that the lower positions (busser, host/hostess, food runner, etc.) are all fast-paced positions that are put in place to help the servers. It’s like any other industry in the sense of starting at the bottom and working your way up to the top. Another piece of advice is to always smile and leave your personal problems at the door.
PayScale: Do you recall any crazy moments from working in the food service industry?
There are far too many crazy/amazing/interesting times to list from my last three and a half years of working in the restaurant industry. I come across so many different types of people with different personalities. Working in an industry that is focused on customer service, I've seen some curve balls thrown from people. Despite the craziness, I have met amazing "regulars" and co-workers who have turned out to be some of my closest friends today.