The most memorable feature of your restaurant may not be your food or even your décor. The host or hostess who greets your customers makes a powerful first impression and can make or break your success. But finding the right host for your restaurant isn’t something to leave up to chance and not everyone is an equally good fit for each role. You want to do more than just collect applications from inexperienced teenagers and select one at random, hoping to get a stellar employee. Use these handy guidelines to help you hire the best person for the job.

Friendly and Personable

As the first point of contact most customers will have with your business, the host or hostess should be welcoming and outgoing. Let the quiet, shy types work behind the scenes. Instead, you want to have the friendliest and most sociable people greeting people at the front entrance. Find a cheerful person who loves people and let him or her be the one to welcome your guests. You can generally get a sense of your potential hostess’ personality during the interview. Even if they’re nervous, they should still be charming and personable.

Calm under Pressure

Any restaurant will have stressful moments, especially when there’s a busy line of customers who want to be seated. Your ideal host or hostess won’t be rattled under that kind of pressure. You want someone who keeps their cool under stress and can convey that sense of calm to customers and fellow staff alike. Ask during the interview about how the candidate handles difficult situations or unhappy customers to get a sense of their personality.

Compassionate and Understanding

The human element is the heart of the hospitality industry. Your hostess should be able to empathize with customers and express genuine understanding and regret about unexpected delays. Customers waiting in restaurants can often get impatient, hungry, and even a bit cranky. The hostess should be able to smooth over those tensions and keep customers calm and happy, which they can help to do by managing expectations of how long the wait times will be. In addition, the hostess needs to be aware of the customer’s needs, accommodating special requests and seating arrangements.

A True Team Player

The host isn’t just the first face your customers will see: he’s also a crucial member of your hospitality staff. So your ideal host should be willing to get out from behind the front desk and pitch in wherever else they’re needed. The host might need to help with rolling flatware, taking drink orders, or preparing to-go orders. Ask them during the interview process what they might do during down times between customers or about how they would respond to being asked to work on other tasks.

Well-Spoken and Confident

The right hostess should be comfortable speaking in front of a large group of people. You want someone who is well-spoken, with a clear speaking voice and good grammar. People who mumble or who might slip up and use profanity when under stress aren’t the best fit for this highly visible role. You want to choose someone who is poised and composed, who can convey professionalism and confidence.

Grasps the Big Picture

The host or hostess is not just the person who greets people as they arrive; they’re also the coordinator of all the tables. The hostess has to keep track of how long customers have been seated and when the tables are expected to turn over. They may have to occasionally walk around the dining room to see when customers may be finished with their meals. The host essentially manages the flow of traffic and makes sure customers are rotated evenly among servers. A good hostess is the key to making sure your restaurant’s operation runs smoothly.

Homebase provides restaurants and fast casual eateries with free staff scheduling, time sheets, and more.

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