Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hostesses Are There For A Reason

A server who is "sat" frequently, or even "double sat" (two tables at once, oh no!), is less likely to deliver the same quality of service as a server who is sat steadily with plenty of time in between each table. The kitchen can get backed up if the hostesses seat one table after another, over and over again. Eventually, the dishwasher will have to clean the great rush of dishes and will quite possibly become backed up as well. Bussers will stand around for a half an hour with nothing to do, then, all of a sudden, all the tables get up at once and they are overwhelmed with dirty tables they need to clean. Bartenders are running their own little restaurant off in the bar, but they do have to make drinks for those sitting in the restaurant who order them. Margaritas, beers, martini's, pinia coladas, etc., all need to be made in the bar. Usually, bars are seat-yourself and the hostesses have nothing to do with the seating, so there is no regulation of tables coming in and out. Each position in a restaurant is somehow connected to every other position whether in action, lack of action, or interaction. It cannot be stressed enough as to how important teamwork is in a restaurant.

Many people know that the purpose of a hostess is to take them to their table, but I doubt many actually know why hostesses go to certain tables. I doubt many people know why it seems the hostess sat them right next to the only other guests in the entire restaurant. But that's why I'm here, right? To explain this mystery...

Each server, generally, has what is called a "section". A section is the same, set, number of tables that the server will wait on for the duration of the shift. Not difficult to understand? Good, I'll keep going. A "rotation" is basically a list of all the servers that are on the clock and serving tables, starting with who came in first and ending with the last to come in. Still following? Great. Many, many times, more likely than not actually, the servers who come in at the sime time (or close to it) have sections that are right next to each other. For example, the first four servers to come on the clock (let's say around 3) have the left side of the restaurant divided up between them. The servers who come in later, say around 5, have the right side of the restaurant divided up between them. The hostesses will seat guests in the sections that have servers on the clock so the guests will be served. There is always, however, one or two people who will like the look of a closed section better than where the hostess takes them (usually a booth or something similar). In this case, the hostess should let them sit at their table of preference and find a server to serve them because, as you may remember, the section the guests are now sitting does not have a server on the clock and ready to go. Most people don't know that there is a reason for the hostesses sitting them at the table that she did, but now you know. The rotation allows for each server to have a turn at getting "sat" and it gives (usually) enough time in between tables for servers to keep from getting "weeded".

Another one of the several things that bug me when guests do it, is when they seat themselves. Now come on people! You don't take your own orders, you don't cook your own food, you don't carry your own food out to your table, and you certain don't clean up after yourselves (although I think sometimes people need to be forced to so they wouldn't make such a mess in public...another time, sorry!), so DON'T SEAT YOURSELVES IF A HOSTESS IS EMPLOYED. Seating you is what they get paid for! Trust me, it's enough to make a hostess feel invisible and useless if a guest is the one leading the way to a table (unless it's a seat-yourself section like most bars).

Two older ladies came in once while I was working and they barely said two words to me. Now, I'm a friendly person, and I like to talk to my guests, it makes their experience better and it makes me enjoy my job that much more. These two ladies, whether they meant to or not, showed very little respect to me. I don't ask for much from people, just that they let me do my job. They came in (on the wrong side so I couldn't get to the door in time to open it for them) and I asked if it would be just the two of them, for smoking or non, etc. Only the one lady answered me, and in such a low tone that I could barely hear. The other lady, when she saw that I was getting two menus for them, turned around and headed off to her table of choice, with me trying to keep up. I was, of course, smiling and friendly, though in my mind I was furious because it really does tick me off when people think that they can just ignore me and sit wherever they please. "I'm not a decoration!" I'm always repeating when I vent about people who seat themselves. "I don't just stand here because it looks good, I actually have a job to do!' Not only did these ladies seat themselves, they sat themselves at a six-top table (and believe me there were plenty of other open, smaller tables available, it was just after the restaurant opened that they came in), and then, about ten or fifteen minutes later, they decided that they didn't like that table and helped themselves to another, six top, table.

Not only does it help the employees to let the hostess seat you, it benefits you as well. Suppose that a guest comes in through a side door of the restaurant and spots a booth he likes the look of and sits down. Well, if the restaurant just opened, that section might have a server who is not even at the restaurant yet. Because he came in the side door, the hostess probably did not notice that he came in and sat himself, so because she doesn't know he's even there, she doesn't go find a server who is on the clock to go take care of him. He'll probably wait five or ten minutes or so before coming up to the hostess and asking where his server is because he's been waiting ten minutes and nobody has even said hi! The hostess will probably be surprised and wonder where he came from (not aloud if she's smart), but she'll ask him where he's sitting and promise to go get a server after he points out his ill-gotten booth. Now, the guest is already not very happy because he had to wait ten minutes before someone came to get a drink order, the hostess isn't happy because the servers might be yelling at her (because they always seem to think they know better than the hostesses) for either sitting someone in a closed section or for letting the guy slip by and sit himself, and the server who will wait on him isn't going to be happy because he's not happy and they know a not-so-good tip is probably coming. Even the manager might not end up happy because now he has to go talk to this not-very-happy guest who's trying to get a free meal out of the whole thing.

Doesn't that seem a bit unreasonable to you? The guest seats himself where he pleases, which causes servers to yell at the hostess, the hostess to get angry, the manager has to buy the guests food because he's not happy, and the guest gets a free meal for all the trouble he's caused. Oh! And can any of the employees tell him what he's done? No. Can the employees ask him never to do it again? They can ask as nicely as possible, though not usually, but that doesn't mean he'll actually listen next time. Heck, he just got a free meal for it, why whouldn't he do it again? Don't you just want to smack some people?

Hostesses also run the waitlist. Imagine if you will, a restaurant without hostesses. At first, that might be great, you can sit wherever you want. If you want a booth, you can take a booth. If you want a table, you can take a table. If you don't like that table, you can just move to a booth that you'd rather have. Now, picture that hostess-less restaurant filling up. All the tables are full, but guests keep coming in the door. Now what? There's no one to tell them how long it will be before the next table gets up, there's no one to take the names of the people who are first in line. The more aggressive people will be better at getting tables than the non-aggressive, who will end up either waiting a long time or giving up and leaving (or even both). Wouldn't it just be easier, and more fair, if the restaurant would just hire somebody to assign tables to people?...

Oh, wait, yeah, they do! They're called THE HOSTESSES.