I worked as a hostess in a Chinese restaurant when I was in grad school. At first, I thought it was just a mindless job that only requires a big smile and two running legs, but it turned out to be much more than that.
Just like any other customer-oriented business, a restaurant is the key place for people to get comfortable and relaxed. A hostess is the very first person they meet when they step into the door and if she fails to accommodate customers, so does the restaurant.
1. Be fast
Nobody likes to wait. The moment people walk in, they expect to be greeted right away. Say hello in your warmest voice and be ready to seat them. However, if you have to answer the phone before you’re able to seat them, be polite and let them know you’ll be with them in just a moment.
2. Be considerate
I made a mistake once by putting one couple at a table that had just been cleaned. The surface was still wet. The wife spoke to my face saying that was very rude of me to put them there. I was embarrassed, but I learned my lesson. Put yourself at the customer’s position and think about what you want. If you are on a lunch break, you must expect a quick service that is hassle-free. If you are on a date, you probably want to be put at a quiet spot so you can have some privacy. If you are out with elderly people and young children, of course you want a spacious place that both the walker and stroller can fit in.
3. Be patient
People have good and bad days all the time. But it’s very important for a hostess to put personal feelings behind and try to be professional all the time. This is especially crucial when dealing with customers who are either difficult or are having a difficult time. I have people come up to me and complain about our waitress’ poor English. One guy yelled at me because he didn’t want pepper in his black pepper chicken. Once in a while, I did feel bad about some accusations and complaints, but I always listen to them and tried to explain the situation calmly and nicely.
4. Be helpful
Being a hostess means you need to look after everything, especially during rush time. If you see someone raise their arm but the waiter doesn’t see it, walk up and ask if there is anything you can help with. Always give a hand to co-workers — you guys are a team after all.
5. Be respectful
I have hosted customers aged from two weeks to 92 years old. Knowing whom you are talking to is important. A hostess should use the right language to show respect to other people. I’ve worked with a very nice and enthusiastic girl who calls everybody “sweetie.” It might have worked on girls her own age, but it definitely failed on others. Later on she changed to “sir or ma’am” just like the rest of us do.