7 Tips for Hiring a Great Host or Hostess

If someone had warned you that running a restaurant would be a job in which you have to be a chef, a manager, an inventory specialist, an accountant, a janitor, a customer service rep, a marketer, and an HR director, would you still have done it? Of course you would, because every day you get to do exactly what you want to do. Well, almost exactly. Today, we’re going over something that you don’t like doing so much: hiring. In the past, we’ve talked about hiring the right bartender, but since I know you want to get back to your food as soon as possible, I have compiled a fast list of seven things you should do to make sure you hire the right hostess.

1.  Find one that’s kind, friendly, and caring

The first rule of hiring a good host or hostess is to find someone who is kind, friendly, and caring. Not only will they be a thoughtful and considerate person for you to work with, they’ll also make a great first impression on your guests. Since your host or hostess is the de facto spokesperson of your restaurant or bar, installing a caring person at the front will make your guests feel instantly welcome.

To find someone caring, just trust your gut instinct. No one can fake being kind…and they certainly can’t learn to be kind either.

2.  Make ‘em smile

The thing that really gets your guests beaming when they walk in is when your host or hostess greets them with an enormous smile. Sure, the movies might think that snooty and reserved are the top attributes for fine dining hosts or hostesses, but what do they know about running restaurants? Hire the person who walks into your restaurant with a 1,000 kilowatt smile.

Worried that your interviewees might be too nervous to show off their smile? Tell some jokes or a great story at the interview to lighten the mood and get them showing off those pearly whites.

3.  Bring out their personality

In another post on the Uncorkd blog, we talked about your Moment of Truth, and how to get waiters and bartenders with a great personality. A host or hostess with a great personality is just as important, perhaps even more so. After all, it’s your hostess who will have to deliver the bad news that your restaurant is so busy that the wait will be 45 minutes.

To learn about your host’s or hostess’ personality, pay attention to how they respond to your questions. If you cracked a joke earlier to get your interviewee smiling, the person who cracked a (good) joke back will be the one with personality. If you’re really unsure, try asking him or her some questions in which you outline bizarre yet hilarious guest scenarios and then ask what your host would do in each situation.


4.  Ask strange questions

Being a host or hostess is all about dealing with strange requests from all directions at once. In any given hour, your host may have to field crackpot phone calls about the levels of Wi-Fi radiation on your rooftop patio, vegans verifying the exact ingredients in your Bloody Mary and your Vichyssoise, and confused tourists who stumble in and ask for directions to badly-pronounced local attractions.

The best way to know if your hostess can handle these questions is to start asking. And hey, have some fun with this section of the interview.

5.  Get them talking

A host’s or hostess’ job relies so much on communication. After all, there’s really nothing else they can do for your guests except talk to them. Because the job is all about talking, and then standing around for a long time, and then talking again, you want to make sure that the person you hire is fluent in the primary language your guests will be speaking.

Determining fluency is easy. Just get your interviewee talking for a little while, and you’ll quickly identify if he or she has any communication issues. 

6.  Make sure they can amuse themselves

Remember, the other part of your host’s or hostess’ job is standing around. If you hire someone with great communication skills, a bright smile, and who cares deeply about everyone…but who wanders away from her station whenever she’s bored—yeah, that’s not going to work.

Ask direct questions about how your host or hostess will amuse him or herself when it’s a slow night. If they sound like they’re making up an answer on the spot, let that be a red flag.

7.  Stand out from the crowd

The best way to hire the right host or hostess is to have your pick from a large and talented pool of people. How do you get potential hosts or hostesses banging down your doors and wanting to work for you? By offering great benefits, clear opportunities for advancement and growth, and a welcoming, supportive environment.

The truth is that everyone else in the restaurant industry is also looking for a talented, smiley, kind, friendly, smart, well-spoken person… and there are never enough of those people to go around. Give yourself an unfair hiring advantage and great people will want to work for you.


Photo licensed by Tetsumo