So! This chapter is designed to help you, the RC, to better understand the mechanics and dynamics behind the host stand. You’ve arrived at the restaurant of your choice (check). You’ve ascertained what time it is that you have arrived, and if it is dinner time on the weekend, or closing time, or a holiday, or anything like that you have adjusted your expectations accordingly (check). You’re also fully prepared to have a pleasant experience despite whatever crap is going on in your life. Your boyfriend may be a putz, but you are not going to take it out on the staff at this restaurant (check)!
Okay! You are ready for the next evolution. You are ready to be seated. So here’s a little background. The host stand is pretty much what it sounds like, a stand at which there are hosts. You may think that the only job a host at a restaurant has is to seat you. If you think that, you are wrong. A restaurant host is like an air traffic controller. They land customers at the right table. How do they do this?
The restaurant is divided into sections. These are groups of tables that are together, usually in a straight line, a square, or a circle. Each server has a section of tables that they are responsible for. Ideally a section will consist of no more than three or four tables. Trust me, expecting a server to run (take care of) anymore than that can seriously compromise the level of service each table receives. So, depending on how many servers are working and how busy the restaurant is, the entire place is generally divided into eight to fifteen sections.
Here’s where it gets really technical. Tables are seated on a rotation. What does that mean? The host will seat section one first. The next table will go in section two. Then three, four, and so on. When the host has seated each section with a table, s/he will go back to section one and start all over. Hence the term “rotation”. Using this method, the host ensures that every server is seated evenly, and no server is overwhelmed, so that every table can receive optimal service.
There are a number of things that RCs can do to throw off the rotation and upset the balance in a restaurant. I’m going to share the top two with you. If you’ve never engaged in these behaviors, good job! Please see to it that you never do. If you have, cease and desist! You are screwing with the host, the servers, compromising the experience of the other diners, and (if you care about no one but yourself) sabotaging your own dining experience before you even place your order.
Number One: Musical Chairs. The host attempts to seat you at a table in the next section in the rotation. You don’t like tables near the bar, you don’t like to be around people who drink, and you inform the host of that, so s/he takes you to a table in the next section to be sat. You just don’t like the way this area feels, you don’t really like the lighting, it’s a bit too gloomy in your opinion, and you inform the host of that. “I’ll show you where we want to sit,” you declare, and now we’ve arrived at the gist of the situation: You don’t like sitting anywhere someone seats you, you like to pick where you sit, and you will find a problem with any place the host attempts to seat you. So you march the host clear across the restaurant, triumphantly plopping down in the booth. “We always sit on the west side of the building, because its good luck for us,” you explain. “Oh, and we’re ready to order. Now.”
Unfortunately, the server who’s section you insisted on sitting in already has a party of ten, two other tables in progress, and the host just sat her again five minutes ago. You self-seating yourself has just double-sat this poor server. But another nearby server should take care of me then! The other servers in the vicinity are seated to capacity as well! See, the servers who are capable of attending to you and your family of five right now? Are on the east side of the restaurant. They were next in the rotation, which is why the host attempted to seat you in their sections. For them to come across the restaurant and take care of your table as well as their tables on the east side is ludicrous. You’ll just have to wait for the server in your section to work you in, and s/he will do so in a way that will least upset the balance of the tables they are already attending to. A servers priorities are HFOGNG. What does this acronym mean? Hot food, old guest, new guest. They will run out any hot food to their tables first. Then they will check on all of their existing tables to make sure they are doing okay, then and only then will they come and take your order. No, they can’t just grab you some drinks and put in your appetizers! You insisted on sitting here, you could have had service right away on the other side of the restaurant.