There aren’t any easy jobs in a restaurant.
And no, hosts and hostesses aren’t exempt from this rule.
You might consider their job fairly simple—after all, they generally just stand at a podium and wait for people to show up, then write names in a little book. What could be easier?
But there’s more to it than that, and if you’re not careful, you can make your hostess’ job much more difficult. Every hostess hates it when their customers…
1. Try to charm their way to tables.
This creates an instant level of awkwardness, since the host doesn’t have much power to seat you quickly. You’re waiting for a table because people are sitting at all of the tables. Short of shooing people out of the restaurant, the host can’t do much about that.
And sure, they could move you up the list, but everyone else in the restaurant will realize what just happened. Hostesses can get fired for treating customers unfairly; they’re not going to risk their jobs just because you smiled at them.
2. Suggest “just pushing some tables together.”
You’ve got some people with you, and you see a few open seats scattered throughout the restaurant. Why can’t the restaurant accommodate your party by pushing tables together?
For starters, the servers will kill the hostess. In many restaurants, certain servers are designated to specific tables, so pushing tables together throws everything off. There’s also other logistic issues to consider; if the tables in question are across the restaurant from one another, they’re not linking up anytime soon.
Your hostess will decide whether tables can be pushed together. Don’t offer it as a solution—they’ve already considered it.
3. Ask to be seated before the rest of your party arrives.
The rest of your party might never arrive. Sure, it’s not your fault—you genuinely believe that your friends will show up within the next five minutes—but their tardiness shouldn’t be your hostess’ problem.
Most restaurants won’t seat incomplete parties for this reason. If the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, they’ll have set aside a 20-seat table for an hour for nothing. That’s a huge profit killer, and it’s not fair to the other patrons, either.
4. Move without asking (or informing) anyone.
In a busy restaurant, servers have to move quickly from table to table. If a customer moves, they’ll have to track them down, and those few seconds can make life difficult—particularly if they don’t remember what you look like (yes, it does happen).
Your hostess hates this, too, since she’s tasked with keeping track of the available tables. When something goes wrong, she’ll get the blame. Instead of taking the initiative to move to another spot, let your hostess know that you’d like to be re-seated. If it’s possible, she’ll be happy to accommodate you.
5. Point out empty tables.
“There’s an empty table right there,” you might say, “so why can’t we have that one?”
Well, that table might need to be cleaned. It might be reserved. You might have a party of two, and that table seats four. Maybe the restaurant just sold that table to an eccentric table collector.
The bottom line is that your host knows which tables are available. You’re just trying to be helpful by pointing out available tables, but it’s sort of like telling a pilot, “Hey, there are controls for the plane right in front of you.” He knows.
6. Complain about the wait.
It’s not unusual for restaurants to be busy, especially if it’s prime mealtime. If the restaurant is popular, you should expect to wait for a table. Check out the video below to see why there’s no point in complaining about the wait.
7. Use a birthday (or just about anything else) to try to get a better table.
The host doesn’t care about your birthday. Sorry, restaurant workers see a lot of birthdays. After all, people tend to go to restaurants to celebrate those big life events. You’re not alone.
Your host will try to get you the best possible table, but on a busy night, you’re getting what’s available. The exception is medical issues; it’s perfectly fine to tell your host that you need to be seated near a bathroom, for example, or that you’ll need a table in a wheelchair-accessible part of the restaurant.
8. Move stuff from one table to another.
We’re talking about candles, condiments, placemats, and other stuff that seems small. If the restaurant’s busy, this can be a big faux pas. Take something from a table, and your host might not realize that the table’s available. Your server won’t appreciate this move, either.
If you need something, the waitstaff will be happy to oblige. Flag someone down and ask.
9. Show up with large parties without providing notice.
If you’ve got more than four people, go ahead and call to make sure that the restaurant can seat you. The more people you have in your party, the more important the phone call.
Why? Well, the restaurant might need to move tables together. They might need to call in an extra kitchen worker or server, if it’s a slow night. They’ll certainly need to plan for your visit, and nothing sends ice through a restaurant worker’s veins like a surprise party of 10.
10. Complaining that you didn’t get the lunch menu due to a wait.
This also applies to happy hour pricing. The host is sorry for the wait, truly, but if you’re heading to a restaurant with an excellent lunch menu, you’ve got to assume that it’s going to be a bit busy towards the end of the lunch rush.
If you want to get the special pricing, show up early. Otherwise, be prepared to compromise.
11. Trying to slip a bribe for a better table.
Sure, you saw a movie where this worked. In real life, hostesses don’t have much power to reduce wait times, and the bribe will be awkwardly rejected.
Or, worse, they’ll pocket your money without moving you up in line. Come to think of it, you can go ahead and try this one—hostesses need tips, too.
12. Leaving the area while you’re waiting for your table.
If you’re not around when the host calls your name, he’ll cross your party off of the wait list. If you return, you’ll be at the back of the line.
You’re free to walk around outside, of course, but you’ll do so at your own risk. This applies even if you say something like “I’ll be right back.”
Yes, you’re sure that you will be right back—but some people say this, then skip out. Your host can’t predict the future, so he can’t hold your table if you’re not present.
13. Expecting better treatment because you’re a regular.
Regulars are wonderful for restaurants, but they can’t receive special treatment, either. The other patrons will get angry if they see a regular being ushered to a table after waiting for 30 seconds in the middle of the dinner rush.
Plus, as we’ve covered several times, your host simply doesn’t have that much control over the wait. Make their job a little easier—let them do it.