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Restaurant Host or Hostess

Restaurant Host or Hostess

Education and Training: High school preferred; on-the-job training

Salary: Median—$7.52 per hour

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Restaurant hosts and hostesses serve as personal representatives of the restaurant for which they work. They are in charge of making reservations and greeting guests when they arrive at the restaurant. They also seat the guests and make sure that they enjoy their meal.

Hosts and hostesses try to give guests a good impression of the restaurant by greeting them in a warm, friendly manner. If guests have to wait to be seated, hosts and hostesses make them comfortable while they wait. The guests are given an idea of how long they will have to wait and are seated in a waiting area. Sometimes hosts and hostesses suggest that the diners wait at the bar and have a drink. Hosts and hostesses locate a table that is the right size for the guests, take the guests to the table, and give them menus. They may also assist guests in seating small children, or fill their water glasses.

While greeting incoming guests, hosts and hostesses must take care of guests who are leaving. Some hosts and hostesses receive the money for the guests' food and make change. To do this they must know how to operate a cash register. Restaurants sometimes have a candy or cigarette counter. If guests want to buy these items, hosts and hostesses add their cost to the guests' checks. In some restaurants this work is done by a cashier.

At the end of their work shifts, hosts and hostesses record the transactions that have taken place and total all guest checks to determine how much money has been received. These records are used to balance the accounts at the end of the day. The records are then turned in to the restaurant manager for inspection.

Education and Training Requirements

Individuals interested in becoming a host or hostess should take courses in business, arithmetic, bookkeeping, family and consumer science, and public speaking. Hosts and hostesses should be friendly and outgoing people who can remain calm and courteous during rush periods. They also must be neat and well groomed.

Most restaurants prefer to hire people who have a high school education. Some vocational schools have programs in food service that can help prepare students for this kind of work; however, most restaurant hosts and hostesses are trained on the job.

Getting the Job

Prospective hosts and hostesses should apply directly to restaurants in which they would like to work. Newspaper want ads sometimes have listings for these positions, as do state employment offices. Previous restaurant experience is helpful in landing a hosting job.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Hosts and hostesses advance by transferring to more expensive restaurants that pay higher salaries. Experienced and responsible restaurant hosts and hostesses may become restaurant managers.

One big trend in the twenty-first century was an increase in the number of Americans dining out. With the restaurant business growing, the job outlook for hosts and hostesses is good, with positions expected to grow about as fast as the average through the year 2014.

Working Conditions

Because restaurants serve the public, they are usually attractive places in which to work. Expensive restaurants often provide elegant work surroundings. Hosts and hostesses are usually stationed near the restaurant entrance and are on their feet throughout their shifts. They must maintain a neat appearance and always be courteous to guests. Full-time hosts and hostesses work forty hours a week and may rotate shifts, but there are many part-time workers in this field as well. Hosts and hostesses must work their share of weekends, evenings, and holidays. Many of these workers belong to labor unions.

Where to Go for More Information

American Hotel and Lodging Association
1201 New York Ave. NW, Ste. 600
Washington, DC 20005-3931
(202) 289-3100

The International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education
2810 N. Parham Rd., Ste. 230
Richmond, VA 23294
(804) 346-4800

National Restaurant Association
1200 Seventeenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-5900

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings depend on the restaurant, with expensive restaurants generally paying higher salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hosts and hostesses earned a median wage of $7.52 per hour in 2004. Their wages tend to be higher than that of waitpersons because they usually do not receive tips. (In some restaurants, however, they are included in a tip pool that gives them a small share of the day's tips.) Restaurants often offer full-time employees paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans. Most hosts and hostesses receive free meals when they are at work.

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