How to Hire a Hostess
Being a host or hostess is a great entry point into the restaurant industry. Many restaurants utilize this role for training and recruiting long-term servers and BOH members, who get to know your restaurant from front to back.
It’s also a great role for young people who are available part-time. The average age of a host/hostess is 22 years old.
Having a host that only sticks around briefly can impact your entire flow. Without one, you miss an important first impression that can make a difference for a guest.
In this article, we’ll cover how to hire a hostess or host and keep them around for the long term. We’ll go over where to find these job candidates, what to put in your job description, and the questions to ask in a host interview.
Hire and Retain Great Restaurant Employees
How to Hire the Right Host or Hostess for Your Restaurant
Most restaurant employees (46%) are motivated by making money and supporting their lifestyle — while 18% are motivated by career development and growth within the restaurant industry.
Hosting with the right restaurant means consistent shifts, tips, and a cohesive, supportive team.
When looking to add a host or hostess to your team, you’re looking for an individual who has a genuine interest in hospitality and makes people feel welcome.
Here’s how to define what else you need:
Define Your Needs
How long are the shifts? What is the hourly rate? What qualifications do you need a host to have?
These are some questions to guide your start as you define the role of a host within your specific restaurant. A host’s responsibilities typically include greeting and seating guests, taking reservations, managing waiting lists, communicating with servers, providing information to guests, maintaining cleanliness, handling guest concerns, and assisting with closing. It’s up to you to add or subtract from these responsibilities based on what your team needs.
Here are some qualities a great host needs:
Communication Skills: They communicate clearly with you, guests, coworkers, and management. They can convey information effectively and handle issues with clarity.
Friendly and Welcoming Attitude: Hospitality is key. A warm, welcoming demeanor can set the tone for a great experience or a bad one.
Organizational Skills: Managing reservations, seating arrangements, waiting lists, and which server’s section is next requires good organizational skills.
Problem-Solving Abilities: Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. A host/hostess should be able to handle unexpected situations, such as reservation mixups or a two-hour waitlist.
Knowledge of the Restaurant: Understanding the menu, daily specials, and general restaurant information is important. Guests often have questions.
Team Player: Can get the job done with you.
Create an Effective Hostess Job Posting
To hire a host, you’ll need a clear job posting outlining the responsibilities and atmosphere of your restaurant. Start with a clear job title, such as “Host/Hostess” or “Front-of-House Host.”
Then, give some highlights of the role and a summary of your restaurant. For example: “Join our vibrant team as a Front-of-House Host in a lively, casual dining environment.”
Next, you’ll write a detailed job description.
Write a Detailed Job Description
Outline the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of the hostess role. Be specific about tasks like greeting guests, managing reservations, seating guests, handling waiting lists, and coordinating with servers and kitchen staff.
Clearly state the qualifications, skills, and attributes you seek in candidates.
You’ll also need to specify the work hours and shifts available. How many hosts do you have currently to take shifts if needed? Include expectations regarding availability during weekends or holidays.
If you require previous experience in a similar role or knowledge of reservation systems, include a line about that.
Our guide on how to write a host/hostess job description:
Job Title: Host/Hostess
Tip Income: No
Schedule: Full-time (40 hours per week). Tuesday–Saturday
Role: We seek a Host or Hostess to join our restaurant team as guests' first point of contact. The job responsibilities include greeting guests, providing clear and accurate wait times, and guiding customers to their tables. A passion for customer service and strong communication and organizational skills are required. You are the first impression of our restaurant that will help provide a pleasant and smooth dining experience for our guests.
Greet all guests and treat them with excellent hospitality
Willingness to learn computerized reservation and table management system
Initiate and maintain wait lists
Coordinate with waitstaff about available seating
Guide customers to tables and provide menus
Cater to guests who require special attention (e.g., the elderly or children)
Answer incoming calls and address customer questions
Distribute to-go orders
Additional requirements: Able to walk or stand for long periods.
Mention Key Qualifications and Expectations
Clearly state the qualifications, skills, and attributes you seek in candidates. Skills like strong communication, organizational abilities, customer service experience, and a friendly demeanor.
Highlight Your Restaurant's Unique Selling Points
Include any unique aspects that might appeal to potential candidates. This way, a prospective host can envision the workplace and clientele.
To wrap up, include a statement affirming your commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equal-opportunity employment.
Advertise the Host/Hostess Job
Advertising your job posting involves using various channels to attract potential candidates. We’d recommend using a multi-channel approach:
Online Job Boards
Most new employees have discovered their latest restaurant jobs through friends (55%) or social media (50%) — with that in mind, here’s how to get the word out about your job opening.
Use Online Job Boards
Tapping into the vast pool of restaurant talent available online is crucial. Online job boards provide an extensive reach, connecting you with diverse potential candidates.
There are a multitude of platforms to post your job description. You can use sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, or even LinkedIn. Some websites cater to the hospitality sector, like Poached or Culinary Agents.
Leverage Social Media
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn broaden your reach and provide a more interactive space for potential candidates to engage with your restaurant's brand. Encourage your employees and followers to share the post with their networks.
Use paid features to boost your job posting content to reach a larger, more relevant audience.
Tell Your Employees
Never underestimate the power of internal resources when hiring a host. Your current team members can be valuable ambassadors in the recruitment process, and with an employee referral program, they also benefit from finding top talent.
If you don’t have the budget to incentivize referrals, you can motivate in other ways, like recognition or free meals.
Screen the Resumes
At the resume stage, you’re trying to figure out enough information to interview a candidate.
At this point, all you know is what your candidates look like on paper, and you need to develop a system to sift through your (hopefully many) options.
Develop a Screening Criteria
When developing a resume screening criteria, consider the core qualities a host should have:
Customer service skills
Attention to detail
Any resume without these specifications should be rejected, but always let that candidate know you are no longer considering them for the role.
Next is your interview stage. You’ll better understand your candidates’ passion, work ethic, personality, and general attitude by conducting interviews.
Your host/hostess interview can happen over the phone or in person. The person conducting the interview, the manager, owner, or team lead, may expect questions about scheduling, pay, or restaurant dynamics. A candidate might also ask specific questions about scheduling and availability. Use this time to gauge communication skills and personality. Could this person be a fit for your restaurant?
Here are some different types of questions you can ask to figure out your best candidate:
Describe a situation where you had to juggle multiple tasks at once. How did you prioritize and stay organized?
Can you share an experience when you went above and beyond to make someone’s day?
Discuss when you had to resolve a conflict between guests or friends.
Have you ever faced a situation where a reservation system failed? How did you handle the situation?
When asking behavioral questions, listen for specific examples and outcomes in the candidate’s responses.
How do you prioritize seating arrangements during busy periods to optimize guest flow?
How do you handle guest inquiries or requests, especially during peak times?
How do you communicate seating availability?
Skills assessment questions help evaluate a candidate’s practical abilities.
What do you know about our restaurant?
Tell us about a time you had to collaborate with team members.
Can you share a situation where you took the initiative to improve a process or procedure?
Describe your ideal work environment.
Remember to ask follow-up questions based on a candidate’s responses to gain a deeper understanding. Additionally, assess their enthusiasm, attitude, and cultural fit with your restaurant throughout.
Review References and Background Checks
After your interviews, you have some calls to make. Candidates must have a strong work history, positive professional relationships, and connections. Let candidates know that you may contact past employers as a part of a comprehensive evaluation process.
Make the Offer
Congratulations, you’ve found a host/hostess to whom you want to make an official offer. Communicate the terms of their employment clearly and professionally, and let them know how excited you are to have them on the team.
Provide a Written Offer Letter
Contact your candidate and extend an official offer in writing. Provide all the essential details, including job title, compensation, work schedule, start date, and location.
Set Expectations for Start Date and Onboarding
On a new employee’s first day, you should review your employee agreement contract and any specific terms or policies employees must follow.
With onboarding, two weeks or more of training is the sweet spot for successful staff sentiment — though nearly three-quarters of restaurant staff (74%) receive two weeks or less of training and onboarding.
Your onboarding should include orientation, training on equipment and processes, and an introduction to the team.
Retaining and Developing Employees
Keeping your new host/hostess around is the true success of hiring a new restaurant employee. Retaining employees has a significant impact on your success.
For one, employee turnover is expensive. When you retain a new host, you save on the costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training replacements.
Experienced hosts who stay with your restaurant become more proficient in their roles. This leads to more consistency and quality in employee experience and someone who wants to grow with your restaurant.
To help with retention, operators may consider common pain points of current restaurant employees and how they can overcome those to grow retention. For example, poor hourly pay (47%), not being recognized for hard work (44%), and bad managers (37%) are the top pain points listed by restaurant employees.
How to Create an Effective Restaurant Training ManualGet Access
Hiring the Perfect Host or Hostess
The key steps in hiring the perfect host are:
Define who your perfect host is. What problems can they solve? What are their hours and their pay? How do they fit in with your existing restaurant culture?
Write a job description with those values in mind. Remember to include the basics, such as location, position, and type of job.
Share your host job description on job boards, social media, and industry-specific platforms. You should also share it with your employees, who might have a great referral within their connections.
Screen resumes of potential candidates after creating a list of screening criteria. Reiterate who you’re looking for and who has the qualifications to fit your needs best. Choose a handful for the next step in the process.
In the interview, ask questions that cover skills, behavior, and cultural fit.
Review other application materials such as cover letters, personal statements, and recommendations. Call your candidates’ references if they have any.
Make an offer on your top candidate.
Begin the onboarding process with retention and training top of mind.
With the right preparation, you can hire a host that enhances your restaurant operations and atmosphere.
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