Evaluating Your Hosts and Bus People

By Susie Ross Founder, Waiter Training | August 03, 2010

In the restaurant business we like to say we know how important the Hosts and Bus People are, yet we seem to push them aside when it comes to training and menu knowledge. They aren't the ones who have the most contact with your guests; therefore, they don't need to be trained as extensively as your wait staff.

If we think about that, we might realize that they do spend quite a bit of time with our guests - all of them. They are always visible; they're the people guests beckon to get their server to their table and they don't usually know much about the menu!

Who is the first person your guests see when they enter your restaurant? Usually it is your host/greeter. Even if she is only 16 years old, she needs to be knowledgeable and above all, personable. Personable embodies the terms friendly, accommodating, likable and courteous. Everyone has gotten used to the high school student's part-time job as every restaurant's first impression when they walk into your establishment. Typically, she is wearing the latest fad, yet she wouldn't know how to put on a smile unless threatened with termination.

If there is more than one host, they are gossiping with each other and continue doing so right up until they say "Hi, two for dinner? Right this way..." She doesn't wait for a response; she just takes you on a course through the restaurant to your table, puts the menus down and walks away. Next, you are visited by your teen-aged busboy, who may or may not grunt a "hello" to you as he pours your water and then rushes off to clear a table so more people can be seated, grunted to and then served water.

We know that scene all too well. How much more would you like to visit that restaurant if the host greeted you as if she was truly glad to see you? Wouldn't you feel welcome in that restaurant if she then asked you "how many people will be dining with us tonight?" Upon telling you that there is a table for you, please follow this way, she pulls out the chairs for you and places the menus in front of each seat! She might even recommend a favorite appetizer to think about or remind you that there is a full bar from which to choose excellent wines, beer and liquors. Your busboy stops by, greets you warmly and then asks if you would like water. He's so warm and likable that you think he's your waiter, and you're truly surprised to find out that he isn't!

Often restaurants can only hire high school students for these jobs because they typically don't pay enough to support a person living on his/her own. That's perfectly ok and even desirable, considering they are learning a work ethic that will be useful later in their lives. How much better for them and for your restaurant's reputation if they had the confidence to talk to people in a friendly manner and the knowledge to be able to step in and help out when needed? The more they know about your menu and your bar, the better they will be able to answer questions that are inevitably asked of them. They can help out in the up-selling of items when they know more about your menu! Use your bright kids to their fullest potential and make your restaurant look even better to your guests!

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In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.