A restaurant host is a member of the front of house restaurant staff who is responsible for ensuring that guests have a pleasant meal and that their needs are met. This person may also be simply as a “host” or “hostess,” in the case of women. Typically, the training for the position includes waiting and hospitality experience, and this staff member may also have experience with bookkeeping and financial matters. Some culinary and professional schools offer training that is specifically geared to people who wish to become hosts.
The job includes taking reservations, seating customers, answering questions, keeping an eye on the flow of the floor, handling complaints, and being prepared for a variety of events. Sometimes, the host will assist the waiters, if the restaurant is extremely busy, depending on the restaurant. A host often also handles the financial part of closing the restaurant, totaling income, distributing tips, and so forth.
Essentially, a restaurant host is like an ambassador for a restaurant. Hosts must be friendly and also very sharp-eyed to head problems off early. For example, they need to be prepared to handle the needs of children and disabled diners, and they also need to ensure that the staff is kept happy. Hosts have to balance seating carefully to ensure that servers aren't overloaded, and they have to watch out for customers who seem restless or angry on the floor.
A good restaurant host can cope with most problems and complaints without needing to call in the owner or manager, and in some cases, the host is the owner. Because a host may need to perform a variety of tasks, he or she is often given great leeway to do things like comp dishes for diners who have expressed unhappiness for their service or offer drinks to customers while they wait for tables.
Usually, a host dresses differently from the rest of the front of house staff to ensure that he or she can be easily identified. Hosts typically have polished, professional manners, and they are very knowledgeable about the menu, wine list, and restaurant so that they can answer questions from patrons. They are also usually encouraged to be well-informed about the surrounding area, so that they can make additional dining recommendations, along with lodging and entertainment suggestions.