Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Guide to Modern Dining Etiquette part 4: The Lobby & Host/Hostess

I feel it is time to touch up on some etiquette.  We have had a basic introduction with Dining Etiquette part 1 , part 2 Fast Food, and part 3 The Angry Diner.  Now lets talk about how to act when you enter the restaurant lobby, and your relationship with the host/hostess. If your first thought is "Simple enough, I enter and you seat me where I want" then this article is for YOU! 

I am fortunate to work in a restaurant where it is almost constantly busy.  If you come in during peak lunch or dinner hours you will wait for a table.  And odds are it will be at least 15 minutes at lunch or 45 minutes for dinner.  Unfortunately our lobby is not very large, which tends to be the case with most restaurants.  This can make for a controlled chaos like environment.  Be respectful to those around you.  Let the older patrons use the seating, your two year old can stand, or you can hold them.  Mind your voice and language.  If everyone is trying to talk over each other it gets rather loud, and don't you hate it when the host has to keep asking "What? I can't hear you. What?..."  If you thought of it more like a hospital (dramatic I know) lobby or a library it would be much easier for all those in the lobby.

CONTROL YOU CHILD!  A restaurant is a very dangerous place to run around playing tag.  Servers carry steaming hot food and beverages, knives, broken dishes, and the list goes on.  Needless to say if they collide with a server it can have some major consequences.  If the servers carry large trays there are several blind spots, they can't make sudden movements either, momentum usually wins the day when you jerk a tray full of dishes.

There is a section of seats set just off the side of the lobby where I work.  You can clearly see the section, one of the benches in the lobby is actually the barrier between the lobby and that section.  There is a door to the patio just off the other side of that station.  When there are a lot of people waiting in the lobby they tend to drift that way in an overflow.  That is fine and to be expected.  But make sure if you are standing in an area that servers need to get through, you don't block their path.  After the first time you see a server pass through that area you should have a good idea that they will be through that same area very soon.  If you are asked more than once to please move you should understand quite well that you are in the way.  The same thing goes with the bar where I work.  It is expected to sit and get a drink while you wait.  It is even expected to stand and have a few drinks.  But you should not use the tables in the bar to just wait.  If your going to wait there for 45 minutes why not just eat at that table?  Don't crowd the narrow entry way when you see severs/bartenders going in and out with hot food.  It's an accident just waiting to happen.

Now lets talk about your relationship with the host/hostess.  And that's what is should be, a relationship.  If you frequent an establishment introduce yourself.  We in the restaurant see many faces and a familiar one, one with a name, lightens the mood.  You should hang up your cell phone, or put the person on hold because you need to communicate with the host/hostess.  Yes dining out is an interactive experience.  You need to speak loud and clear and let your needs be known.

When you are greeted by the host/hostess you may be asked a few simple questions.  You should be prepared to answer them.  Most commonly will be "How many with you today?".  Should be simple enough but apparently it can be quite difficult.  7 to 10 people is not really an adequate number.  The difference of three guests can significantly influence where you are sat.  Don't be a "Designated Driver" (showing up 20 minutes before everyone and demanding to be sat) during peak business hours.  You are the reason the wait just jumped up 5 to 10 minutes.  If you are a large party and you know half of them are not going to show up after being sat and waiting for a while, let the staff know.  Odds are they pulled tables from other serves stations to make that large table.  Why let it go unused. 

You may need to sit at a table, booth, or close to the door due to a multitude of reasons, let the host/hostess know, and understand that what you require may take more time than the average wait.  Meaning the guy who came in after you may just be sat before you.  Why make everyone wait when you need a table and a booth just opened up.  If you don't like to sit by the windows tell the host/hostess.  They can't read your mind.

Do not go behind the host/host stand and do a recon on the seating chart.  Do not go walking around the restaurant counting open tables and return with a report for the host/hostess.  They know what tables are open and why they are open.  They may be saving tables for a large party that is waiting to be sat, or a multitude of other reasons.  All you are doing is making their job more difficult, and upsetting yourself because you don't know exactly what is going on.  Your perception in this case is not reality.  Let the host/hostess do their job and don't interfere.  You just cause confusion and make wait time increase.

Which brings me to where and why you are being sat where you are.  I take for granted that I know the ins and outs of the restaurant.  It has occurred to me that some people are not aware of how and why the host seats you where they do.  They use what is referred to as a seating chart, a map of the restaurant.  That chart is broken up into sections.  Each server is assigned a section to work for their shift.  The host/hostess rotates guests around these sections to spread the work load and speed up service.  If you are lead to a table and turn to the host/hostess and say "Can we have that booth instead?" you must understand you just made your visit and service slower, and that affects the lobby wait time as well. 

DO NOT asked to be moved because of a child!
I'm gonna get a little personal here. I try not to but this is just sickening.  Children are to be expected in nearly any public place.  If you don't like kids stay home or go to some 5 star joint.  If your not going to do either then just deal with it.  It's not the child's fault that your a crotchety pain in the @$$ who forgot what a wonder the world was at a young age.  It's not their fault that they can be happy over the simple fact they got a bendy straw.  Maybe you should sit back and just Love Food and Live Life, as I say!  On the other end you know if your child is going to be well behaved enough to go out. You should use your own discretion and maybe put off going out for another night.  Along the same lines I watched a poor little girl get sick in our lobby and the parents still waited the 30 minutes for a table and stayed for dinner.  They probably should have just put it off for the child's and staffs sake,  we handle your left overs and germ riddled silverware.  We don't want to get sick as much as the next guy.

The host/hostess is not your server.  Unless asked do not order drinks or food from the host/hostess.  Again all you are doing is pulling them away from their job and adding even more time to the wait.  Just be patient and allow the server to do their job, and remember, if you asked for a different table than the one you were lead to it will be slower service.  You were being sat there because more than likely the server in that station was ready for you. 
Well that about covers the lobby and host/hostess.  I'm sure to touch up on more issues in future posts but the idea is simple enough.  Be courteous and polite.  Let the staff do their job and do your best not to create an obstacle course for them to navigate.  If you just relax and enjoy the company your with the wait will fly by.  If you try to do their job you will just frustrate yourself and the staff and will more than likely not have an enjoyable experience.  I look at it this way.  If you have to wait for something then it must be worthwhile.  If there is no wait at 7:00 on a Saturday there is a good reason for it.  The place is lousy.  I always told my staff when I was a manager a wait in the lobby is awesome free publicity.

Love Food, Live Life

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject!  Have any stories to share? I would love to hear those as well!


  1. we should make this into a pamphlet and give it out in the lobby lol. This was the best and most informative thing I have read today!!

  2. Thanx Shanda! I appreciate your dropping by! I'm glad we are on the same page!

  3. I am guilty of a few of these don'ts so thank you for the advice and I will remember them the next time I dine out.

  4. Have you ever seen those horribly tacky but awesome signs?

    "unruly misbehaven children will be given a shot of espresso and a free puppy!"

    muahaha! your control your child bit reminded me of that! =)

    great post -- i think everyone should have to work a retail job and a server job in their life in order to pass as a real live human being =)

    ive done both <3

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

    have a great weekend!

  5. Thanx everyone! I love the sign idea! that would do the trick i bet, and agreed, people need to experience what it's like to server the public at least once!

  6. I eat out alot and didn't know some of this. I will try to be a better customer.

  7. It's not about being a better customer :) It's really just about being a polite and respectful person, and letting the staff do their job. With a few tid bits of knowledge gained over the years :-)

  8. I love this post. Nothing like rudey-rude pants to ruin the dining experience.
    I have worked in customer service and it's definitely harder to do your job when somebody tries to "do it for you", like the open table-counters. Who are these people?
    Anyway, you're right, it's all about respect.

  9. Thanks Pancake! I'm glad you feel the same way!