What about them? In the restaurant business we like to say we know how important they 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.
Who is the first person your guests see when they enter your restaurant? Usually it is your host/greeter. Even if he/she is only 16 years old, he/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, they are wearing the latest fad, but they wouldn’t know how to put on a smile if you gave them written directions with an illustration. If there is more than one, they are gossiping with their fellow host and continuing doing so right up until they say “Hi, two for dinner? Right this way…” He/she 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-age busperson, who may or may not grunt a “hello” to you as he/she pours your water and then rushes off to clear a table so more people can be seated and served water.
We all know that scene all too well. How much more would you like to visit that restaurant if the host greeted you as if he/she was truly glad to see you? Wouldn’t you feel welcome in that restaurant if he/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, he/she pulls out the chairs for you and places the menus in front of each seat! He/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 busperson stops by, greets you warmly and then asks if you would like water. He/she is so warm and likable that you mistake him/her for your waitperson, and you are truly surprised to find out that he/she is not!
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! It is sometimes difficult to know if a person you hire is going to be the best choice for these important positions. Take part in their confidence and career-building techniques! And, yes, I do have a class that is designed specifically for them. Menu knowledge, appearance, attitude and personality are covered by role-playing and getting used to saying things they might not think to say. I believe that lack of confidence is the main reason young hosts and buspeople behave the way they do. A little bit of fun practice in a “safe” (no guests) environment can be a powerful antidote. Consider hiring a professional to encourage a more professional outlook from your young staff members.