I want to talk about something which is very near and dear to almost no one’s heart: the restaurant hostess.
There is one great myth about the restaurant hostess: Hostessing is so easy, a caveman could do it.
There are a couple of problems with that statement. First, cavemen were mostly hunter-gatherers and didn’t have restaurants, so they would have absolutely no idea how to provide good customer service. Second, hostesses get yelled at — all the time and by everyone. They get yelled at by waiters for seating too many tables at the same time or not giving them enough tables to make money off of. They get yelled at by guests who don’t understand why there is a three hour wait to seat a table of ten outside near the live music at 7 pm on a beautiful Saturday night in August. They get yelled at by the manager because the guests are mad and aren’t buying expensive meals. And lastly, they get yelled at by drunk guests who got really drunk at the bar part of the bar and grill, didn’t show up when their buzzer went off two hours ago to tell them that their table was ready, and can’t understand why that table is no longer available. If I sound a little passive-aggressive (or aggressive-aggressive), it’s because I was a restaurant hostess in high school, and it sucked.
A restaurant hostess gets to meet a lot of interesting characters. When it comes to how these characters react to being told they need to wait for a table, they come in four types: the Egotist, the Comedian, the Flirt, and the Rational Human Being.
The most common is the Egotist. These are the people who want a table and want it now. They are the customer, and the customer is always right. They have a very important job and/or a very busy vacation schedule, so they simply do not have time to wait. Two hours for a table? That is simply unheard of. They will just have to take their business elsewhere if this restaurant cares so little about the satisfaction of its customers.
You would be amazed how many people are complete jerkbagels.
Slightly less common is the Comedian. The Comedian has a pun for everything. For those of you who work in retail, this is the person who says, “I guess it must be free!” when an item refuses to scan. A classic Comedian move is a wink followed by “Well you can just sneak us on to the top of the list, can’t you?” No. No I can’t.
The one I dislike most is the rare Flirt. The Flirt is almost always male, usually a college student or a Hugh Hefner-esque middle aged man wearing a thick gold necklace and an obscenely bright polo shirt. They tend to say things like “How about you put me on the top of your waiting list and I buy you a drink later, cutie?” to which I would always reply “I am sixteen years old,” instantly ending the conversation and usually causing some embarrassment to the Flirt as everyone around him realizes he’s a bit of a creep.
The last and rarest restaurant-goer is the Rational Human Being. These people remember that hostesses are people too. They say things like, “I guess we shouldn’t have come at peak time! Would you please put us on the list anyway, dear? We’ll wait.” I love those people. They make me happy. They also show up about once in every ten zillion restaurant guests. They are little specks of glitter in a steaming pile of month-old sauerkraut.
So for me, hostessing was never so much “Tonight, I control when you eat,” and a whole lot more “I hate all of you. I hate all of you so much.”
Yet nothing sums up the restaurant industry quite so nicely as a quote from my former coworker Nancy, a pleasant, middle aged woman who approached me one busy dinner hour with a huge smile on her face and said, “No, I’m not having a bad day. I just feel like shooting people. And you know what the worst part is? I want to shoot them in the face.”
For god’s sake, be nice to hostesses.