By Danielle Parks, Customer Impact Editor
I recently edited a report that included a narrative about the guests asking to be seated in a certain area. In the restaurant, which was only moderately busy at the time, there were several open booths available, but the hostess led them to a table instead.
The guests proceeded to ask the hostess if they could sit at a booth, pointing to one in the process. The hostess hesitated and showed concern. To the guests, this was no big deal (it’s not like anyone was sitting there!), but to the hostess, this required a moment of consideration.
The narrative expressed confusion about the hostess’s reaction. Why was it such a big deal to be seated somewhere other than where the hostess had intended? As a former hostess myself, allow me to provide a bit of an explanation for this reaction.
When guests ask for a different table, it is usually not a problem for a restaurant, and it is usually accommodated without second thought. However, this can cause an issue either for the servers or for the host/hostess at times.
A host/hostess is given a seating chart at the beginning of the night or shift. At least for where I once worked, this seating chart was the law. Those lines that were drawn with dry erase marker might as well have been made of stone. The managers watched us closely to be sure the proper rotation between sections was followed, which is important for being sure that one server does not have more tables (i.e. business/tips) than others. In an attempt to be sure that employees and guests are happy, this is important. They understood if a guest requested a certain seat, but we were still expected to follow the chart to the absolute best of our abilities.
It is also possible that this hostess was…shall we say scolded by a server for double or triple seating him/her before. Double or triple seating a server is when two or three groups of guests are seated all around the same time, throwing off the flow of service for each of those tables. When I first started, I once had three consecutive guests all request certain tables in one particular section of the restaurant. I accommodated each request, and the next thing I knew, I found my way back to the hostess stand quite literally blocked by the tallest and most intimidating server working at the time. He glared down at me and growled, “Do you even realize that you just triple seated me? Don’t you ever do that again.” Rest assured I never did that again. It could be that this hostess had a similar experience.
I am not saying that guests should feel like they cannot ask for a different table. If the seating or location is uncomfortable or if there is a genuine issue, ask away! The restaurant wants you to enjoy your visit. However, please be understanding towards the host/hostess if they are unable to accommodate your seating preference and please know that where the host/hostess seats you has nothing to do with you. It completely has to do with the rotation and the requirements of the restaurant. They are doing their best to perform their job and to keep everyone (managers, servers, and guests) happy.
Have you ever experienced something like this, either as a guest, hostess, or a server?
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