February 20

Build a Skill: 5 Skills You Need to Run the Host Stand


As the initial point of contact for diners, Hosts play a pivotal role in the entire dining experience. Here are 5 skills to run the host stand like a boss. 

Often touted as an entry-level position for a restaurant, the host stand is actually an integral position as it sets the tone of the dining experience for a guest.

A bad host can really disrupt the operational efficiency of the whole team (trust me–you don’t want to be that kind of host). Mishandling reservations, neglecting to greet guests promptly, or erratic seating can cause issues that trickle down to every station.

As the host, you are the critical link between guests and the rest of the establishment. Your success will, ultimately, set the vibe and pace of the shift. 

The main tasks of a host include (but are not limited to):

  • Greeting and seating guests
  • Knowing the current status of tables
  • Quoting accurate wait times
  • Managing reservations
  • Managing phone-in orders and pick-ups
  • Maintaining fair server rotations
  • Collecting and wiping menus
  • Keeping entrance clear and bathrooms stocked

Your genuine hospitality and ability to navigate challenging situations can either elevate the experience for your diners or leave a sour taste. Luckily, the skills needed to excel at this position can be easily learned and perfected with experience! 

Fear not young host, here are the five skills you need to efficiently run the host stand! 

Be a Great Communicator

This position is all about talking to people! You are the first person they encounter as they walk through the doors. Your demeanor and professionalism really do create the first impression, which can ultimately influence your guests’ expectations and overall satisfaction.

Whether you are manning the host stand solo or with others, you must be able to communicate verbally and non-verbally with your guests and your team to truly shine in this role. You should possess excellent verbal communication skills to greet guests warmly, explain wait times, and provide information about the menu or restaurant policies clearly and politely. 

You should also be an attentive listener to better understand guests’ needs so you can relay those preferences to the server accurately. 

Understand the Value of Organization and Time Management

Nothing curbs your credibility with a diner more than when you quote them to wait an hour and then call them for a table 20 minutes later (or worse, you make them wait longer).  

From handling reservations to orchestrating seating arrangements, hosts must maintain a structured approach to ensure operations run smoothly, especially during the rush. Hosts can prevent double-seating or bombarding the kitchen by keeping track of table turnovers and reservation schedules. 

According to an article by OpenTable, an average 4-top table takes about 2 hours to finish their meal. To help accurately estimate table times, keep your seating chart current with total menu counts on the floor, sat times, and server sections mapped out. If you don’t have eyes on the entire floor from the host stand, do a quick lap to see how many tables are on appetizers and entrees, which have been bussed, and which have checks. 

For bonus points, get in the habit of telling the Chef how many menus are down so there are no surprises for them either. 

Be Customer Service Orientated

Whether it’s a diner’s first time in your restaurant or they are an established regular, exceptional customer service is key to being a successful restaurant host. You should strive to create a positive dining experience for every guest, anticipating their needs and ensuring their comfort. 

Hangry customers are a real occurrence. Working in a position where you are (literally) the only thing standing between your guest and their next meal will sometimes get the blunt end of the stick. We must remember that compassion and understanding are the foundation of hospitality!

If a table is taking longer than expected, but you notice a child or someone getting fussy, offer a small snack or a beverage to keep them happy, then give them an update on the status of their table.  

Adapt Quickly and Pivot if Need Be

What happens when the restaurant is full, and you have a six-top reservation at your host stand with four more people to add? Unexpected challenges happen all the time in the restaurant industry. The ability to quickly pivot and adapt will set you apart as a superstar on the team.

Whether accommodating last-minute changes to reservations, resolving seating conflicts, or managing guest complaints, hosts should approach each situation with a solution-oriented mindset. 

Try to demonstrate your resilience and resourcefulness by remaining calm under pressure. Then, assess the situation objectively and implement an effective strategy to address the issue quickly.

See the Bigger Picture

The hardest part of running the host stand is balancing open tables, upcoming reservations, and needing to seat waiting guests. As the host, you manage the traffic flow and ensure customers are rotated evenly among servers. If one server gets triple-sat and the other servers get no tables, it affects their tipout and quality of service.

An experienced host knows that double seating will inevitably occur during a shift, no matter how carefully you follow rotation. Some guests love picking their own tables, like a booth, the only dirty one, or one in their favorite server’s section.

These special requests may throw a wrench in your rotation, but seeing the restaurant in a bigger picture will help you find a solution that will work out for everyone. 

Hosting is a great position for workers who are new to the industry. All it takes is a balance of communication, organization, and customer service skills that anyone can possess. 

By mastering these skills, hosts can create memorable dining experiences that leave a lasting impression on guests and contribute to the restaurant’s overall success. 


build a skill, FOH

About the author

Rebecca Gill began her love affair with restaurants at the ripe age of 16. Her dedication and hard work have directed her towards the administrative side of operations, where she helped train and educate team members. When not working, she enjoys cooking + eating, exploring, and cuddling her dog, Louie.

About the author

Rebecca Gill began her love affair with restaurants at the ripe age of 16. Her dedication and hard work have directed her towards the administrative side of operations, where she helped train and educate team members. When not working, she enjoys cooking + eating, exploring, and cuddling her dog, Louie.