A Greeting, A Seating and Setting the Tone


Welcome back to another serving of Soupfly


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In order to create an exceptional dining experience all the time, everywhere for everyone, there are so many factors that must work in harmony with each other.  Every component is so vital and so important that if even one, seemingly small part, is missing, it’s like listening to the music of a beautiful orchestra with just one obo out of tune and  hitting a flat note.  That one part being out of sync can turn what potentially is a very wonderful experience into something less than pleasant.  That one instrument, that one musician is messing up the entire concert.  The very first notes of the symphony literally and otherwise,  SET THE TONE  for the entire experience to follow.

So it is in the Restaurant Business.  The importance of the Host, Hostess or Maitre D (henceforth I may refer to them as HHM) performing their responsibilities in an excellent manner cannot be overstated.  And yet so many times it is the one position that is so undervalued, under recognized and certainly, often under compensated in the Service Industry.

I’m sure you may have experienced something similar to the following:  Upon arriving at a restaurant whether with my wife or a group of friends, we are often greeted by the Host or Hostess at a restaurant with a one word question, “Two?” ; “Four?” Or if they feel like going all out they may say something to the effect of: “Is there four?”  “Will there be four?”

To which I, with my bit of sarcasm-sorry-might reply; “Four what?”  And to that, their response is often, “Are there four of you?” OR “Four people?”

No “Hi”.  NO “Hello, Good evening,”  NO “Welcome, sir, ma’am,  to ABC Bistro.”   Why oh why is this such a common occurrence?

If I may, let me address all the Hosts, Hostesses and Maitre’ D’s out there.  Your job is so very important.  You may not feel it or believe it sometimes.   You may never have really been told so.   But it truly is vital to the success of your establishment.  The manner in which a guest is greeted as they enter a restaurant truly Sets the Tone for  their entire dining experience.  We’ve all heard and been taught that “First impressions are lasting impressions.”  And “You only get one chance to create a first impression.”  These are not just cliches but they are absolutely 100% true statements.

When a guest walks into an establishment and they have to wait to even be greeted or acknowledged-that’s not good.  Or if they are only greeted with a grunt of “Two?”  Or they are greeted by a host or hostess that has a less than pleasant attitude, or is chewing gum, or eating, or more focused on their cell phone than on their patrons standing in front of them-that doesn’t set a great tone for how this dining experience is going to be.  It doesn’t set  a high bar for their expectations.

A guest needs to be welcomed warmly and made to feel welcome as they enter your establishment and feel happy as they are exiting.  Whether one is a “regular” at the place or a first time guest-every one who walks in the door should be made to feel special.  They need to feel like you’ve been expecting them all along and that you are so glad that they are here.

How do you feel when you go to your best friend’s house?  Or better yet, your Grandmother’s house?  Think back to when you were a kid and you were going to visit your Grandma.  How did you feel?  I’ll bet pretty great, right?   She always knew how to make you feel like you were the absolute most important person in the world.  Right?  Why is that?  Well, because to your Grandma-you were.    I know I was.  Or at least I felt that way. Maybe some of you still are.  That’s how you need to make your guests feel who come into your restaurant and it begins with the Host, Hostess, Maitre DHHM).   Your position is crucial to the success of the entire operation.

Imagine this: A guest or group of guests comes to your restaurant and not only do you greet them warmly  and welcome them with a pleasant smile and a cheerful upbeat-“Good evening, Welcome to ABC Bistro.  How are you all this evening?”, But you even go one step further and one or two of you on the HHM team actually Opens the Door for the guests!  This may be perceived by some to be a very small gesture but it carries such a great impact.  And what do you think might be going through the mind of those guests?  Maybe something like; “Wow! We’ve barely stepped foot inside the restaurant and we already have a feeling that this is going to be a great dining experience.”  


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Next, as the guests are being escorted to their table, the hostess is not walking twenty feet in front of them racing to put the menus down on the table.  Rather, she is walking  just slightly ahead of the group of guests and looking back at them engaging them in conversation.  “How has your day been so far?, she asks one of the group.  Next, she says; “What are you celebrating tonight?” She then tells them that she heard in the meeting that they just got in some freshly harvested Morels and says, “I don’t know if you all are fond of mushrooms but the chef has a few specials featuring fresh Morels tonight.  Be sure to ask your server about them. Especially the Morel mushroom soup.”



Put yourself in the place of those patrons.  Now that you have been welcomed, greeted, escorted and seated by an enthusiastic, pleasant and upbeat HHM, the Tone Has Been Set.  When  the server arrives a few moments later at the table, you are in  a pleasant mood and you are confidently expecting a wonderful dining experience.  And that is all due to the HHM doing more than the all too common; “Two? Ok.  Follow me. Enjoy” routine.

The Server, now picks up the baton of Excellent Service that the HHM has handed off to him.  I’m not saying that  the responsibility of setting the tone and setting the expectations of the guest lies solely with the HHM team.  It absolutely does not.  And it really is incumbent upon that server to carry on and capitalize on what was begun by the effective HHM.  Heck, his job is already half done for him.  (Don’t tell any server, I said that.)    However, you (HHM) are on the front, front lines.  You are the first ones that the guests interact with.  It all begins with you.


The Restaurant business is certainly not the  only industry that has  an HHM type position.  What we are really talking about here is any public facing, customer interacting, front lines position in any business.   Whether you work as a host or hostess at a restaurant, a front desk clerk in a hotel, a receptionist at a doctor’s office, law firm or  car dealership, a customer service representative  or a clerk at the DMV-YOU  are the one who creates the first impression and the customer perception of that business.  I saw a plaque on a receptionist’s desk at a huge fortune 500 company one time that read: Director of First Impressions.    And that- each of you in those and similar positions absolutely and truly are as well.

 And if ever the misfortune of a Soupfly does happen, there is a greater chance of a strong and positive recovery happening because then it’s just a mistake that can be remedied because the Director of First Impressions (YOU)  did their job properly and effectively.

*****NOTE-There is so much more that I could mention about the various responsibilities that an effective HHM has in the Restaurant business and I’ll be covering that and many more topics  in depth in my soon to be published Best SellerGETTING TO WOW!! First Class Restaurant Service



Thank you so much for reading.  Please be Sociable and Share


Christoff J. Weihman


Please feel free to comment






3 thoughts on “A Greeting, A Seating and Setting the Tone

  1. It is ironic, but I could have written this piece. One of my pet peeves is poor customer service. I have always said, no matter what you do for a living, do it the best you can and with the most positive attitude you can. In the service business, you are the most important employee to the company because you are the person the client is interacting with. The image you give is the image the customer, client or patron will have forever of the first time they used your company for your services whether it be in the food industry or other. The problem from my perspective, has always been lack of fundamental training. By this I mean that many people have not been given the “tools” to be able to perform to the standards as we as a society expect them. This all starts at childhood. How to behave. If the person has been raised with good, solid preparation for the world, then they understand what is and is not the proper way to interract with people. Ultimately, clients and customers. Unfortunately, managers lack in proper monitoring and training of their employees in order to correct these deficiencys. I as a manager am constantly making adjustments to my team members “customer service behaviors” in order to keep them sharp and at their best. If the manager see the employee or hears the employee, using poor customer service and does nothing about it, then it continues to the disgust of clients. Train, monitor, adjust. Simple, but effective. Those that don’t want to conform, should not be part of the team. Companies are too tolerant these days of poor employee service at the cost of business for their establishment. When did we start letting the squirrels run the nuthouse? So many companies these days complain that they can’t get their team members to conform due to a lack of structured company policies and rules. Companies fear reprimanding employees for fear of litigation. This is just a bad way to manage a company. If you give the employee the expectations from the first day of hire, then there is no need to fear retaliation for corrective action. The survival of the company is what is important.


  2. Lou,

    Thank you for your comment and your insights. It is very true, these principles which I am espousing here and in my upcoming book-(Getting to Wow!)-though focused on the Food and Hospitality Business, actually apply to any situation where an employee is representing the company to the public. And I wholeheartedly agree that it all starts with proper training and ongoing training.
    Thank you and please keep following and keep your feedback coming.


  3. After just recently posting my comments regarding customer service, my wife and I had an experience at a local restaurant that I had to share. We have been to this place about 4 or 5 times in the last couple of years. Always a pleasant experience. The manager is all eyes and ears. She works the room. We were seated and served by a young lady that was obviously just learning the ropes, but pleasant and courteous none-the-less. The delivery of the appetizer, salad and entree was off schedule. I received my appetizer and salad at the same time. The entree took longer than is usual even for the crowd they had, which was not heavy. Although my wife and I were a bit frustrated by the flow of things, it was made up by the server who was always smiling, kept her cool and was pleasant and friendly inspite of obvious problems in the kitchen. Because of this, we determined that even though there were some bumps in the road, our server made it palatable. We tipped her well and decided that we would return as we enjoy the food and most of our visits have been great. Once again. The quality of the “server” prevailed where a less than courteous person, would have made this a very unpleasant experience. She obviously had some good rearing to be that graceful in her job.


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