Hosts are responsible for providing customers with a great first impression of the restaurant but also have to organize the seating flow. This can be challenging because seating restaurant sections means not only satisfying customer requests but also servers. The pressure-filled job takes skill and adaptability, but these hacks can help!

Talk to your servers

This may sound lame, but trust me when I tell you that communication solves many problems. Talking with your servers helps gauge how they’re feeling that night—are they interested in a section full of 2-tops with high turnover?

Same goes for seating; if you know you’ll have to seat guests in an already busy section, give the server a heads up. Let him or her know what the situation is, and if they need a hand, they can ask another server to cover the table.

Whatever the case may be, you’ll find a happier team overall when you’re able to accommodate as many preferences as possible.

Rotate sections

As much as possible, rotate the sections in which you seat customers. For example, in a restaurant that has four servers, this ensures that each server gets one of every four tables.

This technique also guarantees the best possible service for each and every table, as no one server is overloaded with new tables at the same time. In an ideal situation, no two tables in any one server section should be at the same place in the “meal cycle” (e.g. no two tables are putting in their drink or appetizer order or need clearing at exactly the same time).

Keep track of tables

As a host or hostess, it’s crucial that you keep track of which tables are occupied and where each one is in the meal cycle so you know how long they will continue to be occupied. This is important for seating new customers and walk-ins.

It can be tricky though especially if you don’t have a good view of the section. If this is the case, be sure to do a lap every once and awhile (after asking someone to look over the host stand while you’re away).

Pro-tip: When you notice guests leaving, find out what section they were seated in so you know the flow.

Be fair and flexible

Just because you know one of the servers can handle three ten-tops doesn’t mean you should load them up at the expense of the other servers. Same goes for the servers you dislike; even though they may not be your best friends, you should still treat them fairly.

Nothing breeds internal discontent faster than the appearance of favoritism, or revenge.

If a particular section has been rough to seat (maybe it’s a slow lunch hour and all of your guests want to sit in booths), then ask your servers if someone else wants to cover a table in that section. Your server with the empty section won’t be bored (or angry) anymore, and the server assigned to the busy section would probably appreciate the help.

Make cuts

Few things are more frustrating to an owner than seeing a lot of staff standing around joking in the service areas or on the patio–or worse, at the host stand. If you clearly have more help than necessary, it’s time to make a cut.

And don’t forget your closing server. If one server’s section is starting to wrap up but they have an empty table you need to seat, find out if your closing server is able to take that table prior to seating your guests. It’ll help prevent any confusion among the staff as to whose table that actually is.

Pro-tip: When it comes to making cuts, I always recommend taking volunteers first (if you’re able to).

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