12 Things You Don't Understand About Being a Restaurant Hostess


While most people have some grasp on the crap waiters and bartenders go through, few understand the plight of the host/hostess. They stand behind podiums shrouded in mystery and free mints, and vanish from our minds the second we reach our chairs. In an attempt to better appreciate the gig, we reached out to several current and former hostesses for inside info on the job. Turns out there's a lot more holiday blues -- and, in some places, coloring -- than we anticipated. Read up on the details before you call that trendy new tapas place about a table for 10... for tonight. 

1. The wait times are not their fault

Look, they’re not hoarding empty tables. If there’s a wait, it means there's not enough space for you yet -- or there aren't enough servers to take your order. Don't get huffy because you forgot to make a reservation on a Friday night.

2. There is a method to their table choices

They don't just spin around in a circle and point. Hostesses have to map out the seating arrangements so that servers have a fair share of tables, but can also handle the workload. When it's slow, they've gotta spread the love across sections. And when it's busy, they've gotta make sure they're not overbooking one unfortunate waiter. If you get seated next to the kitchen, though, that just means you pissed them off. (Kidding! Kind of.)

3. There's really nothing they can do about your undercooked steak

If you have a problem, don't bother the hostess -- flag down a manager. Not only is your entree not the hostess' problem, but literally all she can do is go and get the manager herself. And are you really going to make her do that? Oh, you are? Back to the kitchen table you go.

Passing a $20 bill
Kristin Hunt/Thrillist

4. Tipping is encouraged, even if you don't think about it

There is no chance you'll look like the slick mogul you think you are as you "sneakily" pass them an Andrew Jackson, but they really are trying to accommodate you. And they don't enjoy the regular tips the waitstaff does, so you could make their night with some extra cash.

5. They've got their share of customer horror stories

Just because hostesses have less interaction with the clientele than servers doesn't mean they get out unscathed. People still yell at them, creepily hit on them, and even throw things at them. Really, that podium should come with a spray bottle.

6. If they have an attitude, it might be management's fault

At some places (read: the fancy ones), the boss actually wants the hostess to be a little blasé. So while the person taking your name down might be a perfectly sunny person outside the restaurant, she has to turn on the anti-charm to keep her paycheck. Blame the Man.

Crayola crayons and flower doodle
Kristin Hunt/Thrillist

7. They like to color

At some places (read: the not-fancy ones), there are kiddie coloring sheets. And if it's a slow day, you better believe those are coming out. Sadly, managers rarely spring for the full Crayola pack.

8. They hate the holidays

Servers and bartenders tend to make bank on holidays. More people go out, and they blow extra money, and leave more tips in the spirit of St. Nick. Even the runners and busers get bonuses, because servers are often required to tip them out. But hostesses? Not so much. They're going to make the same money on a holiday as they do during a shift when they get to color. So they prefer coloring.

9. They also hate overindulgent customers

Bartenders don’t mind a guest who wants the booze to flow freely. Hell, they usually welcome them, because it means a higher tab. Servers can also profit off your margarita pitchers, since tequila makes everything on the menu look delicious. Meanwhile, hostesses have to deal with the bleary-eyed attention of patrons who are leaving them zero monetary compensation. They get to enjoy unwelcome pick-up lines, unsolicited life advice, and uninteresting anecdotes -- all usually from a weird middle-aged dude who reeks of bourbon and regret.

10. They'd really like you to stop asking about the booths

Is there a spare? Then sure, you can have the booth. But they're not going to kick out a family of five just so you and your buddy can more effectively play paper football. Stop pouting.

Seating chart
Wikicommons/Nina Khachiyan

11. They can't move your table on Mother's Day

Or Father's Day. Or New Year's Eve. Really, on any day when the restaurant is booked solid, hostesses and managers work hard to create that floor plan and seating arrangement. Dramatically demanding a different table because you think your candle smells weird isn't going to win you any points. It will win you some exceptionally slow service, because now the whole staff hates you.

12. Everyone gives them a hard time

Servers blame hostesses for bad tips because the hostesses “gave them” bad tippers. Customers hate the tables that hostesses bring them to. At least their moms like them. Unless they can't get mama a better table.

Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and also likes to color. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.