An activity where you are using some sort of text or communication is called a literate activity. A discourse community is a group of people who share a set of discourses, such as basic values or assumptions, and they have specific forms of communication for them to achieve a common goal. Every single person is a part of some sort of discourse community and some people belong to several communities. Your literate activity is usually different depending on the discourse community that you are a part of. The discourse community that I am involved in is a restaurant, but more specifically the host stand in the restaurant. A common misbelief about hosting is that people don’t understand how important a host/ host stand really is to the entire environment and organization of a restaurant. Hosts control one of the most important parts of the restaurant and most do not realize that. Customers who have not worked in the restaurant industry typically don’t understand, however some of the servers in our restaurant don’t understand it either.
The main job of a host/hostess is the seating rotation. This rotation includes a board with a floor plan of the entire restaurant. Each morning and mid-afternoon, a manager will create sections for the servers and there are always two servers in each section. That section will stay the same over the duration of a shift. Each section gets a letter (starting at A and going through the letters of the alphabet until there are no more sections) and these letters are assigned based on what time the servers shifts start. The sections labeled A and B will be the first two servers that come in before everyone else, they are the openers, and these two people must get three tables each before any other section is sat. Once they get their tables, then you continue the rotation through all of the letters and being careful that you don’t over-seat a section. If a section is over-sat, the server is most likely to get back to back tables and when that happens, they often get very swarmed and busy which makes them prone to mistakes. If you don’t understand this rotation system, then being a host probably isn’t for you. This process is basically only known by hosts; servers have no idea how it works, they are just happy when they get their tables.
There is a lot of research on the important characteristics of a host and what their responsibilities are however these findings don’t have a lot on the effect that the host stand has on the entire restaurant. During the weekend, the restaurant is at its prime time for business and the host/hostess is responsible for keeping customers happy as well as servers, managers, and even the kitchen staff. Another large and important job is the wait list. This usually starts when we have no available tables inside or outside which leads us to have to take down a customer’s information (how many people in their party, are high top tables okay, do they have kids or need any high chairs, etc.) It is important to know how to properly give a guest an accurate time frame as to how long they might be waiting so they do not get mad if you tell them 15 minutes when it might be more like 40 minutes. When we are on a wait, it basically means that the restaurant is in over flow and the kitchen is working non-stop until we are off of the wait list. In order to ensure that the kitchen makes as little mistakes as possible, we tried to up the wait times quotes a little more just so the kitchen has a little space to breathe.
When the host stand does everything correctly, it leads to a very smooth night. Now there may be some slip ups here and there with servers forgetting something or the kitchen not cooking the steak long enough, but we are all one big team and we are there to help everyone. We can’t do our jobs without them doing theirs and vice versa.
There are literacies throughout the entire restaurant. For instance, our floor chart allows everyone to read it and communicate through it. Our computer system is important because it allows us to communicate what the customer ordered and relay the message to the kitchen through a single ticket that is printed once an order is inputted. Servers use this system constantly during their shifts, and hosts use it as well for to-go orders. We also have a system called “hot schedules” that is used to post our schedules for the week as well as communicate with other employees to help get a shift taken or pick up a shift, or even to request days off. Our menu, however, is probably the most valuable and important literacy form in a restaurant because depending on how we have our meals worded, reflects how customers order. If something sounds horrible, no one will order it, but if something makes your mouth water just by reading it, then you will be able to sell more.
As said before, our floor chart of the restaurant is very important. This floor plan shows every table in the restaurant and each table is assigned a number. Since we all work together, it is very important to know the table numbers. When hosts seat a serves section, they must inform the server(s) on which table was sat; when doing this you need to know the table number. You also need to know table number when working in the kitchen or running food. If you are running food, the ticket only has a table number on it so you must know exactly where it is in the restaurant so you don’t give another table someone else’s food. We have hot schedules that gives us all information we need to know about the schedule or shifts being released and ready for pick up, etc. However, we also have a private Facebook page with the front of house staff (hosts and bussers). This page allows us to post mass messages for important information or reminders and it lets all hosts and bussers see it at the same time and you are able to see comment, questions, and replies.
To keep the restaurant running smoothly, the manager who makes the host schedule will assign a job to each host for the night. These jobs are typically only assigned on our busier nights like a Friday night or a Saturday night. There are usually four hosts working on these nights, so we have four job: Board, Runner, To-Go, and To-Go Floater. For the host assigned to board, you are strictly in charge of rotation and making sure each section and server gets their correct tables as well making sure you don’t over seat a section. You will also oversee the wait list. Since it is busy, the person on board is assigned a runner. This person will be running people and seating them at the correct table. They will go to the table in which the person on board tells them. The runner’s job is also to collect menus around the restaurant so we don’t run out, and also to inform the person on board when we have open tables that are ready to be sat. Next, we move onto to-go’s. This job is important because you will oversee taking all to-go orders (by phone or by the uber eats app) and you will input them into the computer. The to-go person will then go to the back in the kitchen and pack the food with the correct sides and then bring it back to the front. The restaurant has a curb-side pick-up for to-go orders so you must greet the customers at their cars, get their method of payment, and bring them their food and change. This job is usually done only by the person on to-go’s and the to-go floater is there in case it gets super busy and they need an extra hand. Otherwise, the floater will be anywhere that she/he is needed. They might be packing to-go’s, they might be running tables, they might even be running food for servers. By giving each host a job, it keeps the host stand organized. Each manager knows the jobs and functions of the host stand, but by assigning each a job, it allows us to do our job smoothly without constantly needing a manager’s approval.
In order to portray the importance of a hostess, I had to organize and perform my primary and secondary research. My primary research consisted of four interviews and one observation, I interviewed two fellow hostesses, Taylor Cason and Nicole AmRhein, an office manager that was once a host, Casey Bauer, and a server who started out as a hostess, Kacy Lach. Taylor has been hosting for almost two years and Nicole and I were hired together so we have both been hosting for a year and a half. The office manager was a host for close to two years and the server was a host for a year and a half. I orchestrated all four interviews around the same time. I interviewed them to get their input on my research because they all know what the job of a hostess entails. Each interview took around fifteen minutes, I sat with them in the restaurant and questioned them with some of the inquiries that I had come up with prior to the interviews. I did the interviews separately but asked the same questions. I asked about how and why the host stands are essential to the organization of the restaurant and I also asked, “what if” questions such as “what do you think would happen if there were no hostess?”. Additionally, I used my experiences and observed the flow of the restaurant on nights that are busier than others, like a Friday or Saturday night when we have a live band. I have worked almost a hundred of these high stress, high capacity, and very loud and upbeat nights and during these times, I have seen a restaurant work so smoothly and so perfectly and I have also seen nights where every single thing went terribly wrong.
The methods that I used gave me a deeper knowledge on hosting and showed me the perspectives from other hostesses. I used my secondary research to get additional background information on my primary research as well as my topic in general. I used the UCF library database to approach articles that support my research. These articles were used to build my claim and strengthen my primary research. My strategical method to finding good sources was to locate articles that were close to if not my identical claim. My first source was an article on the general topic of a restaurant in hopes that it spoke about hosting.
My first source was “The most important position in a restaurant is behind the host stand” and it was written by Bauer Michael. In this article he talks about how the host stand is the “achilleas heal of a restaurant” due to the fact that the host/hostess is the very first person you come in contact with when you walk through the doors of a restaurant. The host/hostess is the first person that will allow you to determine if you will have an enjoyable experience. When you are addressed with open doors (and arms), welcoming faces, and large smiles, you are more likely to have a higher quality visit. Rather than if you walked in and the host/hostess acts as if you are not there or if they have other things to do than to help you.
My second source titled “The Language and Literacy of Food Service Workers” was written by Mirabelli Tony. This article talks about the everyday communication and languages used in a diner and how the customers use the text and descriptions provided on the menus to decide what they may order to eat. He also talks about how universal food items, such as a cobb salad, are made and described differently in every restaurant. He mentions the specific and specialized languages that are created just for the restaurant industry to communicate.
My third source titled “What makes a Great Host” was written by Cruz Clarrissa. This article talks about the characteristics that a host/hostess should possess that will allow them to be successful. Clarrissa interviewed a couple managers to distinguish what they look for during an interview with a host. A few characteristics, in my perspective, that are the most important would be that a host/hostess needs to be able to handle any sort of customer and be able to change things around to satisfy someone’s specific needs. They also need to have the ability to work well under pressure and if they are stressed, they need to be able to handle it without having a complete meltdown ( because we all know that the meltdown would be the easier way.)
These articles were useful and helpful in the aspect of my research because it shows that not every restaurant works the same so there may be things in my restaurant that work well whereas in others, they may not. My interviews and observations helped me in the long run because the four different perspectives gave me a new look on things but they also helped to confirm my research topic and main question.
My primary research may have been biased towards my restaurant because I only interviewed those that I know and who work in my same restaurant. Due to the fact that we all work together, it is more likely that we all have the same experiences as well as the same interpretations. At my restaurant, Rock and Brews, our hosts do to-go orders whereas in other restaurants, they don’t. I have come to realize that every restaurant runs differently and not every host stand has assigned jobs at night; it all depends on what restaurant it is and their style.
At Rock and Brews, our style is to stay focused and organized but also to be one big family. No matter what your job or position is, you are there to help those around you. If a busser is busy, servers and hosts will always help clean off a table. If a host is busy, servers and managers will help seat a table. If a server is busy, the kitchen and managers and hosts will help run food to a table. When our shifts come to an end, even if we worked a double or had a very stressful day, we will all sit at a table together and eat and crack some jokes and just enjoy ourselves. To me, that is a very important part of a restaurant.
In Bauer’s article, he says that the host stand is the achilleas heal of a restaurant. This text is useful to my research because it shows the impact a host has on the customer from the moment they enter the restaurant this is from the customers personal perspective. The article talks about the important that the host stand has but he talked from a customer’s prospective, so instead he spoke of the impact the host has on the customer from the moment they walk through the door.
In Clarrissa’s article she talked about a few characteristics that a host should possess to be successful in the industry and what the managers look for when hiring new hosts. These characteristics are important and valuable to my research because they help show why and how hosts are important in a restaurant. An energetic, welcoming, hospitable, and charming host all help to make a better experience.
Another flaw that I realized in my research is that not every restaurants has a host stand. Which got me thinking: those that have hosts are typically larger restaurants but on the other side, do smaller restaurants not do to-go orders or do customers just seat themselves or have they realized that a host stand wouldn’t be needed? I wish I did more research in smaller establishments to get their view point and maybe answer some questions, however I feel as though those that I work with at Rock and Brews not only hosted in our restaurant but they have worked elsewhere as well which may have furthered their opinions.
My claim was proved by my primary and secondary sources. As I was researching, I realized that the only thing people write about restaurants is the 20 percent tip and they ignore the actual jobs, and because of this, it resulted in a large gap in my research. I found it very tricky to find articles that spoke about a host in a restaurant. As I continued to research, I found articles that spoke about the entirety of restaurants and broke them down into the different jobs and they also had claims about the importance of a host stand. My secondary research showed that the responsibilities of a host/hostess are far more important than what most people think; there is way more to hosting than just seating people. Before I worked in a restaurant, I thought hosting was so easy and so stupid and why would anyone want to be a host. Most people are picky when it comes to seating because they don’t like tables and they prefer booths however what they don’t know is that if we sit them at a table and they want to move to a booth, our entire seating system and rotation is messed up because of one table. When that happens, it takes anywhere between 5 minutes and 50 minutes to get the rotation back to normal. Now as a host, I believe everyone should work in a restaurant as a host because it changes your whole perspective of the industry and it allows you to be more open to seating arrangements and even wait times.
Because I hold a role in the discourse community of a restaurant, it opened me up to a more personal perspective on my subject. I know what it takes to be a hostess and the responsibilities and capabilities of a hostess and this allowed me to fill in some of the major gaps in my research. I also filled those gaps with the interviews from my coworkers.
With this paper, I shine a spotlight and share the knowledge that I have and that I recovered in hopes to grow an appreciation for the hosting position in the restaurant industry. Even in Rock and Brews, the servers and even the managers often take the hosts/hostesses for granted because they think we are lower than them, when in reality, we have the same number of if not more responsibilities than them. It is hard to appreciate the hard work that goes into hosting if you are not a host. I also hope to share my knowledge with those who have never worked in the restaurant industry. With this, I hope it allows them to broaden their vision when being seated or when getting mad about how long the wait is (the host cannot control how busy the restaurant is).
Although my primary and secondary research supported my claim, I still feel that every restaurant is different. There is a lot of research that could still be done on this topic and I hope that someday, the hosting position in a restaurant will be praised for the hard work that is put into it.
- Bauer Michael. “The most important position in a restaurant is behind the host stand.” InsideScoop SF (2013) SFGATE. Web. 18 March 2018.
- Mirabelli Tony “The Language and Literacy of Food Service Workers” in Writing About Writing, edited by Jabari Mahiri, Peter Lang, 2004, pp. 143-162.
- Cruz Clarrissa. “What makes a Great Host” Inc.com Contributor. Inc.com. Web. 22 March 2018