If you have ever worked in a restaurant as a host, you know that it can be a challenging, high-pressure job.
A restaurant host is often the first point of contact that diners have, and a lot of surreal, rude and ridiculous behavior can happen in those first interactions. And too often, hosts work long hours for low salaries. According to a 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the vast majority of restaurant hosts in America are women whose median annual salary is $24,600. Naturally, past and current hosts on TikTok have shared their wildest stories under hashtags like #hostesstiktok or #restaurantlife.
To set the record straight, we asked people who have worked as restaurant hosts, some of whom have posted stories on TikTok, about their biggest “won’ts” after their experiences in the restaurant industry. Here’s what they shared about their hard boundaries on the kind of jobs they will not take and rude customer behavior they will not tolerate:
1. I won’t act like an abusive jerk when my table isn’t ready.
“Guests’ comfort is critical for restaurants, and hospitality professionals employ great skill to make patrons feel at home, but customers can take this too far. Boundaries fly out the window, and suddenly it’s completely fine to berate a stranger because your table isn’t ready.”
“During my time as a hostess working one of Manhattan’s toughest doors, I experienced guests resorting to verbal abuse, inappropriate physical contact, and regressing to a child-like state — it’s incredible how many non-disabled adults can’t handle standing for 10 minutes.”
“A good rule of thumb is to act as though you’ve been invited to a private dinner party at the home of someone you respect but don’t know very well. Would you have sex in their bathroom? Would you grab the crook of your host’s arm, thrust your face in theirs, and squawk about the terrible injustice they’ve committed by not serving dinner yet? Probably not!” –– Kim Reed, New York City-based author of “Workhorse: My Sublime and Absurd Years in New York City’s Restaurant Scene”
2. I won’t make a reservation that doesn’t count the children in my party.
“Oftentimes parents will only count the adults and when their table is ready, they are confused why it doesn’t fit their three other children they never told the hostess about. Children require space, so make sure to count all people in your party, not just the adults.” ― Karen De Anda, Los Angeles
3. I won’t skip the host and seat myself.
“[Seating yourself is a behavior that] happens actually all the time, and usually the customers are quite angry because they’ll be like: ‘Where are my menus?’ But your menus aren’t here because you didn’t come to me.”
“It just puts the host in such a strange position where they have to answer to other [waiting] customers...They have to answer to the server. Usually the server will then go to the host a lot of the time and be like ‘Why doesn’t that table have menus?’”
“I’ve had tables sit down at a table that’s truly not bussed at all, like not even just a little dirty but maybe the tip is still sitting there from the previous table. I think in their mind it’s like, ‘Ooh I’m grabbing that table really fast.’ I totally understand the customer. But from the other side, it’s like ‘What are you doing?’” ― Jeremy Konopka, New York City
4. I won’t assume the restaurant will be able to make accommodations for me on the fly.
“Whether it’s showing up with more people than listed in your reservation, or requesting a specific seating arrangement like a booth or patio table, necessary accommodations need to be communicated with the host before you arrive. If the restaurant you’re going to is on the busier side, there is a chance that the table they’ve reserved for you is the only available one for that night.”
“I’ve run into many instances where a party is insistent on having a booth, or shows up with eight people instead of their reserved five, and end up having to wait over an hour for the next available table. I think many people would be surprised to know how tightly reservations can run in a restaurant, and even small changes are not always possible on the fly.”
“What I would recommend when booking a reservation is to state all of your seating preferences and necessary accommodations before you book, that way the host will be able to reserve your desired table and eliminate the guessing games. For instances when you might have extra people joining your party, book your reservation with them included in the tally. You can always downsize your table or just have less people at a bigger one, but it is much trickier to upgrade.”
“Overall, as hosts we will do everything we can to make sure you are satisfied with your experience, but communicating your preferences up front can go a long way!” ― Hannah Brown, Fort Collins, Colorado
5. I won’t get upset when the hostess is not at the front of the restaurant when I walk in.
“Yes, it is a host’s job to greet you as you walk in, but hosts often have other duties, such as doing restroom checks to make sure everything is stocked and clean, wiping down tables, or even helping out in the kitchen.” ― De Anda
6. I won’t stare at the host to get them to seat me faster or ask for an empty table.
“I definitely won’t stare at the host or the hostess. That’s something that happens a lot. They’re given the wait time and they just slowly back away and they just stare and expect something to happen sooner.”
“There’s a lot of restaurants that have a real system. Most of them should... That table might be open, but the servers might be swamped or the kitchen might be backed up, and for you to have the correct experience that they want you to have at the restaurant, they’re not going to seat everyone. I think a lot of the time that [behavior of asking for an empty table] puts a lot of pressure on whoever is the host or the hostess to really explain that to them... It’s hard.”
“There’s a real hierarchy in a restaurant and unfortunately a lot of time, the host is usually the entry level point. There’s a lot of pressure coming from the servers of: ‘Did you seat me?’ ‘Did you double-seat me?’ ‘Did you triple-seat me?’ The host may even want to become a server because the money is usually better.”
“There’s pressures from all over and the customer that is staring you and saying ‘Hey that table is open’ is just one other thing.” ― Konopka
7. I won’t work a hostess job where I don’t get a percentage of total sales.
“When I worked my first job as a hostess, I got a flat rate of $12.65 per hour. Whether we had 10 covers or 300 covers that night, my pay stayed exactly the same. One of the reasons that working in the service industry can be so alluring is the opportunity to make good money quickly, and although it can be stressful and draining at times, those bustling nights that create the most stress also have the biggest payoffs.”
“With fixed wages, however, you get all of the stress and none of the reward. There’s no incentive to work busy shifts, because it just becomes five times the work with no extra pay. In my experience, a far more desirable pay structure for hosts is one where they get paid by a percentage of the total sales.”
“This allows for the hosts to be rewarded for the success that they have a hand in creating, without having to get tipped out directly by the servers or other [front of house] employees. It also incentivizes employees to take busier shifts and be more willing to help out on big ticket days, like weekends or holidays.”
“If you are considering getting a job as a host, I would recommend asking your interviewer what the pay structure looks like in the host position. Most restaurants that I’ve worked at do offer the hosts a percentage of sales, so don’t be afraid to keep looking until you find one that does!” ― Brown