If you’ve ever worked as a host in a restaurant, you know it can be a challenging, high-pressure job.
A restaurateur is often the first contact guests have, and a lot of surreal, rude, and ridiculous behavior can occur during 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 restaurateurs in America are women, whose average annual salary is $24,600. Of course, previous and current hosts on TikTok have shared their wildest stories under hashtags like #hostesstiktok or #restaurantlife.
To be clear, we asked people who have worked as restaurateurs, some of whom have posted stories on TikTok, about their biggest “won’ts” about their restaurant industry experience. Here’s what they shared about their tough boundaries on the kinds of jobs they won’t take and rude customer behavior they won’t tolerate:
1. I don’t act like an insulting idiot if my table isn’t ready.
“Guest comfort is paramount for restaurants, and hotel professionals use great skill to make guests feel at home, but customers can take this too far. Boundaries are flying out the window and suddenly it’s perfectly okay to berate a stranger because the table isn’t ready yet.”
“During my time as a host at one of Manhattan’s toughest doors, I’ve seen guests verbally abused, inappropriate physical contact, and relapsed into a childlike state – it’s amazing how many able-bodied adults can’t stand to stand for 10 Protocol.”
“A good rule of thumb is to pretend you’re being invited to a private dinner party at the home of someone you respect but don’t know very well. Would you have sex in her bathroom? Would you grab the crook of your host’s arm, press your face into their face and shriek at the horrible injustice they have committed by not having dinner served 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 will not make a reservation that does not include the children in my party.
“Often parents only count the adults and when their table is ready they are confused as to why it doesn’t fit with their three other children who they never told the hostess about. Children need space, so be sure to count everyone in your group, not just the adults.” — Karen de Andalos Angeles
3. I will not skip the host and sit down.
“[Seating yourself is a behavior that] actually happens all the time, and usually the customers are pretty pissed off because they’re 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 weird position of having to reply to others [waiting] Customers… You must reply to the server. Usually then, most of the time, the server goes to the host and says, ‘Why doesn’t this table have menus?’”
“I’ve had tables that joined a table that really wasn’t occupied at all, like it wasn’t even a little dirty, but maybe the tip from the previous table is still there. I think in her mind it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m going to grab the table real quick.’ I completely understand the customer. But from the other side it’s like ‘What are you doing?’” ― Jeremy Konopka, New York City
4. I do not assume that the restaurant will spontaneously provide accommodation for me.
“Whether you show up with more people than listed on your reservation, or you request specific seating arrangements such as an alcove or patio table, the necessary arrangements must be communicated to the host prior to your arrival. If the restaurant you are going to is rather busy, there is a chance that the table reserved for you is the only one available for that evening.”
“I’ve seen many instances where a party insisted on having a booth or showed up with eight reserved people instead of five and ended up waiting over an hour for the next available table. I think a lot of people would be surprised to know how tight reservations can be at a restaurant, and even small changes aren’t always possible on the fly.”
“What I would recommend when booking a reservation is to provide all of your seating preferences and necessary accommodations prior to booking so the host can book your desired table and take the guesswork out of it. For instances where there may be additional people attending your party, book your reservation to include them in the count. You can always downsize your table or just have fewer people at a larger one, but it’s a lot harder to upgrade.”
“Overall, as hosts, we will do everything we can to ensure you are happy with your experience, but letting us know your preferences upfront can go a long way!” – Hannah Brown, Fort Collins, Colorado
5. I will not get upset if the hostess is not in front of the restaurant when I enter the restaurant.
“Yes, it’s a host’s job to greet you when you enter the home, but hosts often have other duties, such as: ― DeAnda
6. I will not stare at the host to seat me faster or ask for an empty table.
“There’s no way I’m going to stare at the host or hostess. That happens often. They are given the wait and they slowly back away and they just stare and expect something to happen sooner.
“There is a many restaurants that have a real system. Most of them should… This table might be open but the servers might be busy or the kitchen might be busy and in order for you to have the right experience that you are supposed to have in the restaurant they are not all going to be seated. I often think so [behavior of asking for an empty table] puts a lot of pressure on the host or hostess to really explain this to them… It’s hard.”
“In a restaurant there is a real hierarchy and unfortunately a lot of time, the host is usually the entry point. There’s a lot of pressure coming from the servers: ‘Did you seat me?’ ‘Did you double seat me?’ “Did you triple cast me?” The host might even want to become a server because the money is usually better.”
“There’s pressure from everywhere and the customer staring at you and saying, ‘Hey, the table is open’ is just another thing.” ― Konopka
7. I will not accept a hostess job where I do not get a percentage of the total sales.
“My first job as a hostess was a flat rate of $12.65 an hour. It didn’t matter if we had 10 covers or 300 that night, my salary stayed exactly the same. One of the reasons why working in the service industry can be so enticing is the opportunity to make good money fast, and while it can be stressful and exhausting at times, those hectic nights that cause the most stress are also where the greatest benefits come from .”
“However, with fixed wages, you get all the stress and none of the reward. There’s no incentive to work busy shifts because it’s only going to be five times the work for no extra pay. In my experience, a far more desirable salary structure for hosts is one that pays them a percentage of total sales.”
“This way, the hosts can be rewarded for the success they’ve contributed to without having to get a tip directly from the servers or others [front of house] Employee. It also gives employees an incentive to work busier shifts and be more willing to help out on important days like weekends or holidays.”
“If you are considering becoming a host, I would recommend asking your interviewer what the salary structure is like in the hosting position. Most restaurants I’ve worked at offer hosts a percentage of sales, so don’t be afraid to keep looking until you find one that does!” ― Brown