Restaurant host jobs are in demand

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One Friday night last month, some friends and I walked into La Chinesca, a new bar and restaurant on Spring Garden Street in Philly, and were greeted by three smiling hosts at the welcome booth. We made our way to the indoor / outdoor bar, about 20 yards away, and the three hosts eagerly asked if they could help us find our way. Compared to the understaffing and overwork in most restaurants lately, the attention initially felt out of place. But things like this kept happening, leading me to think, Is it just me, or do you feel like there are a lot more hosts working in Philly than there were before?

“It’s a new property and it’s very big – this place requires a few extra hands on the host stand,” said Michael Pasquarello, co-owner of La Chinesca. The restaurant is only a few months old, after all; there may be issues that need to be addressed and managers want to make sure the service is running properly. However, Pasquarello accepts that the role of host at changed this year. At one of Pasquarello’s other restaurants, Prohibition Taproom, he had to hire an additional member at the host stand on weekends just to check diners’ proof of vaccination.

“Our staff are essentially front-line workers. The hotel worker is in danger, ”says Pasquarello. Prohibition Taproom is a few blocks from a major concert hall in Philly. To protect against wandering large groups without following proof of restaurant vaccination restrictions, the additional host is a necessary barrier to entry. “They are very diligent about it. My staff take everything seriously.

While the most full guest stalls I’ve seen have been in Philly – and bearing in mind that there are other restaurants where there is clearly a burden on a single host – the numbers confirm the fact that the current demand for hosts is also high nationally.

Alice Cheng, founder and CEO of Culinary Agents, an online employment platform for hospitality workers, says company data shows many open host roles nationwide, but not enough candidates. Comparing the periods from March to November 2020 and from March to November 2021, Cheng says there are seven times more reception positions this year than last year. This first period covers some of the oldest and most serious pandemic shutdowns, and Cheng speculates that restaurants have been re-hired, now that food businesses in many cities are back to full force. With changing regulations, openings and then closings, and angry guests to contend with, restaurants have become even more active on the bridge, everyone wears multiple hats, and Cheng suspects that hiring many hosts could be a way to get entry level candidates in the door to quickly train them for side or senior roles. “We are seeing some companies looking for ways to train in all skills,” Cheng said. The host could become a potential busser or a potential server or manager. “In colder cities, you have hosts who also serve as a cloakroom. “

And although it may seem to me that there is so many hosts at the door these days, Culinary Agents data shows that applications for host jobs are down 40% from 2019. Cheng speculates that “the increase [in job postings makes up] for the fact that they haven’t had hosts for a while, ”noting that many restaurants have removed the role during various pivots. In restaurants and bars that depend on walk-in service and foot traffic, Cheng also speculates that staffing is related to the need for more muscle at the entrance to the restaurant. “There is an increase in responsibilities and potential stress for these particular positions,” Cheng says, and the sheer volume of hospitality jobs available could act as a bulwark for catering workers who accept host jobs, then quickly learn how stressful it can be. . Turnover is already high in the restaurant industry – and with these additional challenges from the coronavirus, employees are even more selective about where they want to work. The drop in the number of applicants at the reception booth, according to Cheng, could also be linked to high stress at work. “The demands are probably lower due to extreme potential exposure and the need to control vaccination cards in some cities.”

Abbie Phillips has been a facilitator for five years at Good King Tavern and Le Caveau, a French restaurant and wine bar in Philly, where owner Chloe Grigri has demanded proof of vaccination from her guests for months. Since the start of the pandemic, Phillips says she has had a lot more time with guests. “Before the pandemic, guests arrived and they wanted to sit anywhere and be seated very quickly,” Phillips said. “Now it’s more of a conversation.” Phillips has been the sole host of The Good King for many years, with owner Grigri, General Manager Patrick Bruning and an array of family and friends lending a helping hand on the busiest nights. “I’ve wanted to clone myself a thousand times,” Phillips says of the host job. Fortunately, last week the restaurant hired a second host to help.

With the staff shortage, not all restaurants are able to keep up. Some owners don’t think it’s necessary, anyway. Two local restaurateurs I spoke with both said they avoided host stand unpredictability as they relied almost entirely on reservations rather than walk-in traffic. Most diners who enter their restaurants are aware of their vaccination policies and are generally well prepared for what to expect when they arrive, meaning there is less need for multiple hosts arguing over unruly guests. .

For those who have occupied their front door, they wonder how long they can expect their many hosts to stay at work. After learning that hosts at another of his restaurants, Cafe Lift, were dealing with disgruntled customers responding to their city-imposed indoor mask policy, Pasquarello says he’s seeing more people bristling with responsibility. additional annoying that accompanies the reception of the guests at the door: “The beginner level students on the host stand say to themselves:” I don’t know, did I register for this? ” “


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