Any experience working in the hospitality industry will be useful. Part-time or summer work as a waiter or waitress, or even as a front desk clerk in a hotel, will be useful. You can learn more about this position by observing hosts and hostesses when you dine out at your favorite restaurants. You'll notice that certain people have the ability to make you feel welcome just by their ability to make small talk when walking you to your seat. You could also participate in an information interview with hosts/hostsesses to learn more about the field.
Hosts and hostesses are the first workers guests see when they walk into a restaurant. They are generally stationed close to the entrance of the restaurant and are responsible for greeting customers as they come into the restaurant and making them feel welcome.
Hosts and hostesses ask guests how many are in their party and inquire about their seating preferences. They find appropriate tables for each party and guide them to their table. They seat guests and give them menus. If the restaurant is busy and there is no seating available, they will advise guests on the wait time and direct them to the bar or to a seating area until their table is ready.
Hosts and hostesses answer phones calls, take reservations, and note the reservation in the reservation book or in a computerized reservation system. They must be familiar with the menu so that they can answer questions from guests either on the phone or in person. This is especially important now that so many people have food allergies. In many cases, hosts and hostesses provide suggestions regarding menu choices.
A lot of this job involves customer service. The host or hostess strives to make sure that customers have a good experience at the restaurant. They check to assure that customers have been waited on in a timely fashion, that customers received their food, and that it was well-prepared. It's up to the hosts and hostesses to ensure that the entire experience meets with the customer’s expectations. If there is a problem, the host or hostess is expected to handle the problem or complaint immediately.
Some hosts and hostesses accept payment for meals, taking customers credit cards or cash. At other restaurants, this may be handled by a cashier. Hosts and hostesses may help customers get their coats from the coatroom, ask the valet to bring a customer’s car to the front door of the restaurant, and escort guests to the exit.
Depending on the specific restaurant and its organizational structure, the host or hostess is often in charge of coordinating the staff, making sure that everyone works together, and that everything in the front of the house in the restaurant is working correctly.