Omnivore - A plea for the return of the maitre d'

What's up with the host stand? Where are the professionals?


In a blog post on Monday about discrimination against children in restaurants, the San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Bauer makes the following astute observation: "The host stand is the Achilles heel of many restaurants. For reasons that probably revolve around economics, the least experienced people are often the ones who greet the diners and shape first impressions."

This wasn't always the case. Traditionally, diners were greeted at the host stand by a professional of the highest order: the maitre d'. Over the years, even at more upscale restaurants, that position has been all but eliminated. General managers no longer waste their time hanging around the host stand, and instead employ someone else to greet and seat customers, often someone who has very little understanding of the workings of a restaurant and the delicacies of customer service. Gambling away first impressions on a $9 per hour employee seems foolhardy at best.