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In most cases, a hostess/server is a restaurant professional responsible for both seating and serving duties. This generally includes keeping track of the waiting list, if applicable, seating guests, and taking orders along with serving food and beverages, checking on guest satisfaction, and creating the bill. In some establishments, the hostess/server also acts as the cashier for his or her customers.
A hostess/server position is more likely to be found in a small, private establishment rather than in a large restaurant or restaurant chain. Generally, the positions are combined in order to reduce the required staff members per shift. This means that employees must handle the functions of two jobs.
The hostess portion of the job generally entails managing customers at the front door or lobby. In slow times, this may simply mean seating guests as they arrive. Even so, the hostess/server must be careful to rotate service areas if other servers are on duty. This helps ensure that no server has too many tables to handle at once, while another server has none.
When times are busy, the hostess/server may need to manage a waiting list. He or she may also be responsible for answering phone calls for reservations and information. In some cases, this role must also take carry-out orders in person or by phone and enter them into the system.
The server portion of the job generally encompasses taking orders, delivering food, and assisting guests with needs such as beverage refills or condiments. In most restaurants, a server or server/hostess is responsible for filling the initial drink orders from the fountain area. In some establishments, he or she prepares appetizer salads or baskets of bread; in others, these items are prepared in the kitchen by line cooks, and the hostess/server is responsible only for serving the food.
It is not unusual for a hostess/server to also have shift duties that do not apply strictly to his or her specific customers. This might include rolling silverware and refilling the salt and pepper or other condiment dispensers. Other such duties might include preparing bread baskets, garnishes, or other food prep items in the kitchen and vacuuming the floors in the dining room.
Occasionally, the hostess/server is responsible for cashier duties as well. This means running credit cards or making change for cash payments. It may also mean settling the payment system at the end of the night, which often includes closing the credit card system and counting and balancing the register.