A hotel steward, also known as a maître d', is the person commonly in charge of all dining operations for a restaurant or public dining room. The original French term, maître d'hôtel, which in English means master of the hotel, referred specifically to a person in charge of a dining room inside a hotel. Today’s hotel steward may work in a small or large hotel establishments, and the job is typically found in higher-end eateries.
A person in this position is often in charge of all dining and customer service operations, except the kitchen. This is frequently the case in small upscale restaurants or intimate dining areas in exclusive hotels. In hotels with multiple dining rooms, each one normally has its own maître d'.
If table-side presentations are offered, the hotel steward is normally the person who ignites the cherries jubilee or freshly prepares the Caesar salad, for instance. He may also serve as the sommelier. When fine wine is presented to a customer for tasting approval, the steward is frequently the person who performs this service.
The steward frequently schedules reservations via telephone or the Internet. He commonly assigns specific areas of the dining room to the food servers as well. During service, he is typically expected to ensure every customer receives quality service. If questions or concerns arise regarding the taste or presentation of the food, he usually resolves them. He also ordinarily addresses issues regarding the dining service.
As he customarily serves as the host, a hotel steward typically confirms reservations for incoming guests and seats them as they arrive. If a party has no reservation, he is the person commonly portrayed in the media as being slipped a large denomination of paper money to produce an open table for the unexpected guests. In the event guests become unruly or display inappropriate behavior, the steward is generally expected to defuse the situation with grace and calm.
Besides making his guests comfortable and happy, a hotel steward generally performs much of his job before the customers arrive. He normally chooses the table settings and checks them for conformity and style before each seating. The choice of menu items and daily specials are often made at his discretion. If his employer offers room service or catering, the hotel steward is frequently in charge of those operations as well.
No educational prerequisites are normally required for this position. Coursework in culinary arts or hospitality industry service are considered pluses for these job applicants. People with this job frequently have solid a background and successful experience in food service, restaurant management or food preparation.