Why It Seems Like There Are More Restaurant Hosts Than There Used To Be

As the pandemic continues to spread, fewer people are eating inside, even as many restaurants have increased space between tables to allow for social distancing. Still, on-premise dining is well below pre-pandemic levels, notes NPD Group, and restaurants are still hurting for staff as many servers were a part of "The Great Resignation" phenomenon of 2020-2021. And, if surveys are to be believed, many more will walk out the door in the near future, reports The Takeout.

So, it would seem paradoxical that amidst a labor shortage and with dining-in on track to be paused again due to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, that restaurants would put resources into hiring additional hosts. Yet, that seems to be just what's happening, according to Eater columnist Dayna Evans, who spoke with a Philadelphia restaurant owner about the curious allocation of staff (three greeters at the host stand) she noticed at his restaurant. It turns out this is the new normal, at least for now.

The reason you might be seeing more hosts in some parts of the country is because of local laws requiring diners to be vaccinated against COVID-19, which are broadening the duties of restaurant hosts. They no longer just greet and seat. Now, for many, part of the job description includes checking guests' vaccination status, and, sadly, providing backup when customers without proper documentation become belligerent or even violent. 

Why restaurants might soon need 'bouncers'

A growing number of cities are starting to require restaurant diners to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. These cities include New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and, starting January 3, Chicago (via Forbes). Additionally, some restaurants where no such laws exist have made the decision themselves to require proof of vaccination from guests.

This can put restaurant staff in the uncomfortable and even dangerous position of being "enforcement" officers. In fact, in New York last summer, a host was attacked by a group of tourists when she asked for proof of vaccination (via "Today" on YouTube). Speaking to Eater, a Philadelphia restaurant and music venue operator said more bodies are needed up front to prevent large groups of people from barging past the host stand without showing vaccination cards — hence, hiring more people at the host stand.

In some restaurants, the situation is so dire that management has hired bouncers to make sure hosts and greeters are safe and/or to check vaccination statuses (via Vox). Short of using the word "bouncer," Chicago alderman and restaurant owner Tom Tunney told the Chicago Sun-Times he thinks it will take "more than a host" to check cards and IDs when that city's vaccine requirements go into effect in January 2022. He hopes the requirement will be short-lived, as payroll costs will of course then increase. However, it beats the alternative: "Given where we're at and this latest surge, I guess it's the prudent thing to do at this point. We certainly don't want to be shut down," Tunney said.