The maître d'hôtel (pronounced [mɛːtʁə dotɛl] (listen); French for ''master of the house''), head waiter, host, waiter captain, or maître d' (UK: / / MAY-trə DEE, US: / -/ MAY-tər -) manages the public part, or "front of the house", of a formal restaurant. The responsibilities of a maître d'hôtel generally include supervising the waiting staff, welcoming guests and assigning tables to them, taking reservations, and ensuring that guests are satisfied.
In large organizations, such as certain hotels, or cruise ships with multiple restaurants, the maître d'hôtel is often responsible for the overall dining experience, including room service and buffet services, while head waiters or supervisors are responsible for the specific restaurant or dining room they work in.
Food writer Leah Zeldes writes that the role of maître d’hôtel originated as a kind of combined "host, headwaiter and dining-room manager" and, in the past, persons with this role were sometimes responsible for such operations as tableside boning of fish and mixing of salads.
Traditionally, the host of a restaurant was a comparatively prestigious position given to trusted employees. The maître d' represented the restaurant as a whole and coordinated its service. While still true at certain high-end restaurants, this began to change in the 21st century. Many restaurants kept a host position, but it became an entry-level position for new hires rather than a senior position. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, most hosts in the US are young and made an average annual wage in 2020 of $24,800, a fairly low amount. A factor contributing to the decline in the position is that customers are less deferential and ruder to hosts compared to the past, resulting in the position being seen as less desirable and less fulfilling.
- Beurre Maître d'Hôtel, a parsley butter
- Brigade de cuisine, a formal back-of-house (kitchen) hierarchy.
- List of restaurant terminology
- LeTrent, Sarah (September 2, 2011). "D mystifying the maître d'". Eatocracy. Archived from the original on July 19, 2012. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
- Bordelon, Grace. "What Is a Waiter Captain?". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
- Zeldes, Leah A. (October 7, 2009). "Eat this! Waldorf salad, an apple-licious fall favorite". Dining Chicago. Chicago’s Restaurant & Entertainment Guide.
- Krishna, Priya (September 24, 2021). "The Restaurant Host Is Suddenly at the Front of the Covid Wars". The New York Times. Retrieved September 26, 2021.