Being paid 10 dollars an hour to stand in a hip restaurant and look pretty seemed like the perfect summer job for Melissa, a 19-year-old Dawson student. Last summer, Melissa was hired as a hostess at a restaurant on De La Montagne. Her job was to greet customers at the door and seat them at a table. Every night Melissa dressed up in heels and a short dress, and put on her biggest smile. At first she ignored the men who flirted with her during her eight hour shift. After two months, she quit, but not because of the flirtatious customers. Melissa left because of the constant harassment from her employers.
A hostess is there to greet guests with a welcoming smile. She is the first person a client sees when they walk into the restaurant, and is often there to wish them a good night as they leave. The job requires some organizational skills when it comes to seating plans and reservations. A good appearance is also essential. While looking presentable is an important factor, should girls be asked to show more leg or more cleavage? Should they be given alcohol, and be encouraged to flirt with men?
Lauren, a McGill graduate, described her experience at a popular restaurant on St. Laurent, as “degrading.” Lauren worked as a hostess at the restaurant for one year. She left after a night when her manager told her to sit on a male customer’s lap.
“When I first got the job, I knew the restaurant/bar had a high-energy atmosphere where people partied late,” Lauren said, “I expected to be subjected to looks and comments, but I honestly didn’t think the managers and clientele would harass me as much as they did. I guess I was naive.”
Lauren said she dressed in slinky evening wear, but her employers pushed her to wear more revealing clothes. She was constantly offered drinks, and wasn’t allowed to leave until she let her manager hug her goodbye.
Not all young women have had such bad experiences working as a hostess. Kimberly, a McGill student, says her hostess job is “the ultimate ego boost.” Kimberly said the best part of the job is picking out sexy outfits to wear and having men do double takes when they see her. Kimberly’s work is stressful, because the restaurant gets busy and finding tables for people gets more and more difficult as the night goes on. When asked if she ever feels threatened at work, Kimberly said she’s a tough girl and that people know not to push her around. She said the staff at her restaurant are, “like a family” and if ever there is a problem, the manager is there to help.