This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The headwaiter in some hotels is a veritable Warwick the king-maker, he can oust the steward frequently, and cause a change of chef every month. This is oft-enest the case in what are called family hotels. It is necessary to have the head-waiter under the steward's control, to have him hired or discharged by the steward to insure thorough discipline and harmony throughout the house and for the interest of the proprietors themselves, for the obvious reason that when the headwaiter knows that the steward, in leaving his situation, will most likely unseat the head-waiter, too, and the new incoming steward will bring his own man, he is likely, from motives of self-interest, to help his steward to satisfy the people instead of pulling him down. The steward in any case has his pleasures of wielding authority fully bal-lanced by the pains of bearing the blame for every untoward happening or deficiency in the hotel. The headwaiter, who may not be under the direct control of the steward, can make things appear better or worse to the guests, as he chooses, and it is human nature to detract from another's good name rather than build it up, and in depreciating the character of the steward in the guests' estimation, he necessarily injures their estimation of the hotel and its proprietors.
The peculiarity of his position in this regard is this: He is always a man of respectable appearance, sometimes quite a superior man in this respect, and must be fairly well dressed. His manner is polite and his speech soft; it is his business to be attentive and appear solicitous for the comfort of the guests, and if he chooses he can become on very familiar terms with some of them, particularly with those fond of gossipping about the hotel which they are making their home, and there is no more fruitful subject for gossip than that of the table and the illiberality of those responsible for its furnishing. Encouragement from the head-waiter, such as may be conveyed by a shrug, a significant smile, a little remark that he is "sure the house pays enough to have the best" and he "can't imagine the reason that what comes in is really so unfit to set before first class people," soon leads to the current talk of the house being that the way that hotel is conducted is a disgrace to the nineteenth century civilization, and the proprietors becoming frightened discharge the steward and chef. Then the harmless-looking headwaiter chuckles in his sleeve and softly says: "Next!" This is not a fanciful supposition. Names and instances could be given.
But suppose the headwaiter is desirous of building up instead of pulling down, how he can smooth over the temporary difficulties, softly excuse this thing being out or that expected delicacy not having arrived in time, call attention to the excellency of this dish, or the novelty of that, and promise something to come next day!