Shift the focus from Service to Hospitality.

I will admit it; I am a stickler for good service. I truly appreciate the time, energy and practice that goes into being able to pour a glass of wine, mix a cocktail and gueridon prepare and serve a chateuabriande. It seems as though I am not alone as society at large regards service as one of the key attributes to a successful dining experience. Reflected so frequently in many online reviews, blogs and indeed dining guides.

However more recently, as I have started working with restaurants and hotels to develop training modules, it has become increasingly evident to me that our focus on service and the skills set, that is needed to provide it, has resulted in a shift away from the traditions for which our industry was founded.

Today, when recruiting, the industry seems fascinated by the caliber and quality of the CV.  This piece of paper can determine a persons employment within a hospitality operation, however it does not address the key component or ability required for success, that being the candidates nature to deliver great hospitality.

The reason for this is simple; hospitality is by definition an abstract. It’s an attitude, governed by emotion that creates a connection.

Danny Meyer from Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, sums this up quite well by describing the following: ‘ Service is a monologue, hospitality is a dialogue.’

I believe there are 3 key pillars to creating the dialogue required for delivering successful hospitality; those being Engagement, Interest and Passion. Engagement, as it is the nucleus of conversation, Interest as it shows authenticity and genuine understanding and Passion as it’s why we are here in this game in the 1st place.

Too often these days when dining out, the service might be fantastic, but there is an emptiness in its delivery, masked by a complete lack of these three crucial elements.

All memories in life attach themselves to an emotion, whether those emotions are positive or negative. The true art of hospitality is based on the premise of creating a conversation that enables our employees to interact with guests on a more personalized level and as such creating that emotional link to the experience.

The benefits for this are far reaching. Restaurateurs spend in-ordinate amounts of money annually attracting new guests to their outlets. There are marketing budgets and promotions all geared towards getting that customer through the door the 1st time.

Once inside we look towards effective CRM management systems for hospitality operations to create our database of clientele, however all of that data is reliant on the quality of information gathered.

You may know a guest’s favorite drink and the way they like their steak cooked , but there is so much more that guests are willing to share given the right opportunity to create a meaningful dialogue or conversation with your staff.

I know when I go out for dinner, I want to engage with the colleagues of an outlet and as such I want them to engage with me. Sometimes this is to the detriment of the people I am dining with, however I look toward what information I am willing to share with these people based on their levels of engagement.

Too often we are subject to the ‘by-rote’ and SOP driven explanation of menu offerings. i.e. The product, the deliverable.  SOP’s and memorized spiels do not a memory make.

With the right team and the right organization, service elements can be trained or taught. Any skill can be uplifted and polished, however developing those natural characteristics in our people that generate true hospitality is something we must as an industry dedicate greater time and focus to. Not just to improve our guests experience’s, but to better understand our guests and our colleagues….after all they are our bread and butter.