Shift the focus from service to hospitality

by Duncan Fraser-Smith

Feb 15, 2021

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 chateaubriand. 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, in developing training modules for new restaurants, it has become increasingly evident to me that our focus on service and the skill 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 person’s employment within a hospitality operation, however, it does not address the key component or ability required for success, that being the candidate’s 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.’

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 first 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 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 of this are far-reaching. Restaurateurs spend inordinate 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 first 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 favourite 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 guest’s experiences, but to better understand our guests and our colleagues….after all, they are our bread and butter.

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