The Hospitality Imperative

Restaurant managers talk about offering good service, but hospitality is really a better word to describe what they need to provide. Service is mechanical (serve from the left, clear from the right, don't spill wine on the table).

But hospitality is personal -- it is about how guests feel about what you did and how you did it. Some describe hospitality as the cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests. However you define it, hospitality is a very tangible intangible -- you instantly know when you experience it ... and you know when it is absent.

In his book, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, celebrated New York restaurateur Danny Meyer put it this way:

"Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens FOR you. It is absent when something happens TO you. Those two simple prepositions -- for and to -- express it all."
Does Danny's notion of hospitality make a difference? Consider this: in the annual Zagat diner survey, of 18,000 restaurant in New York City (22,000 counting pizzerias), the five fine dining concepts owned by Danny's Union Square Hospitality Group are consistently among the top twenty in popularity.

Even more amazing is that his Union Square Café has been voted the Most Popular Restaurant in New York City every year since 1997 ... except for four years when the top spot went to the Gramercy Tavern, another USHG restaurant, and the Union Square Café "slipped" to #2!

Danny is the first to point out that none of his operations have ever been voted Best Food or Best Service, but when people are asked to name their favorite restaurant, for fourteen years straight he has taken the top two spots ... out of 22,000 ... in arguably the toughest and most demanding restaurant market in the country! Unbelievable!

The message here is clear:

To have an exceptionally successful restaurant, you don't have to be the best at everything you do, you just have to be the favorite of the people you serve. This is a testament to the power of hospitality.

What Is Killing Hospitality?