Hospitality is a feeling and, as such, it can be difficult to truly define. The OED officially says: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. You’ll often hear people reference a sense of home or warmth when trying to define it for themselves. Others have talked about monologue vs. dialogue and the 51/49 personality to learned skill ratio.
I can be a very analytical person and always wanted something more that I could I sink my teeth into when thinking about hospitality. I wanted specific things that I could try to embody or seek out in others when building teams. Over the years I came to a recipe of sorts. For you bartenders out there, it’s definitely more Tiki than Manhattan.
1 part warmth
1 part humility
1 part empathy
1 part generosity
The base spirits– warmth, humility, empathy, and generosity, are fundamentally human traits. You find them to one degree or another in most people. It’s more a matter of intensity and access to them. These traits largely shape how you make others feel in your interactions with them. The other components – knowledge, efficiency and anticipation– are learned. They are indispensable and come from experience, conscious practice, and study.
Like any recipe, each ingredient brings something different and the end result suffers if any component is missed. We’ve all had service experiences that were technically perfect but lacked feeling and soul. These experiences are heavy on the last three ingredients. Alternatively, all the empathy and warmth in the world won’t cut a steak in the absence of steak knife. In these moments, a healthy measure of anticipation and efficiency is probably missing.
A great hospitality experience brings all the ingredients in balance with one another. Having arrived at this recipe, it’s been interesting to apply to a myriad of encounters in and out of restaurants. I occasionally apply it when buying a sweater, a computer, or earrings for my girlfriend. There is an element of tension and vulnerability in each of these experiences and that is when hospitality is most needed.