What’s a Word got to Do with it?

The great American Restaurateur Danny Meyer has a lot to say about hospitality, and as the owner of a great many successful restaurants in many different genres, he knows what he is talking about. Rereading his terrific book ‘Setting the Table’, it is striking that hospitality internally and externally at it’s most fundamental is a recurring and unapologetic theme throughout. He speaks about the fact that ‘ virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction…hospitality happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you’.

This is such a great  truth that it deserves further scrutiny. Working in and experiencing the ‘hospitality’ industry every day, it is interesting how this great truth is not widely understood. The world is in a lot of trouble right now. Unless one is dwelling under a large rock, it is impossible to avoid the fact that a lot of bad people are doing a lot of bad stuff to other, often very good people. If in the habit of tuning into social or other media at an early hour, a body could be forgiven for giving up totally on the human race before 9.00am.  

Which is where the hospitality industry enters the scene. Hospitality is a great word really. It suggests being taken in and looked after, cared for, nurtured. It conjures up images of roaring fires, cosy corners, comforting food and pleasant company. It is postitively brimming with the promise of having a really good time. Put the word ‘industry’ beside it and it takes on a whole new meaning. The ‘hospitality industry’ then promises to be all of these things to us. It promises to make us feel warm, special, welcome,  comfortable and nurtured.

As a management trainee many moons ago, we worked in what was then known as the ‘hotel industry’ and at some point (I cannot pinpoint when) the word ‘ hotel’ was replaced with hospitality. When you think about it, the industry probably didn’t realise quite what it was promising just by changing that little word. The Hospitality industry now encompasses hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, inns, country houses and all other permutations of business which falls under that umbrella.

Thus, stating that your business is in the Hospitality industry is quite a claim. ‘oh, I own a café and I am in the hospitality industry’ or ‘yes, our restaurant is part of the hospitality industry’. It follows then that the most serious task is delivering on that hospitality in spades.

When students sit in front of me with a view to being part of the ‘hospitality industry’, whether that be a café, restaurant or other; the first thing we do is talk about feelings. This is absolutely intrinsic to getting it right, because it is about how what you are doing makes me feel.


So, when we walk into a café or restaurant, our hearts are governing our heads. We walk in with a purpose in mind and that is ( consciously or subconsciously) to receive hospitality. We all have stuff going on, and we look to our local café or restaurant to salve our emotional wounds for a short time. We don’t really know it, but we are putting ourselves at the mercy of the business to enfold us in hospitality for just a short time.

Therefore to anyone to would like to become a part of the Hospitality Industry, perhaps remember this; read, study, discuss, draw, mull over, parse and explore what it really means. Will you be able/ willing to provide ‘ a dialogue’ with the guest who comes through the door. Not just some guests, but every guest. Not just important guests, but unimportant, tired, weary, nobody guests. Will you be able to make them feel that hospitality from head to toe? Will your guests feel warm, special, comfortable, nurtured for just a short time?

If you answer yes to all of the above, your customers will walk over broken glass to get to you.