Sincere Hospitality Brings Happy Returns


It’s more than just providing great service—it means truly caring for and engaging your team and your guests.

In this issue I would like to discuss sincere, honest, genuine hospitality!

To thrive you need an edge. Unfortunately, too many establishments are mired in faceless, robotic and sometimes rude service. To make matters worse, it’s often accepted as the norm. The most successful restaurant operators understand that true hospitality is very different from memorized service steps and techniques.

Service is simply delivery of a product. Sincere hospitality is delivery of that product that evokes feelings. It means going beyond required tasks to connect on a personal or emotional level with your guests.

Successful restaurants know this to be true and some report up to 80% of guests are repeat customers or “regulars.” Customers return because the operator provides service with a degree of emotional attachment.

The comfort factor wins hearts

Let me explain what I mean.

My wife and I once spent a long weekend in St John’s, Newfoundland, a part of Canada known for its warm hospitality. We stayed at Winterholme Manor, a beautiful B&B in the heart of town. The city was busy, and it was impossible to find a rental car. Upon overhearing our plight, a young woman responsible for housekeeping said, “You can’t see the sites without a vehicle, so take my car for the day.” Guess where I am staying the next time we visit?

The B&B owner’s wife recommended a seafood restaurant downtown, not for its superior food, but because she thought we would feel comfortable there. She was right.

Upon arrival, the hostess greeted us with a smile. She asked if we had any preferred seating rather than just placing us in a convenient section. She put the server at great advantage by making sure the guest started out happy.

When our server arrived, she looked me in the eye and, with a smile, said, “Hello and welcome. Thank you for joining us tonight. Is this your first visit to our restaurant?” After some smalltalk and an offer to start with a beverage, she paused and said, “By the way, my name is Cathy. I’ll be back with your drinks in a minute.” This was a much nicer way to introduce herself than “Hi, my name is Cathy, and I’ll be your server.” I often feel this is overused, lacks sincerity and focuses on the server, not the guest.

Making a lasting impression

Cathy had tremendous knowledge of the menu, and instead of upselling us, she was more consultative and suggested a combo platter to share and a couple of side dishes.

Her table check was not a mindless “How’s everything?” Instead she was genuinely interested in whether our meals were prepared to our satisfaction.

After an enjoyable evening she thanked us again and wished us a fun holiday. All the staff, including the buser, said goodbye, and welcomed us back.

We did return, two nights later, and I spoke with the owner. I explained the business I was in, and commented on the terrific experience we had at her restaurant. I asked for her secret, and she looked puzzled, “There is no secret, darling … You are our guest and everyone knows that there is no one more important than you.”

Paying forward respect and courtesy

It’s a simple idea, but hard to attain, I told her. She said she looked for staff that took true pleasure in serving others. During the interview process she explained the values and culture her restaurant lived by. She discussed the training, the treatment they could expect and the standards and expectations the job demanded. She made sure to involve them in decision-making, welcoming feedback and implementing their good ideas. She generally treated them with respect and courtesy, and held them accountable for treating customers the same.

“It all starts from the top, and that sure does not mean me,” she said. “We teach everybody that the guest is on top followed closely by the servers, cooks, dishwashers, hosts, etc. Then comes the managers and owner. This place could last weeks without me being here, but we couldn’t last a night without a dishwasher.”

I have witnessed sincere hospitality in many forms. I’ve seen a waiter brushing snow off an elderly couple’s car. I watched a server calming the baby of an exasperated mom. There are two things both situations had in common: the servant mentality of the workers and the culture and values instilled and reinforced by the work environment.

If I want service I can go to a vending machine. Only caring people can deliver hospitality.

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