As a restaurant training consultant in U.K. the 90’s, I was a regular contributor to one of the largest trade publications ‘Caterer and Hotelkeeper. In the early 90’s, the restaurant industry in the U.K. was changing dramatically, and I was in the right place, with the right message, at the right time. The U.K. operators recognized the U.S. as a leader in the delivery of customer service and hospitality. As a result, I became a contributor for a series of articles on the subjects of hospitality, service, and marketing for the magazine. A major bonus of the large readership was leading several ‘field trips’ of owner/operators back to the U.S. to attend the Disney Institute Customer Service program, along with tours of new restaurant concepts. The consulting work included setting up secret shopper programs, identifying areas for service improvement, developing service standards, and creating training programs to teach staff to consistently execute the standards.
At the time, The Disney was considered a leading light in the delivery of memorable experiences for children of every age. The Disney Institute delivered (and continues to deliver) 3-5 day workshops to help other organizations and their leaders understand the philosophy and mechanics of delivering such memorable experiences, and executing consistently over the many years since Disney opened their first park. Their programs were very well respected, and at the time, (according to the marketing materials) 480 of the Fortune 500 companies had enrolled levels of leadership to participate in the programs.
There were, and continue to be valuable lessons in creating memorable experiences at a grand scale, lessons and philosophies that can be implemented by any restaurant operator of any size. Some of the lessons were outline in this article- The Disney Way. With a quick search on Amazon you will find some great books that go into far more detail.
Over the years, there have been a number of very successful restaurateurs that have had the generosity to share their lessons learned and battle scars in their never ending desire to improve upon the earliest versions of the restaurant experience. In my experience and research, there seems to be one common thread in the restaurant operators that have created world class, successful restaurants that are recognized by their peers and the public, by revenue, or by Michelin or Pellegrino (among others) – as industry leaders. The common thread is that they all seem to recognize that there is a difference between offering great service and great hospitality. This recognition affects everything they do, and why and how they do it.
Danny Meyer’s book ‘Setting the Table’, along with everything he has shared over the years, is a great example of such an operator. If you haven’t read the book, please check it out. As Danny Meyer succinctly put: Hospitality is present when something happens to you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions- for and to- express it all.
In researching the development of products that can help the independent restaurant operator, it became very clear to us that this was a subject that was covered in Hospitality/Restaurant Management curriculum and supporting text books and books such as ‘Setting the Table’. However, our research indicated that there were very few products or services that could help a restaurant operator to ‘operationalize’ a hospitality culture, and execute accordingly.
How many restaurant operators seek out established experience, as opposed to seeking out ‘people oriented’ team members with little experience? Richard Branson recently tweeted: “As an employer, you can train every single other skill you need in your staff. You can train them to learn new techniques or do different jobs; you can train them what to do and what to say. But you can’t train a smile.”
In the next blog, I will explain how we are planning to help restaurant operators to Attract, Engage, Train, and Retain ‘A’ Players to become Hospitality All Stars.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your views on hospitality versus service.
Do you think they are different?