What Is Hospitality? Defining Hospitality From 3 Perspectives
When you ask yourself “What is hospitality?,” it’s an easy answer to explain examples of the good or bad.
Good: when you arrive to a restaurant and are quickly seated, can order your meal as soon as you’re ready, and the food and ambiance are ones that make you want to come back.
Bad: long wait to sit, rude waitstaff, delayed meals, bad food.
But giving an actual hospitality definition is much more difficult.
What is the meaning of hospitality?
The Best Quotes About Hospitality
The 360 Degree Definition Of Hospitality
To dig into the actual definition of the word “hospitality,” we considered three perspectives: operator, tech, and guest.
The Guest Perspective
Whether you’re in the service or tech industry, you have received hospitality countless times.
Hospitality is the thing that buffers our stress, boredom, or exhaustion and treats us with enjoyment and relaxation. It gives us an experience that replaces other emotions from the day.
We’re willing to pay for it, and we’re only satisfied if our expectations are met with the service we receive.
In a transactional sense, it’s the relationship between the guest and the host (in a restaurant, this is the venue and its entire staff, not just whoever is working the host stand).
In order for hospitality to be good, as a guest, we have to feel comfortable and well-served.
The Operator Perspective
In a hospitality setting, the guest exists to be served; the operator exists to serve. An operator succeeds when he or she makes a guest feel comfortable and catered to. It’s delivering this experience that brings guests back and drives repeat revenue.
Here’s what this power balance means:
It’s not your a guest’s obligation to remember a restaurant or hotel. It is the venue’s obligation to remember the guest without fault and to deliver service that makes them never forget you.
How does an operator remember every single guest without fault, despite human fallacy and the number of guests greatly outweighing service staff?
Just take it from John Meadow, the founder and president of LDV Hospitality, a New-York-based group with 10 concepts across 9 cities:
“SevenRooms is the tool and the vehicle that we use to truly understand what the guest wants — who they are, what their patterns are. That data allows us to truly cultivate this customized, unique experience for the guest. […] That’s why we’re in this business. To have that human engagement.” – John Meadow
Create guest profiles to better recognize new and repeat guests
Move faster in-service
Consistently deliver experiences that meet or exceed expectations
Technology tenfolds the knowledge of the best maître’ds, hosts and servers. It aggregates that knowledge into one place that isn’t weathered by employee turnover and doesn’t rely on human memory.
So, how does this relate directly to the definition of hospitality? Well, think about it this way: Hospitality tech focuses on optimizing the service component of this equation.
The opposite of hospitality: 9 faux pas to avoid
Understanding what hospitality isn’t can help expand your understanding of what hospitality is. Here are nine examples of hospitality faux pas to avoid. Most of them come back to one root problem: using third-party tech platforms that own your data, prevent you from accessing that data and charge you per cover.
1. Forgetting a special occasion
The scenario: A loyal guest books a dinner for 10 guests and notes that the purpose of the meal is to celebrate a birthday. This note gets lost somewhere between the reservation booking and the meal.
Why it matters: If your servers don’t recognize that it’s the guest of honor’s birthday until a friend says something, then the guest won’t have the birthday dinner the party they were expecting.
The fix: Implement a solution that lets hosts AND servers have access to reservation notes.
2. Lacking quick, easy access to repeat guests’ preferences
The scenario: A repeat guest has a shellfish allergy. That information never gets passed along to the waiter, who spends three minutes pitching a lobster special.
Why it matters: You look bad and your guest deprioritizes your venue in the future for other restaurants that are more accommodating, so you lose their repeat business.
The fix: Use a booking software with guest profiles that have easy-to-see tags for arriving and seated guests. Equipped with this tool, a server can pull up the app from their smartphone and review the guest’s profile before approaching them. Acknowledging a dietary restriction before a guest needs to bring it up makes them feel like a VIP.
3. Making it difficult for guests to pay
The scenario: A guest calls in prior to a reservation and is ready to pay $100 upfront to secure a bottle of champagne for the table. However, you can’t offer a secure form of prepayment.
Why it matters: The guest says to forget it, and you lose $100 in revenue.
The fix: Offer a PCI-compliant payment through a simple web link. After all, securing payment in advance reduces your no-show rate.
4. Failing to recognize a returning guest
The scenario: A server asks a returning guest who has dined with the venue five times, “have you ever dined with us before?”
Why it matters: The guest feels like they’re not a valued customer, so they stop visiting and telling friends about your restaurant.
The fix: Servers should have easy access to guest profiles with tags that tell them: first timer or repeat guest. With a restaurant CRM system, a server can glance at the guest’s profile on their smartphone before greeting the party. They can then easily greet regulars with a “welcome back” to acknowledge their prior history.
5. Management isn’t aware of a server who is repeatedly rude
The scenario: A guest has a terrible experience with a server who is slow to come over, condescending and flippant in tone and puts orders in incorrectly without any consolation.
Why it matters: The guest not only doesn’t return, but goes on to tell friends about their bad experience, and writes a poor review on a popular review site. It takes two months before another guest speaks up and management becomes aware of the issue.
The fix: Implement an automated feedback email that asks guests about their experience after their reservation. Doing so adds an actionable loop for receiving and acting on feedback.
6. Host doesn’t recognize the restaurant’s owner
The scenario: A new host at the host stand doesn’t recognize the restaurant’s owner, who shows up at the last minute without a reservation. The host turns the owner away because the book is full.
Why it matters: This misstep is greatly disrespectful towards the owner, is embarrassing for the host, and could threaten their job.
The fix: The host should be trained on day one to recognize important names and faces. To factor in the fact that no one has perfect memory, though, there should be software at the host stand with a searchable database of guest profiles, each with a picture, name and important tags like “VIP,” “Owner” and “Always Accommodate.”
7. Lack of data visibility among properties in a group
The scenario: A high-spending regular shows up at a sister property and is told there is going to be an hour wait.
Why it matters: Regulars should be given table priority no matter where they dine in the portfolio. They should receive the same great guest experience at every venue — not just the one where their face is recognized.
The fix: Implement a system that allows all venues in a group to access the same database of guests and view their history across all venues. A bonus is to be able to see itemized order histories for guests at other properties so that servers at the new venues know which menu items to recommend.
8. A reservation note gets lost
The scenario: A visitor booked online through a third party and requested a quiet table, but that request got lost while being transferred to your restaurant.
Why it matters: The party has to talk loudly, gets exasperated that their request was seemingly ignored and leaves a poor tip. No one comes back.
9. Loyalty recognition expires with staff turnover
The scenario: A guest has been dining at your restaurant for years and has formed a solid relationship with the general manager. The GM leaves, and all of a sudden, that guest no longer has any relationship with the restaurant.
Why it matters: Staff turns over all the time; you don’t want guest relationships walking out the door when the staff does.
The fix: Building robust guest profiles and making them accessible at key points of service ensures a consistent guest experience, whether it’s a staff member’s fifth day or fifth year on the job.
Hospitality means receiving and entertaining guests in a way that makes them feel well taken care of. It leverages ambiance, service and products or amenities to provide guests with the best experience possible.
2. What are the three perspectives of hospitality?
The guest: The recipient of hospitality.
The operator: The deliverer of hospitality.
The technology: The platform that helps the operator deliver a better hospitality experience.