The Difference Between Service & Hospitality

Q: I’d like my business to provide great customer service, but staffers don’t seem to grasp the concept. Can it be taught?

A: “The most important thing you can do is make the distinction between customer service and guest hospitality. You need both things to thrive, but they are completely different. Customer service entails getting the right food to the right person at the right time. Hospitality is the degree to which your customers feel that your staff is on their side.” ~ Danny Meyer

While I’m a huge fan of Meyer’s work, he misses the point to a degree important enough to talk about here:

  • Service is the technical delivery of food & beverage to a guest.
  • Hospitality is the emotional connection made by the entirety of the guest experience.
  • Restaurants have guests, WalMart has customers. Big difference.
  • ‘Sides’ denotes winners & losers. Real hospitality exists when people trust you enough to not care about either. See #2 above.

Back in this post, I talked about the two kinds of marketing for businesses. If you focus on just #1 above, you become transactional in your service delivery (and overall experience) and fail to make the emotional connection necessary to derive real, organic loyalty.

Being technically proficient is an important fundamental to master but the degree of hospitality necessary to add meaningfully differentiated value is much, much higher. This is where most operators miss the boat. They think that being technically proficient is good enough. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You have to personalize each guest experience enough that guests believe and trust in you to the point of entrusting their happiness to you. A guest experience is/should be an emotional one. Tapping into the guest’s emotions is the only way to cement yourself in their psyche to the point of creating not only a remarkable and memorable experience for them, but garnering their loyalty as well (real, organic loyalty, not the frequency scheme type 95% of operators focus on).

Stop doing two things. Negotiating and Contesting everything.

A guest shouldn’t have to negotiate to be provided either best service or hospitality. They don’t care if you’re short handed or the Chef just quit or any other fact which advertises the fact that you can’t manage your business. Are you open for business? Then act accordingly.

Likewise with Contests (for either guests or staff). Overt contests with staff,  like highest PPA and such do nothing but create losers. All of your efforts should be about rewarding behaviors – up and down the spectrum, not just the top. The same can be said of contests you put guests through. I see too many of these on the Facebook, “Like us to have a chance to win a massage,” or some such nonsense.

These contests don’t work because they create one winner and tons of losers – not really a great loyalty enhancer if you ask me. The same goes for guests sitting in your dining room who see you treat one guest best than you do all of them. Why do we offer new guests the world and ignore the ones who have been in our dining rooms forever? Why do we offer prizes to guests whose experience we mess up but ignore the guests right next to them?

Think about it then look at what you’re doing.

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