15 May

Ok so I am about to have a little rant. Stay with me folks because the message can affect all businesses, not just the hospitality sector.  

Picture this, a beautiful summer evening on a warm Island. Looking forward to dinner with my wife in the
rooftop restaurant of the 5-star hotel I am staying in. I am greeted by a well-dressed host at the desk. The first words from her mouth, “Room number please?”, Her conversation ended right there while she waited for my response. Seriously, I mean what happened to hello, good evening or how are you? Formalities such as room number are hardly the ice breaker I was hoping for or, indeed, want to have projected in any business I am
involved with.

That was it for me. I went from having the greatest expectations of the restaurant to feeling like I can’t wait to get out of here. The whole meal left me struggling to understand how a simple act isn’t instilled in all the team, and how I must tell this story in the hope it might make a few people think.  

One small action like a smile, followed by some welcoming spiel can, and does make the difference to how someone feels. It is called the welcome for a reason.  

Now you might think I am being a bit pedantic but let me assure you that getting this stage right in your opening gambit is massively important.  

As you can imagine, I canceled the following night’s reservation in another one of the hotel’s restaurants and booked elsewhere (away from the hotel).

So, the message is this, make people feel valued! This can and does have ways of going through the entire guest journey, all teachable skills, but let’s get the first powerful thing right first.
If I may rant a little longer but this time with a positive note.

The very next night.  

Now having saved myself from potentially another painful night of “fine dining” dross I opted for a restaurant in the local area. I pre-booked. We arrived on time for our 7pm booking. This time is so very different. You see, both me and my wife were greeted with a big smile and a handshake. “Good evening and welcome, how are you today?” Wow the difference to how we were made to feel was immeasurable. He led us through to his
dining room with an air of magnificent confidence. He pulled out the chairs, sat us down and then asked, “did you make a reservation?” Wait a minute, this can’t be the right way to do things I hear you shriek, what if I hadn’t booked and took some poor other sods table. I don’t think this mattered to this business. You see, everyone that came in the door was greeted with great enthusiasm. He had a policy that being the best host he could, came before all formalities. It clearly works.  

The meal was a triumph, the place was absolutely packed, the amount of repeat business that we
witnessed was inspiring.

So, the message behind my rant is simple. It doesn’t matter how good your product; we are all in the people business in one way or another. Get your greeting right, then build on that. Restaurant, hotel lobby, pub, car showroom, shop I don’t care which you are, this small thing can really make you stand out.
Here’s a little exercise I like to carry out. Try it out and let me know how you get on.
Hand out a simple questionnaire to your team members. I always like to populate it with a handful of questions relating to your specific product. In among these questions ask two customer focused questions
relating to them personally.  

1. Where was the best restaurant (or insert here your choice of business relating to you) you visited that really stood out by their warm hospitality, what specifically made it stand out, and how did that
experience make you feel?

The second question is in reverse.  
2. Where was the worst restaurant (or insert here your choice of business relating to you) you visited that really stood out by their cold hospitality, what specifically made it stand out, and how did that experience make you feel?

When I share the results with the teams and read aloud the worst experiences, I often hear things like
‘OMG, we can be like that’. The penny drops, the results going forward can be outstanding. Use that
results session to brainstorm ways to improve your greeting. Let them own it.

Simple but powerful stuff.

Thanks for reading   

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