Setting the Table for a Hospitable Business

Setting the Table: The Power of Hospitality in Business.

“ Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Service is a monologue- we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.” –Danny Meyers

What does the word hospitality mean to you, and how can it be applied to your business? No matter what industry you work in, there will always be some level of service and hospitality that you provide for your clients, guests or employees. Mastering the art of hospitality is a key part to any business.  I have found that there is a distinct difference between service and hospitality, which is the philosophy one of my mentors and 5 times James Beard Award Winner, Danny Meyers, has built many of his successful businesses on. Consider the way you conduct your day-to-day operations and the procedures and standards you set for your business; these are all ways in which you are offering services to your clients. Hospitality, on the other hand, is the way in which you conduct your business, for example having a desire to want to connect with clients, understand their needs/wants and take a genuine interest in who they are. Both service and hospitality are essential to run a successful business, but my emphasis has always been on nurturing hospitality and further exploring those relationships.

Here are three tips from Danny Meyers book “Setting the Table” on building a more hospitable culture in your business.

51% Rule:

The 51% rule is were you value staff performance based on both technical duties at 49% and emotional capacity at the remaining 51%. Technical duties are how our staff members perform their day-to-day service duties vs. emotional capacity, how they relate to others on a personal level. In the scope of building a hospitable work culture, far more important than a staff’s skills is always his or her goodness as a person and how they treat their peers and their clients.

“Imagine if every business were a light bulb and that for each light bulb the primary goal was to attract the most moths possible. Now what if you learned that 49 percent of the reason moths were attracted to a bulb was for the quality of its light (Brightness being the “task” of the bulb) and the 51 percent of the attraction was the warmth projected by the bulb (heat being connected with the feeling of the bulb). It’s remarkable to see how many businesses shine brightly when it comes to acing the tasks but lack all the warmth. This explains how a flawless four-star restaurant can actually attract far fewer loyal fans than a two-or three star place with soul. “-Danny Meyers.

In building a hospitable work environment, you want to be overcome with “moths”. Your staff must be like a string of one-hundred-watt light bulbs, whose product is the sum of 51% feeling and 49% task.

When hiring or recruiting for a new position, it’s important to keep in mind that you can always train someone to acquire new skills, but it’s impossible to train someone to be a genuinely hospitable person.

“People duck as a natural reflex when something is hurled at them. Similarly, the excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right, or to improve something that could be better. The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring, and practice. The concern to do the right thing is something you can’t train for, you either have it or you don’t. So we must train how to HIRE for it.”- Danny Meyers.

Writing the last chapter:

I am always a true believe that from every wrong doing their can be made a right. This is where “writing the last chapter” can be useful in business. People love to share stories of adversity, so use this powerful force to your advantage by writing the closing statement the way YOU want it told. Use all of your imagination and creativity when thinking about your response. Go above and beyond to turn a mistake into a positive unforgettable story. Here is an example of writing the last chapter and how you can turn a disgruntled client/customer into a loyal patron.

“ Company XYZ made a big error on our last order, but when we informed them of this mistake they were able to fix the issue in record fast time, and it was personally hand delivered by the owner herself to our front door! We also got a complimentary gift and card signed by all the staff. I will be telling everyone to use this company again!”

Agents vs. Gatekeepers:

In every business, there are employees who are the first point of contact with the customers and clients (Managers, Customer Service Representatives, consultants, receptionists, etc.). These people can come across as either agents or as gatekeepers. An agent makes things happen for others, while a gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. When creating a hospitable culture, you want agents on your team that are responsible for monitoring their own performance. They can think to himself or herself, “In that transaction, did I present myself as an agent or as a gatekeeper? Did I do everything in my power to accommodate that client to the best of my ability?” In the world of hospitality, there’s rarely anything in between.

If you would like more information on how Salopek & Associates can help build a hospitable environment for your business, or how to hire the right people for your team, contact us!




Meyer, D. (2010). Setting the table: Lessons and inspirations from one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs. London: Marshall Cavendish.

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