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The Unreasonable Hospitality Edition
On humans, engineering, and detail.
Colin here. I've always believed that the principles of exceptional, five-star hospitality can be applied broadly across all business sectors. Attributes like empathy, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, meticulous attention to detail, and, crucially, the ability to improvise, are commonplace at any Four Seasons. However, these are rarer in corporate America, where nuance, delight, and manners are often lacking.
Danny Meyer eloquently argued for the wider application of hospitality in the business realm in his essential book, "Setting the Table." In it, he details the philosophy and "operating system" behind his successful Union Square Hospitality Group. Meyer is not just an expert in restaurant operations; he and his teams are experience engineers, adept at navigating the human aspect of service and identifying points of friction or opportunities to significantly enhance customer delight.
In his introduction, Danny asserts, "In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard." The magic lies in how this overarching concept manifests through countless small interactions. At a Union Square restaurant, these myriad details cumulatively create a warm, inviting ambiance. This is true not only when things are going smoothly but also when they're not. When issues arise, the management's human touch approach ensures an effective resolution.
Why is this interesting?
I've pondered what makes the luminaries of hospitality so captivating. To me, it boils down to their mastery of the intricate, ever-evolving, and challenging human landscape. It's not just about numbers or budget constraints; it’s about understanding and catering to the diverse needs, desires, and egos of people.
Will Guidara's book, "Unreasonable Hospitality," thoughtfully expands on Meyer's work. As the driving force behind 11 Madison Park's rise to fame, Guidara has redefined hospitality excellence.
He identified key moments in a guest's dining experience where small actions could create outsized delight. This involved guest research before arrival, discerning unspoken preferences, and maintaining a detailed CRM system to track and cater to guest preferences. Guidara emphasized tiny details, like the placement of plates, understanding that these small aspects impact the overall experience and foster a culture of meticulous service. Engaging with guests also led to creative 'surprise and delight' moments.
One notable instance involved a waiter overhearing guests regretting not trying a NYC street hotdog. The waiter then fetched one, had it sliced into four pieces, and served it with a selection of exotic mustards—a memorable and thoughtful gesture.
However, these lessons extend beyond the realm of hotels and restaurants. Forward-thinking brands in various sectors are adopting hospitality principles. For instance, the renowned Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet hired Julien Laracine, a top hotel GM, and opened an AP house for exclusive clients. Similarly, private banking and other industries are rethinking their customer interactions. Yet, luxury isn't the sole domain for these insights. Any business that interacts with people, including those in digital services, can benefit from and find inspiration in the pinnacle of hospitality. (CJN)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)
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