When prepping for this topic I thought I had better do some more detailed research as although I believed that the words Host and Hospitality were linked its not something I had ever verified. So a quick search in the online etymology dictionary revealed the following……
host (n) “A person who receives guests” host (v) “give entertainment, receive as a guest”
hospitality (n) “The act of being hospitable” see host (n)
So, there you have it! They are linked after all.
When we think of the role of a host in hospitality we often zoom into that of a restaurant hostess. I’d like to broaden the approach to that of any position that receives guests – be it a driveway attendant, doorman, receptionist, restaurant greeter or any other front line position where receiving someone is a primary duty. Whilst many of the stated positions are hotel related the concept transcends to small smaller hospitality businesses no matter the structure. In a small restaurant where a host position may not exist then anybody who greets the guest and starts the experience fulfills the same role and carries the same responsibility.
We have all heard the saying that the welcome and farewell are the most important interactions with a guest, and assuming no disasters occur in the middle of the experience, I would certainly agree. It made me think back to some of the iconic experiences, people or images I have had in my career that still stick with me today.
First up was my hostess at the Regent Aucklands Brasserie circa 1991, a bubbly personality who not only pampered our local regulars she made our international travelers just as comfortable and welcome. Her skills extended well beyond the obvious as she took the extra effort to direct the service staff (and often the managers) around the restaurant to where she knew their assistance was needed. This phenomenal gem of a lady has always stuck in my memory as the quintessential hostess taking ownership for all aspects of what she could see in the restaurant operations.
Still with the Regent Brand there was also an iconic image from the 1980’s of a Doorman at the Regent Singapore beaming with a wide and welcoming smile. The image alone was enough to both engage you and convince you that you were truly valued. At the turn of the millennium, I had the pleasure of working at the same Hotel and although not the same individuals as the original, the team of Doormen who also controlled the driveway, had been with the Hotel a number of years. All were consummate hosts though one stood out in particular as not only being a great host, but also knowing the names (and often family members names) of both Hotel Guests and Restaurant regulars. Not being as proficient myself at as such memory gymnastics, I asked him one day how he managed to remember everyone’s names to which he proceeded to pull a small note book out of his jacket pocket that contained literally hundreds of entries which allowed him to remember such detailed information. To my memory he explained that he had filled multiple such books over the years as he turned initial information into lasting memories and recognition. To me such individuals are the true professionals of our business with 100% commitment and dedication to our guests.
Later in my career I was interviewing for a role with a multi-unit restaurant company. Although familiar with the restaurant brand and concept I was certainly not a regular and so prior to interviewing did a detailed review of the business including an experience at its closest location. I still remember to this day the first interaction I had at the restaurant in question. I was certainly not a regular (perhaps a visit to the bar some years earlier) yet the welcome which started from outside the door to the restaurant (as they saw me approach and made the effort to step outside and open the door for me) to the seating and ongoing service through to departure not only wowed me (and to be fair that often takes a lot), it convinced me that this was definitely a business that I wanted to be within.
Bots Vs Bods
The underlying message is that such genuine experiences can be life changing, both for your customer and for your business as they spread the positive word. In this time of mechanization and “bots”, true hosts and the hospitality that they extend will be much more important no matter if you’re a Restaurant, Hotel or tourism provider. In times of staff shortage, don’t fall into the trap of hiring a warm body as the damage can be unimaginable. Follow this wise advice……. “Hire for personality and train the skills” because it doesn’t work the other way around!
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