True Hospitality Defined

Author: Peter Good

‘True hospitality’ is a, somewhat, an ambiguous term. We all love to hear buzz words like “going the extra mile”, “customer comes first” and “customer is always right” which are great in some respects but extremely floored in others. True hospitality is a complex concept and has many levels and layers to it. But what does ‘true hospitality’ actually mean, and how can it affect your business?

We at Mootee are trying to bring a new philosophy and mindset of what people might see as ‘hospitality’ in Africa. It is not as simple or easy as it sounds and gone are the ‘yes sir, of course, sir’ times. We look at hospitality with a different approach.

But just quickly, before I go into that, allow me to debunk this classic to get us into the mood…

“The customer is always right”

This is something that I completely agree with in some regards but at other times it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. In Mootee Bar, we train and get each team member to refer to the ‘customer’ as a ‘guest’.

Customer – Noun; 
a person who buys goods or services from a shop or business.

Guest – Noun; 
a person who is invited to visit someone’s home or attend a particular social occasion.

This gets the team into the mindset that the ‘customers’ are not here to make them money. Rather, they are present as a guest within our venue and will, therefore, be treated as such. This ‘longer-term’ attitude will then bring the money from revenue and tips for the staff. It’s unhealthy, from a hospitality and business point of view, to think of it that way round.

Ok, so that was the superficial part. Next, “always right”, very obviously meaning that the guest, as they are now called, is never wrong. At Mootee, we have a very unusual, strong and slightly complicated concept, we don’t expect everyone to understand straight away. Neither do we expect people to immediately ‘like’. It was always designed to be something that developed with the guest over time.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say, a guest walks in and has a full meal and 2-3 of our cocktails from our signatures menu and they turn around to one of our staff members and says ‘It was terrible and we didn’t like anything’, extreme but it happens all around the world nonetheless.

Let’s also say that with our current track record of quality service, drinks, and food, these elements aren’t to blame on this occasion, they just didn’t like the overall experience, which again, happens. In my opinion, yes the customer is ‘wrong’ and yes… I said it.

A Shift in Mentality

This will help us define ‘true hospitality’. Just because we don’t think the guest is always right, doesn’t mean we leave it there. This is where the hospitality really kicks in. In order to do this, (which is what this all boils down to) is to get into the shoes of the guest and really, truly understand what they want and how they are feeling. This is how you deal with the situation that will define your venue as a place that understands hospitality.

We will need to adapt their experience in order to the make us right, not the other way around. Sometimes they won’t understand, but dealing with this kind of situation in the correct way will show the guest that you are truly hospitable as a bar/restaurant.

This may sound arrogant but bear with me. This is, after all, the opinion from a bar owner…

It’s more to do with a mindset you need to get into rather than a philosophy held by the bar/restaurant. Another similar scenario would be when a guest at the bar doesn’t like a drink. It’s how you deal with the situation – with your compassion and actions – again in the best way possible, making you right, not the guest. If the guest leaves unhappy, we have failed.

On the flip side, if the guest is enjoying the entire experience, reuse the energy given by the guest in order to enhance their experience further.

So let’s re-write that in a less catchy, but more accurate way: “Guest service is always relative”

What Does ‘True Hospitality’ Actually Mean?

Don’t get me wrong about “guest service is always relative”. It’s all about the guest and how the guest feels once he or she has left the building. True hospitality is something that you can give as a unique experience, every time you exceed those expectations and deliver the service and quality promised.

Each type of guest is promised hospitality differently through:

  • Advertising
  • Menus
  • Offerings
  • Pricing
  • Value-for-money
  • Situations and occasions provided
  • How you know that person

Therefore you need to (within the boundaries which the team are given) give everyone a different style of service.

Ironically, at Mootee we teach this by telling our bartenders and waiters to give every single person the same service, and that is; ‘As you would like to be treated’. At end of the day, ‘true hospitality’ is what we aim for.

“The best bars in the world for me, are the bars that I’m known in”. Even after the first few moments of engagement with the guest, you know him or her a little more. The more you serve that person, the more you know them. By the time they leave the venue, they should always feel welcome to come back again and again as a friend. With each and every time the guest does come back, you promise them a better and better experience.

This isn’t easy, but we didn’t really expect it to be. Going into a bar again to only be disappointed is even worse, in my opinion, than having a disappointing first time. It’s almost like I have been let down on multiple levels.

How do we do this by not making it seem like a shameless act of self-promotion? You need to find those rare people that truly want to please and make guests welcome as much as they can, and then you hire them.

How ‘True Hospitality’ Affects Us in the Business

Earlier I mentioned the many layers to true hospitality. The way I see it, all we are doing in bars and restaurants, from a business perspective, is adding value to products. We buy beer in at R8 from a bottle store and we sell it for R28, its no secret, anyone can work that out. How do you make that R8 beer worth R28 without looking greedy? Answer: making it value for money. Sounds simple.

If I had a R28 warm beer in a corner shop sitting on a bench listening to traffic, I would not see that value for money, I would perhaps, happily, pay R12 as I have a bench to sit on. So, we add lighting, sound, we hire an architect, a landscaper, chefs, we invest in a drinks lab, state of the art bar and kitchen equipment, we use a little Mootee magic and all of a sudden, yes, our beer is now worth R22.

Is this good value for money? How do we make that R28 beer value for money? Answer: hospitality.

The concept comes from service, not only being essential but a value-adding commodity that people are willing to pay for. How can we sell a R28 beer seem worth paying R30? Answer: True hospitality – in trying to use all the philosophy and mindsets mentioned above. And no, it’s not as easy as it seems and is one of those arts that will never be perfected, but we will always keep trying.

Next time you are in a bar, ask yourself, “How much is the beer actually worth paying for?” and work out how you got to that number. See if you can put a price on ‘True Hospitality’.

Let us show you what we mean. Book your experience with us now.