Now is the time to rethink, reset and create the future of hospitality. We might not have another chance to start from scratch, in our lifetime.

Before COVID-19 disruption was a trendy word among business leaders, entrepreneurs and marketeers. Like the words influencer and guru, the word disruptive was considered a cool thing, until real and uncontrollable disruption happened in the shape of a global pandemic.


Suddenly the last thing we want is more disruption, everything changed so much and feels so uncertain that we are all longing for routine, normality and consistency. Most of us are going through the most disruptive period we've experienced in our lifetime.


The possibility of going back to restaurants and hotels soon excites us because they are a reminder of the life we had before the pandemic. Hospitality businesses mean more than nice meals and nights away, they mean re-establishing a sense of normality that we all lost, temporarily. We've adapted to a new normal during lockdown and our normal is about to change again, but we are not quite sure what it will be like and we are not even sure what to expect. We just can't wait to go back to our comfort zone, human beings that we are. When it comes to hospitality, what is our comfort zone? What will make us feel that everything is back to normal? Consider this for a few minutes, under your own perspective as hotelier or hotel staff, as well as a guest and customer. 


We are creatures of habit. We like and look for what feels familiar because familiarity makes us feel safe. It takes us time and effort to change habits, we have all been there when we tried stop smoking, cut down sugar intake, diet, exercise daily or even break negative patterns in our own personal and professional relationships. We know what is best for us but we tend to choose what is easiest. It is human nature.  


When we reopen our doors, we will try to go back to our usual patterns and whilst many of them are positive, some are negative. We will go back to our own assumptions and beliefs, our way of believing we know what is best for ourselves, our businesses and our teams. But if we are used to cutting corners we will keep cutting corners, if we are used to valuing guests and revenue more than staff we will keep doing that too. The same thing will happen to our guests and customers, each one of them has their own personal standards, they will expect the same thing they experienced before despite knowing that things changed. A significant portion of them might find more faults than usual, they might complain more because their expectations are higher than normal, they might deal with their anger issues more openly because they were stuck for so long, they might not be as happy as we hoped they could be. What are we going to do? What is our default reaction, our comfort zone as hospitality professionals? We will go the extra mile, we will do everything in our power to make people love our hotels and restaurants again, ultimately, we will feel enormous pressure and we will be the most subservient we have ever been. Because nothing feels better than our comfort zone.


So let's think about the difference between providing a service and being subservient. The difference between hospitality at home or between countries and the business of hospitality. Let's remember that the business of hospitality relies on a huge amount of skills, time and experience. Our guests and customers are our audience but the service we provide is and should always be our focus.


At some point, our industry got confused and decided to put guests in a pedestal. At some point we let society adopt and enforce the image that hotel and restaurant staff are underskilled workers, that we have to make a big effort to prove our worth. It is time to rethink and change the way we see ourselves so our guests can change the way they see us. Change starts with us, in both our personal and professional lives. We lead by example.


The customer isn't always right unfortunately. That might have worked well in another period in history but we have travelled a long way since then. We have given guests and customers so much power that sometimes at the end of a challenging shift we hate them. But whose fault is it? Did they cross the line by being too demanding or are we used to getting our lines crossed by being over subservient?  The biggest sympton of over subservience is the culture of fear we developed, over negative reviews. Hotel and restaurant staff will bend over backwards to prevent difficult guests from posting something negative on the web. From a distance, we have all rejoiced seeing a small number of chefs and hoteliers defend their business and their staff by replying to negative reviews with the truth. Their actions should have inspired us to value our skills and the service we provide a bit more.  


We have a blank canvas in front of us, from the first day we reopen our doors. This might very well be the only time in our lifetime that our entire industry will be able to reopen together after a long period of closure. It is our new year's day. We can define our new year's resolutions before the dawn. 


Nothing brings us more joy than making our guests and customers happy, this is what we wake up every day to do. But as an industry, our guests' happiness and satisfaction should not come before our self worth. A quote by Bill Cosby states that "the key to failure is trying to please everybody". He definitely didn't work with hotels. But there is truth in this thought,  that can be applied to hospitality too. There will always be unhappy guests and diners, there will always be people who will not agree or like the way we work. When you reopen your doors, rather than choosing to overdo and burn yourself out, choose setting limits and let the quality of your work speak for itself.


If there is a time to put guests expectactions into perspective and change the level of pressure that we are used to at work, the time is now. 


“Who loves the stranger. Who loves the stranger? Whom else is there to love?”
J. Derrida, Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas


Food for thought by @EditorFiveStar


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