In the restaurant industry, every customer that walks through the door is highly valued, as there is no shortage of places to eat out there!
With everyone so busy these days, it means a lot when your friends take time away from their hectic schedules to come and see you. So return the hospitality and greet your guests with genuine enthusiasm when you open the door. There is no doubt they had plenty to do, but they chose to be with you.
Being a host means being on stage. Once your guests arrive, it's show time, and that requires overriding any fears or insecurities you have at the moment and replacing them with absolute positivity and confidence. Your guests are looking to you to set the tone for the evening and they are watching your cues.
Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a cranky server who is having a bad day, in turn making the day bad for the rest of us! Clearly, they are not feeling the love for what they are doing at the moment.
This is the foundation for hospitality: Loving what you do, and loving doing things for your guests. This can be challenging on a day when everything seems to go wrong. But whatever you do, resist the urge to vent when your guests arrive. It's time to leave all that behind you and focus on having fun and bringing that love for entertaining to the table.
It's one thing to answer the door with a bounce in your step and a smile on your face, but as the night rolls on, it's important to keep that same vitality pumping throughout your party to help sustain the energy of the night and keep it interesting and fun.
Don't overcommit yourself. Ever been to a restaurant that's been overbooked? The next time that happens, walk out the door, because that is just the beginning. If a restaurant is overbooked, the service suffers, the kitchen gets bogged down, and the restaurant is focused on damage control.
When planning your party, be sure to stay within the boundaries of what you're capable of, from budget to menu planning. By not overextending yourself, you are able to be relaxed, confident, and enjoy yourself.
The host is the one who sets the tone for the evening and how you dress is an important part of showing your guests what kind of evening they can expect. Take the extra time and energy you need to doll yourself up in whatever way works for you. Whether you're hosting a casual gathering or a formal affair, dressing the part will help get you in the right state of mind. When you look good, you feel good — it's as simple as that!
Once the guests arrive and are glowing in your warm hospitality, then just let the party organically flow from there. Translation: Don't be a control freak by thinking that you are responsible for every minute of your guest's happiness. You know the servers who come to your table every five minutes to ask how you are? It's annoying isn't it?
The sign of a great host is someone who is proactive not reactive — thinking ahead to the desires and preferences of your guests.
I once had a customer that only liked Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream for dessert — I found this out through conversation as I offered him a dessert menu. As soon as I heard this, I sent someone to the store to find Cherry Garcia ice cream. He was so impressed that he brought all his friends, family, and business to the restaurant — and from that day on, whenever I saw his name in the reservation book I would go to the store.
In the real world, it is easier to genuinely connect with people on a one-on-one basis. It's harder to do with a group, but not impossible, and in fact, quite a gift.
Here's how: When you are talking to one of your guests, pretend for a few minutes like they are the only one in the room and you have all the time in the world. This will allow you to focus your attention and quiet your ambient antennae. Watch as your heart rate goes down and stress level lowers as well — a great trick I use to this day!
With all the "doing" for your guests, it is important not to overlook how they are feeling. How your guests feel is the most important element of good hospitality. The food can be overcooked, the wine can be off, you can have a bad hair day, but when all is said and done, if your guests leave feeling happy and having had a great time, then you have been a rock star host!
There have been more times than I care to remember or care to admit when the restaurant was far from perfect, yet the customers still came back. Why? Because they knew they were important to me, not just as guests, but as people. I wanted to show them a good time and would go above and beyond to bring out the best in the evening and their experience and therefore the best in me. This is the art of hospitality.