What My Mother Taught Me About Hospitality

Pineapple Ponderings™ is about all things hospitality. No one brings hospitality to life like my mother, so I thought today would be a good time to think about what it feels like to be in the presence of true hospitality. 

Mom taught me so much about about graciousness, welcoming others and making sure that guests feel at home, cared for and delighted. 

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She creates parties with purpose and sets a beautiful table. But it's so much more than that.

My mother sincerely cares about how others feel. Of course, we all do.

But, she lives this with an authenticity that is beautiful to watch.

She innately knows how to put others at ease. Strangers and friends alike. Now I grew up in the South, so being welcoming is what we do (ummmmm - sometimes sincere - sometimes not so much) all the time. However, when I lived in Manhattan and she visited, it was fascinating. From the New Yorkers on the Lexington/6 line subway to the tourists at Top of the Rock, to a Maitre d'hotel at one of New York's grandest hotels, on the Upper East Side where, well.....it's not easy to impress. She didn't try to impress. She both charmed everyone she met and then made them all feel more special for having met her. 

 
 One of my own pineapples, and some of my favorite photos (oh, and Dad is really good at this, too, but it's not his day!)

One of my own pineapples, and some of my favorite photos (oh, and Dad is really good at this, too, but it's not his day!)

 

How does she do that? I think she not only has a high EQ (emotional intelligence), but simply respects others and their time.  If someone is giving her their time, she treasures it like a gift. If someone is going to spend time in her home, she feels honored that they would choose to spend that time with her, and treats that gift with respect and gratitude. 

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When others give us their time, or their money for whatever it is we are providing, do we have a responsibility for that gift?

It means they trust us.

It means they believe that we will provide what they need.

In our businesses, do we take responsibility for that trust?

Does the guest who walks into your hotel feel like he is one of many with a reservation that day, or an honored, special guest? 
Does the attendee at your fundraiser feel like you are personally grateful that she spent $250 for a ticket and is giving you her hard-won time to support your cause?

How do we answer these questions? 

Oh, there are so, so many ways, most of which take a bit of human compassion. No time for that in your business? Hmmmmmm. If that is the case, I wonder what type of business it is. Let's just hope that if you are reading this, that is not the case and perhaps start with these three things:

  1. Care.  I don't mean care about how your business is doing or how perfect your table setting is, but truly care about your guests. If you do not really care about them and not just care about how much they spend, then you will never really embody this heart of hospitality. If not, you are instead conducting a transaction, not creating an experience. If you care, you look at your customers differently. Then it's a two-way street.
  2. Be interested. What does your customer value? Is that what you are giving? If what you sell or do best doesn't match up with what he cares about and values, is this really your customer? Is your customer a mom who drops her kids off at school every morning at 9:00 am? If you kept serving breakfast until 10:00 am rather than 9:30 am, would that make a difference in how she feels about your bistro?
  3. Ask yourself how you want them to feel. Safe? Pampered? Relaxed? In control? Think through all the touchpoints. How would you feel if you were the customer? The ability to become your customer is often the simplest and easiest way to shift.

If you are a business or simply live your life where hospitality is a core value, I think you are fortunate. This is an industry with both serving and receiving. Each day is filled with opportunities to affect the way others feel in a world where that consideration is often not even on the list of options.

 
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Our mothers give us so many gifts that we often don't recognize, or even accept, until we are much older. Did your mother or someone special in your life give you the gifts of empathy and hospitality that the world could use today? 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Thank you for all of the special gifts that you have given me, your family, your students and the world. Here's to all of us passing them on.