Jenna Telesca is editor-in-chief of Nation's Restaurant News and editorial director of Restaurant Hospitality.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time eating Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house on Long Island.
The menu was always the same: penne pasta, homemade sauce, bread with butter, salad in a wood bowl with special dressing that I sometimes helped make, and meatballs/sausage. For dessert — coffee and hard cookies, maybe a cake. You shouldn’t be stingy on dessert, after all.
Knowing what to expect from the meal was comforting. Why change what works?
There was a heavy wooden table and benches that could accommodate a crush of people, since everyone was invited. My family was big, and they all lived nearby then. We were all welcome at dinner — encouraged, actually. Is there a better feeling in the world?
Think to your favorite meal memory. Was it about the amount you paid for the bill — or was it about the comfortable environment with warm conversations?
Hospitality can mean many things, but it does not have to mean expensive. It does not have to mean white tablecloths or a fancy wine list. Those things can be great, sure, but they aren’t hospitality.
Empathy for guests and anticipating their needs, now that’s hospitality. A stack of extra napkins with a wing order. Help reading a menu board when someone forgets their glasses. Clean tables. Consistent food. A jug of water for easy refills. These are not expensive things. These are things that make it comfortable to dine — whether it’s for a 99 cent taco or a filet mignon.
Hospitality does require a committed team, though. And that can be difficult to maintain in our the current job market.
One advantage restaurants have in this job market is they know hospitality. They know how to make people comfortable.
The key to retaining good team members will be extending the tradition of restaurant hospitality to the workforce. Easier said than done, but remember that hospitality isn’t always about the expense.
It could be about making the hiring process easier. Are your web applications mobile friendly? How easy is it to get paid? It could be making benefits easier to understand and apply for. Or it could be more consistent hours. Or, it could be sitting down and asking team members what their goals are. Everyone has goals. Everyone wants help achieving them.
I don’t know what is important to your team members, but I know you do.
Tell me, how do you make it more convenient — and comfortable — to work at your restaurants?