Hospitality vs. Service

Hospitality vs. Service

The One Thing Your Restaurant Must Always Serve

As much as people go out to eat for good food, they go out for hospitality, which is a lot different than plain old customer service. Feed your customers a good meal and they may or may not return. But serve them good food, good service and A-plus hospitality, and they’ll be hooked.

What’s the difference between customer service and hospitality?
Customer service is technical efficiency: holding glassware by the stem, opening a menu for a customer, and keeping a water glass filled. Hospitality is a fuzzy warmth you give to customers as you handle their needs with heart-felt care and concern. It’s the smile you wear, the tone of your voice, and your actions that say you are thrilled they are there and will do all you can to make sure they have a wonderful time.

As one of my mentors, Bill Marvin ( says, “service is serving from the left, bussing from the right, holding the glasses by the bottom 1/3; hospitality is me taking care of you because it’s you”  (or something like that, sorry if I botched that, Bill).

So, just as important as the physical fare you serve at your restaurant is the way you treat your customers. Most everyone remembers the line from the television theme song for “Cheers”: “you want to go where everyone knows your name.” 

I personally agree with this and make learning and using the names of our guests an integral part of the Saskatoon (my restaurant: culture.

People want to feel welcomed and liked, so make them feel that way. If you have a chicken and ribs joint, call them by their first name. If you serve up Kobe beef and caviar, maybe you would refer to them by their last names using Mr. or Ms. until you got to know them better or was invited to use their first names. If they made reservations, you know their names. Use them. There are few things people like to hear more than their names.

Hospitality wins over service every time. Servers who are hospitable and take time with customers earn more money than those who provide quick service but neglect to make people feel welcome. Ingrain that into your servers, who may be rushing around so quickly that they forget to take moments with customers to make them feel special.

Who would you rather have serving you?

Imagine two different franchises from the same restaurant chain. Both serve the same delicious food, and both get their first and final courses to the customer in the same amount of time.

One of the restaurants, however, always has smiling servers who take a minute or two to chat with the customers and seem truly happy to make them feel welcome. The other restaurant, has servers who smile only momentarily at the table, and rush away from the table as soon as possible to get to the next table.

If you live almost the same distance from both of these restaurants, which restaurant are you going to frequent?

When you serve up great food, service and hospitality, you win. Because you get something in return you can’t buy with any amount of advertising or coupons: customer loyalty.

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