The Interview and Unexpected Delight

These might be the most important interview questions which should be asked if you’re serious about a hospitality culture.

How have you made your guests and colleagues smile? How have you caused unexpected delight?

Because in the end…this is the promise you’ve made to everyone.

Art of Asking Questions

Almost no one seeks to understand a customer. Often, there’s an abbreviation, a stop’s called good customer service. Walking by a table in your restaurant and asking “how was everything?” satisfies your requirement...we did our part. And the customer...”it’s fine”...they did their part. A very simple and pleasant exchange...feels good, good service. What if you went a step further? What if you wanted to know what they thought of the new risotto? How would you approach that? What if you learned they seemed interested in how it was prepared? What if you engaged and invited them into the kitchen? What if the chef took some time to share some insight into her approach to cooking? Once you make the investment in really learning something from people the pay-off is huge. They feel special and you get invite, to learn more, to add another one to the tribe.   

Asking the right questions takes the relationship to a more meaningful place...a place of caring and trust. Asking the wrong questions leaves you with the rest of the pack...just another place...forgettable. 

Great Service is Overrated

Not because it's not important. But, because it's just the beginning to a magical and memorable hospitality experience. Too often, we focus on perfecting the service, the technical part, and not the hospitality, the delivery and how we make someone feel.

Those who focus on hospitality will outperform the great service providers...every time.



In good times, it's easier to find a replacement customer for an existing one in the event things don't work out. Of course, a steady stream of replacements is considered a good is working. Except that it makes us lazy. Why sacrifice everything to retain customers as long as there's a back-up? The obvious answer is that there won't always be one...called lean times.

It's a simple choice, work like heck to create some insurance. Or, hope to get lucky.   

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

Not anymore. In fact, there never was. People have never been dumb. Most just weren't motivated to seek an alternative, especially about things that didn't originate in their own town. You knew if farmer John's milk was could ask a neighbor. It was much harder to know if the Sears catalog was lying to you. The problem wasn't smarts. There just wasn't a reliable way to learn. Enter ubiquitous high-speed's internet. It changed everything, especially the rules about keeping people in the dark.

Last week a company tried to sell me spark plugs and spark plug wires for more than five hundred dollars. The same products were available outside the shop for under a hundred. The jig wasn't hard to figure out. When I asked them about it, no problem..."just bring in your own parts". A sucker punch. Here's a national, well recognized brand, categorically ignoring all the new rules of customer care and marketing hoping to pull a fast one on people. What do they really hope to gain? Makes you wonder.

Most trickery is more subtle. An ad campaign that promises the best meal while the restaurant is consistently empty. A website that boasts fabulous customer service while overbooking practices drive people mad.

Try covering up your lousy restaurant.
Try hiding the fact that your hotel is dirty.
Try fooling people to pay more for an airline seat.
Try keeping people from talking with each other about your service.

You can't do it.

On the flip side, try hiding the passion and enthusiasm of your best people.
And, try keeping your secret sauce a secret.
Or, try keeping people from spreading your fabulous idea.

You can't do that either.

So, are you going to do average work, spending time to keep people in the dark, hoping to find a few suckers? Or, are you going to get busy doing things you want people to talk about.

Unfortunately, you have to decide.


Rules are good for a lot of things...keeping airplanes and cars apart, managing kids at school, getting people paid on time, etc. But, as much as they make things orderly, they can really hamper your chance of being remarkable, especially in hospitality. This was the scene at a local shopping center at 10 AM. Out of camera range were five other similar congregations...just waiting to get in other stores. Guess what time this store opens, yep...10 AM. So, does it make sense for a shop keeper to keep a group of people waiting outside in the heat until the rules say it's time to open? Of course, not. It makes more sense to welcome people as they arrive, even a few minutes early, invite them in, offer them a cool drink and allow them to browse while you get the register fired up. That's what a shop keeper who's livelihood depended on every customer would do. Problem is...not many of them around. But, plenty of clerks following rules.

Real People

I'd be much more inclined to respond to this if a real person would have written it...perhaps the nice man who quickly processed my car return inthe parking lot. But,that would be hard. It's so much easier and cost effective to send out form letters.

Dear Michael Chaffin,

Thank you for your recent car rental at Thrifty T-RIC.
We continuously strive to improve our service to you.

Please take a moment to complete this brief survey. Your thoughtful response is very important and will help us serve you better in the future.

We hope to see you the next time you travel.

Click here to begin the survey

Estimado Michael Chaffin,

Gracias por su reciente alquiler de coches en Thrifty T-RIC.
Nos esforzamos continuamente para mejorar nuestro servicio para usted.

Por favor, tome un momento para completar esta breve encuesta. Su respuesta reflexiva es muy importante y nos ayudará a servirle mejor en el futuro.

Esperamos verte la próxima vez que viaje.

Para español, haga clic aqui


"I Like People"

is the response I most often receive when interviewing people for hospitality work. My hear it a lot as well. Interestingly, it's not how much you like people that counts most. It's how much people like you.

The most successful people are those which others naturally gravitate toward. The ability to demonstrate care and to deliver it in a meaningful way are extremely powerful. Some of it comes naturally...a friendly smile and positive approach to things. The rest you pick up along the way through experience and mentors...handling unexpected challenges, calm under pressure, etc.

Technical competence is necessary. You don't get far being dumb. But, the highest levels of success are achieved with more than smarts. They're attained by developing relationships, no matter if you're a waiter or a CEO. Hopefully, you have proof how much people have valued your hospitality. Perhaps you have a drawer full of thank you letters, a list of promotions or you can point to comments of appreciation on your Facebook page. Sometimes, it's more subtle...people want to work the same shift as you, or ride on the same bus.

Liking people isn't enough to get by on, especially if no one likes you.