Tag Archives: hospitality

Enlightened Hospitality

As promised, this is the first in a week-long series of reactions to the Danny Meyer book Setting the Table.

The first of his concepts I will address is, for me, the central theme of his book. By dealing with it first, you can better wrap your mind around the fundamental, but brilliant, observations about being in the business of taking care of people.

Meyer says enlightened hospitality begins with treating your colleagues right as a first priority (p. 109). While many people today have embraced the notion that the customer is always right, I agree with Meyer’s implication that customers are not always right, but that in order for a business to take care of its customers, it must first put the front line employees in a position to succeed.

Too often, staff are viewed as cogs in a machine; people whose opinions are marginalized, their strengths exploited with little recognition, and their weaknesses amplified obscenely. And yet we insist that these people put their best foot forward to present a united, positive image for the organization.

But Meyer makes a brilliant observation: customers will always be better served by an empowered, positive, motivated staff. Amen.

Enlightened hospitality goes beyond that, though. It extends to capture the spirit with which a great team of employees or service providers approaches serving the person or people in front of them. I like to call this the “one step forward” approach.

If every member of a team felt empowered and motivated, they would insist on always taking one step forward to meet their customer. Moreover, they would flex their observation muscles to determine how to address the person. They would use their trained empathy not to coddle the guest, but to ensure they handled their needs with the right amount and tone of intimacy, humor, speed and interactivity.

Once the employee is cared for, the customer is better served. Once the customer is best served, the succeeding priorities are serving the community, serving their suppliers, and finally, ultimately, serving investors.

Its a profound reversal of the type of corporate behavior that has crippled so many companies in the United States. It refutes the type of corporate behavior that leads to ethical and moral conflicts. Its a model for doing business that syncs with my own sense of propriety.

Look forward to the next chapter tomorrow. But first, let me know what you think about enlightened hospitality. Where does it fall apart? What is not well explained? Will this impact the way you approach your customers?

For excerpts from Meyer’s book, or to purchase (I get no benefit): visit

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