How ready is Glasgow hospitality for the 2014 Games?


Glasgow’s food and drink venues are an eclectic mix of independents, not a cohesive  group. Like the thousands of islands of the Pacific, they don’t all communicate as one. So we must make our Thousand Island dressing and create a taste experience recipe that dazzles, blends well for our visitor experience – for our pride of this great city and country we call home.

Each small ‘island’ of hospitality business has their own view on hospitality training.  Just as the athletes are training for their time in the spotlight, so must our hospitality stars. It starts with leadership within our eclectic hospitality ‘island’ community, they must inspire their team as coaches do in sport. Its their legacy as well as ours after-all.

Throughout my career, I’ve travelled the world working in hospitality and probably been most inspired by the positive stance state-side where the vision for hospitality is to be effortless rather than strained – swimming with the tide rather than against.

For those looking to be inspired in hospitality service, a good place to start is a book called ‘Setting The Table’ – by Danny Meyer, first published in 2007. Here is a fast-track look at it’s important themes for those who don’t have time to read the full book.

Can Glasgow learn what ‘across the pond’ have instilled in hospitality for decades?


HOSPITALITY is at the foundation of business.

 It is present when something happens FOR you and absent when it happens TO you.

Understand the difference between SERVICE and HOSPITALITY.

Service is the technical delivery of a product, but Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Hospitality is when the recipient feels we are on their side.

SERVICE = accurate deliver of product i.e. right product to right person at the right time. It’s a monologue; we decide and set standards of service.

HOSPITALITY= to be ‘on the guests side’ requires listening with every sense and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, personal response; a dialogue.

DO’S –   say non-generic phrases; but say ‘you’re welcome!’ be specific; say ‘How are you?’ be personable, remember likes or dislikes etc.

DON’TS – say same phrase over and over, say ‘no problem’, say ‘How’s everything?’ say ‘ are you still working on the….?.’ say ‘how are we doing?’

Turning over rocks – There’s a story behind a story. This is hunting for details to improve hospitality. Take an interest in your guests and build relationship with them; this creates a community and a feeling of shared ownership. They will start to talk as if the business is theirs, tell their friends and ensure repeat custom and ultimately your survival. It all starts with turning over rocks.

ABCD = Always Be Collecting Dots

Gather as much info as you can about customers = Dots. Dots are information, the more you collect, the more frequently you can make meaningful connections. Connecting dots is when info is shared and networking guests in a shared experience.

  • If you don’t turn over rocks, you can’t see the dots.
  • If you don’t collect the dots, you can’t connect the dots.

If you don’t connect with your guests you lose the chance to make meaningful relationships.

Excellence is a journey NOT a destination

Be athletic in business, go the extra mile, find out more, it can create opportunities.

Welcome new systems like online bookings; store your dots of info, create customer files

‘Benevolent manipulation’ is a form of dot connecting. It’s when you put peers near to each other and they think the place must be good if their peer goes there. It’s a win-win situation.

Whoever wrote the rule….?

New ventures; If you are passionate about the subject, will get satisfaction from doing it, meaningful opportunity for me & colleagues, add value to existing business, financial projections indicate profit and return on investment and warrant risk undertaken.

Bringing in new ideas can make you stand out, give you the edge, change the market.

Who wrote the rule…

Context is everything

The right idea, at the right time, in the right place for the right value.

Be innovative, experimental but in the right context i.e. fine wines in casual dining.

Enlightened Hospitality

How expressed hospitality is to one another(employees). Then gracious hospitality to guests, then our community, then our suppliers and then our investors.

Invest in your community

Better chance of survival and wealth for investors if you create wealth for the community. If one neighbour has a good garden, others will follow. Get to know local history, make your claim to improve surroundings.

Know yourself before you go to market

What makes your business unique, stand-out. Know what you are selling and to whom. Do not dilute your brand, focus and let you customer know who you are and not confuse people by trying to be all things to all people.

The 51% solution

49% technical job performance                51% emotional job performance

Moths around a light bulb 49% attracted to the light, 51% to the heat.

This is atmosphere, buzz of a place, its soul, it can attract more people.

Employees; more important to have the potential of have right personality for the job than technical ability but being austere. In hiring people, you can teach people over time to deliver technical service, but it’s much harder to train emotional skills.

‘Excellence reflex’ is like when someone has a natural reflex to fix or improve something that isn’t right. Something’s you can’t train for, maybe you have or don’t have it.

51% has five core emotional skills;

  1. Optimistic warmth (kindness, thoughtfulness)
  2. Intelligence (learning for the sake of learning, guests confidence in what you do)
  3. Work ethic ( natural tendency to do job well as possible)
  4. Empathy (awareness of care, how your actions make other people feel)
  5. Self-awareness and integrity(an understanding of what makes you tick and natural inclination to be accountable for doing right thing, honesty and good judgement)

It can be pretty easy to spot an overwhelming strong candidate or an underwhelming weak candidate but a ‘whelming’ candidate can cause the most harm in an organisation.

Constant, Gentle, Pressure

Wherever your centre lies, know it, name it, stick to it and believe in it.

Core of excellence is the centre of the table with the salt grinder being moved by people or situations in your organisation. Staff and guests are always moving it and you need to accept that’s part of life. Returning the salt grinder back to the centre though is your job and is done by Constant, Gentle, Pressure. The Constant aspect is when I know what should be where & when and tell people how it should be put back. The Gentle aspect is that to put things right it is done with dignity. The Pressure aspect is that I will always be looking to move things back into their place because excellent performance is paramount.  It’s the job of the owner or leader to be very clear about the company’s musts in core values. All three of these aspects are required to succeed; any two of three will not be balanced.

Two keys to building consensus are coaching and communication

Coaching is correction with dignity. Communication is the root of all business strengths and weakness. It has as much to do with context as it is content. That is ‘Setting the table’.

Understanding who needs to know what, when they need to know it and why and then presenting it in a comprehensible way.

The Lilypad example helps to explain this, with rocks being thrown into pond, the frogs have to jump. Employees will understand if they are pre-warned about changes. Bad communication takes away people’s feeling of control. Change works only when people believe it is happening for them not to them.

When an employee becomes a manager they;

  • Have an imaginary megaphone attached to them, so everything they say is heard by twenty fold than before.
  • The other staff have binoculars, so that everything a new manager does is seen more
  • The new manager has received the power of ‘fire’, most important in constant, gentle, pressure. To set standards and hold people accountable key to excellence.

Fire should be used like a torch; a light for guidance, enlightening, showing the way.

For most people its far more important to feel heard than to be agreed with.

Hiring Managers

Wherever our management team goes, so does our staff. 9 traits important when hiring:

1. Infectious AttitudeDoes the candidate have type of attitude I want more of.

2. Self-AwarenessYour C.v. reads like an auto-biography, so why is our company your next move? What they know about themselves, our company and what they want for their career.

3. Charitable Assumption Optimistic, hopeful, open-minded outlook is at the heart of enlightened hospitality. Sceptics who think they have all the answers are finished products.

When you assume the worst in people, you get the worst from people.

A generous attitude leads to stronger relations and repeat custom.

4. Long term view of SuccessBy putting employees first, guests second, community third, suppliers fourth and investors fifth, you have a long-term outlook. When investing money will it lead to today pounds, tomorrow pounds or never pounds? Treating your customers well leads to long-term view of success.

5. Sense of Abundance Even during hard times, it’s important that guests feel their needs are met, by cutting back, no matter how tempting is a lose-lose situation. Starving potential revenues starves growth. A sense of abundance with incentives of gift certificates and charity fundraisers will create future revenues. Offering superb value in budget products i.e. set menus/ house wines leads guests to invest more.

6. Trust It’s difficult for a manager to motivate people if they tend not to trust others. Ruling by fear can be a strategy for insecure managers and is counterproductive but they can be very good at teaching skills. Those trained by fear may leave and become good staff for a more trusting organisation. Trust based managing empowers staff.

7. Approving patience and Tough love ‘Tough love’ means being frank, “I’m on your side,” honesty. Patience with tough love sends a clear message that you’re on their side. ‘Catch people in the act of doing good things,’ is used by good managers and should be passed onto a senior manager to give their feedback and is a powerful motivator. “Umbuntu” – means ‘I see you’ in South Africa. Employees must be seen.

8. Not feeling threatened by othersShow me a defensive boss and I’ll show you a team desperate for new leadership. Following a secure leader gives comfort.

9. Character Character traits of great leaders are a subset of the five core emotional skills – optimistic warmth, intelligence, work ethic, empathy, integrity and self awareness that makes a “51%”. Those traits include honour, discipline, consistency, clear communication, courage, wisdom, compassion, flexibility, ability to love humility, confidence (inspire a team), passion for work and for excellence, and a positive self-image. A critical mass is attracted to your leadership to be a great leader. Overall, integrity and self-awareness are most important. You must know your own strengths and weaknesses before others. You need to surround yourself with people who will compensate for these and mirror your integrity. Ask yourself; “Why would anyone want to be led by me?” The air grows increasingly thin the higher up management ranks you go. Plugging into how others feel, is key to how far you can go. The most powerful people in companies are the most emotionally intelligent.

The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.

Mistakes will happen, accept that fact and use them as an opportunity to build relations.

The definition of Business is:  problems. Business is problem-solving. Staff members are like surfers, the waves are mistakes and so they ride/ anticipate the problem waves.

The five A’s for effectively addressing mistakes

Awareness – many mistakes go unnoticed, if you’re not aware, you’re nowhere.

Ackowledgement We had an accident, we will are going to replace as quick as.

Apology- I’m sorry this has happened to you. Do not make excuses, take it on the chin.

Action – Say you’re going to make amends and then follow thru. Comp while they wait.

Additional generosity Instruct staff to send something additional to thank guests.

Take the time to ‘write the last chapter’ when mistakes are made to always be remembered for a positive outcome for the guest. Mistakes are opportunities to repair and strengthen relationships.

The Five primary stakeholders are:

1.Employees  2.Guests   3.Community  4.Suppliers  5.Investors

In the model of enlightened hospitality, only after you have taken good care of your top four stakeholders, can you take care of the fifth Investors. This may put standard business models on their heads. This does not mean we don’t want to make profit, quite the opposite; the reason for Employees before guests is they must be motivated, confident and enthusiastic to ensure the best guest experience.

By putting employees first, you encourage repeat business to sustain long-term custom. Putting Investors first can lead to a culture of Employees not being motivated and inevitably a revolving door of staff members which impacts on the guest’s sense of hospitality.

In every Business, there are employees who are the first point of contact with customers. These people can come across as Agent’s or Gatekeeper’s. An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. Ask yourself if you or your staff members act as an agent or a gatekeeper when on the front line.  

What do you think, does our hospitality seem tired are we a few smiles short of a good time? The time to change is NOW….

Please note: It’s not our intention or wish to infringe on any copyrights, we just want to give a snapshot of what we can learn from Danny’s incredible insights of his hospitality career. Concepts are his and can be seen in more detail in his book Setting The Table – Danny Meyer


About Hendo Henderson

Scotch whisky & rum storyteller - Hendo Talks. Old school backpacker then owning 3 businesses, likes hiking mountains & history.

Posted on July 25, 2013, in Food & Drink Chat and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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