I became enamored with the retail industry early in my financial career. While serving in a controllership position, I first heard T. Scott Gross speak on his views and methods of delivering positively outrageous customer service. I was hooked forever on his message. Move over Scott, I now have a favorite book that goes far beyond service–Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara. Will’s message is not just for restauranteurs, it’s for all of us.
Who is Will Guidara?
If you live in and around New York and know about the top restaurants around the world, then Will needs no introduction.
Full transparency–this Midwesterner is a bit unvarnished when it comes to fine cuisine and dining establishments around the globe. My lack of familiarity with Will and the restaurant he used to manage and co-own probably augmented my interest in his book, Unreasonable Hospitality.
The book’s first few chapters is part memoir in that we learn of a father who worked in the hospitality industry. On his 12th birthday, Will never forgot how those serving him at the Four Seasons. Some fifteen years later, Will learned what it meant in inspire, encourage, and model hospitality when he started running Eleven Madison Park. Ten years later, the restaurant was recognized as number one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017.
Ten minutes into my interview with Will, the way he spoke and carried himself confirmed my suspicions about the inner person. This is a man of wisdom far beyond his years. He’s humble and authentic. There are absolutely no pretenses about him. He’s restaurant smart, he’s business smart. And I deeply admire that he’s a family-first person too.
The book is not just a five-star book. So is the author.
As much as I would have enjoyed hiring David Letterman to do this interview, that just didn’t work out. Accordingly, Will was stuck with me. Here are some of the questions Will heard, and his comments were outstanding.
- Is it fair to say the Will Guidara origin story of hospitality starts at that Four Seasons restaurant on your 12th birthday?
- Will’s dad became one of my heroes in this book. I didn’t have a specific question. I just wanted to hear more about him.
- Can you explain to a country kid how restaurant rating systems work?
- What is your favorite definition of hospitality?
- Can hospitality be taught? I found Will’s answer profound.
- Can you explain the rule of 95-5?
- Why is it hard to be both corporate smart and business smart?
- What advice can you provide to any manager who runs daily huddles similar to your pre-meal meetings?
- How important has journaling been to you?
- What did you think of the WSJ article written about you?
- What are some of your favorite books?
The Producer’s Favorite Lines in Unreasonable Hospitality
Hospitality is a selfish pleasure, “It feels great to make other people feel good.”Page 7
People will forget what you do; they’ll forget what you said. But they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” This quote, often (but probably incorrectly) attributed to the great American writer Maya Angelou, may be the wisest statement about hospitality ever made. Because thirty years later, I still haven’t forgotten how the Four Seasons made me feel.Page 9
I had already happily chosen a life in restaurants, but that night, I learned how important, how noble, working in service can be. During a terribly dark time, Daniel and his staff offered my dad and me a ray of light in the form of a meal neither one of us will ever forget. Our suffering didn’t disappear by any means, but for a few hours, we were afforded real respite from it. That dinner provided an oasis of comfort and restoration, an island of delight and care in the sea of our grief.Page 19
Restaurant-smart companies can be great businesses, and corporate-smart companies can deliver great hospitality. But their priorities are different, in ways that fundamentally affect the guests’ experience.Page 33
Former navy captain David Marquet says that in too many organizations, the people at the top have all the authority and none of the information, while the people on the front line have all the information and none of the authority. I was learning that, taken too far, corporate-smart could be restaurant-dumb.Page 40
Manage 95 percent of your business down to the penny; spend the last 5 percent “foolishly.”Page 46
Sir David Brailsford was a coach hired to revitalize British cycling. He did so by committing to what he called “the aggregation of marginal gains,” or a small improvement in a lot of areas. In his words: “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”Page 120
We wanted EMP to be a four-star restaurant, not a very good three-star restaurant.Page 155
Informality is something you earn.Page 181
The opposite of Unreasonable Hospitality isn’t treating people poorly, it’s reasonable hospitality—a perfectly fine way of doing business. But reasonable was not how we were going to become the number one restaurant in the world.Pages 185-186
“Do you honestly not believe that a single person on our team is up to the task? You tell us there’s nothing more important than being able to trust one another—but how are we supposed to believe that, when you won’t trust anyone but yourself to do this job?”Page 231
Five Questions in Five Minutes
A few listeners who stay in touch have told me they are in book clubs. One group is as small as two people who are young, hungry, and have the desire to keep learning and growing.
Will’s book is the perfect content to discuss with other people as you are reading it or after you finish the last chapter. If you are in such a group, here are five questions to consider:
- Will mentioned a colleague’s comment about hospitality. She told him that service is black and white and hospitality is color. Define color in your business. What is it? Will knew exactly what she meant. What does it mean to you and your organization?
- We never forget how other people make us feel. That line is part of a longer quote on the definition of hospitality. In your own words, what is hospitality?
- Will states we’re not born to be hospitable. Instead, we choose to be hospitable. If you are reading this, you have chosen to be hospitable. What about the others around you that you work with? How can hospitality be taught? I thought Will’s answer to this was profound. It’s your turn. How do you make this happen?
- Will says to manage your money minaically 95% of the time so that you can spend the other 5% foolishly as he describes in the book and the interview. How is your organization spending its 5%?
- I loved the discussion on corporate smart and restaurant smart. Change the word restaurant to your industry. Are you heavily tilted to one or the other? Or do you have a healthy balance? If your organization has found that perfect balance, how will it stay that way?
Thank You, Kate Fraser
Behind every great book is a valuable PR team which includes Kate Fraser and Katy Foley. I especially want to call out Kate for her help, support, and encouragement to make this interview happen. Kate, debts of gratitude.