Hospitality: Innate? Cultural? Universal?

I’ve spent a lot of time in London recently, presenting at trade shows, delivering workshops and consulting for a small chain of boutique hotels. London’s not my home turf, but I love spending time in the big smoke, checking out all the latest eating and drinking eateries and trends. But there’s a place I look forward to going back to time and time again. It’s a small, funky café in Camden which does a few things amazing well – silky, smooth coffee and irresistible homemade cakes.

I walk in at the end of a long day, already salivating at the thought of the treats that lay ahead.

“Oh, I’m so hot, my back’s killing me and I can’t wait to go home”.

I hadn’t even opened my mouth and this is what I was greeted with. I felt as welcome as a scraggly hair in a bacon roll. Experience ruined. Utter deflation. Any anticipation knocked on the head. I muttered my order then slinked off into a corner. The server had cheered up a little by the time she came over with my coffee and cake, but it was too late.

For me, as I imagine for most people, going out to eat isn’t simply about the food and drink. I want an experience – I want to feel welcome, looked after. I want to sit in interesting surroundings and feel the warmth of the atmosphere and a sense of belonging even though I know no-one. Even going to grab a quick takeaway cuppa can be made enjoyable by a bit of banter with the staff.

I don’t think this is too much to ask, and I would expect to be treated courteously and professionally no-matter where in the world I was going out to eat.

Yet the rudeness of waiters in Paris is legendary. Indeed, it was with some mirth when earlier this week I read about the waiter who was fired from a restaurant in Vancouver for being “aggressive, rude and disrespectful”. His excuse? His behaviour wasn’t out of line – he’s just French. How can being treated rudely elevate any experience? It can’t. I understand that some nationalities – I’m thinking German, South African and indeed French –  have a tendency to be more direct and I can accept that. But I’m struggling to think of any culture which promotes or tolerates out and out rudeness.

I bang on about recruiting on personality rather than experience. You can teach skills but you can’t teach that magic, innate sense of hospitality. For me, you either have it or you don’t. Almost equally annoying as a lack of hospitality is taught, unnatural hospitality with a fake smile and forced, painful conversation.

A genuine welcome, appropriate interaction, great chat if I’m up for it and being left alone when I’m not are all crucial ingredients of true hospitality. So, the next time you ever feel like complaining to a customer, suck it up buttercup and simply give a heartfelt “hello”.

Even if you don’t have an innate sense of hospitality, surely you can’t get that wrong!


Victus Consultancy helps catering and hospitality businesseses achieve their potential. We guide, advise and support new, budding and more experienced business owners with all elements of your business, such as staff training & development, food and beverage consultation and allergens.

Victus also has a great reputation as a speaker, presenter and compere at industry events and conferences.

Give us a buzz on 07732 454639 for a quick chat and we can take it from there!