Hospitality is something you only seem to know when you feel it. It’s difficult to articulate. There's no a formula: guest plus waiter plus smile does not always equal hospitality. Sometimes you want help with your coat and sometimes you want to shoo away the over-eager crumb scraper.
So what does it take for a restaurant to earn a reputation for its hospitality?
Apparently, hospitality is in the details. Eamon Rockey, general manager of Betony, #1 on our list in hospitality, said, "We are information obsessed. The more we know about the reasons for our diners' visits to us, the better equipped we are to customize our approach in curating a dining experience for them."
Personal connections with guests are imperative to fostering hospitality, but it isn’t just one or two interactions; it’s an atmosphere. “It is a misconception that restaurant hospitality is simply overt kindness and warmth," Rockey said. "That is just one component of the concept. Providing great hospitality is often not convenient, and is insightful, others-centric, anticipatory, genuine, and collaborative."
Matthew Abbick, maître d' at #3 Atera, similarly notes a dedication to detail as part of their hospitality strategy. "Michael Stein our DJ/Doorman, " Abbick points out, "is awesome with remembering our regulars' favorite bands, wedding songs, etc. He times them into his playlists and is standing by at that moment when they recognize their tunes with his warm smile that says 'this one is for you'.”
Of the top three restaurants in hospitality, two, interestingly enough, offer predominantly counter seats—and not many of them. Do smaller spaces lead to better hospitality? “Naturally." Abbick said. "People only have a finite amount of attention they can give.”
But the real secret isn't a small space—it's collaboration. "We have a very small crew," Abbick said, "and we spend a lot of hours together. We are super comfortable with each other and within our restaurant. It is the same five people working the floor any given night. The bond we share and our familiarity in our space make it really natural for us to welcome guests to our home.”
Rockey shared a similar opinion: "At Betony, I measure our team not first by their skill sets, but by their ability to empathize with and support each other, as well as our guests."
So we said there was no formula—maybe we were wrong. Maybe hospitality equals time per guest plus effort to make connections multiplied by the friendship and camaraderie diffused across the entire restaurant, carried by each member of the team, and focused toward not only the guests, but also toward each other. Hospitality, defined.