That’s according to restaurateur Will Guidara, who discussed the “unreasonable hospitality” strategy in a TED Talk last month. It’s an unexpected way to take ordinary experiences up a notch — and you can incorporate the technologies into any type of career or career, Guidara said.
For nearly a decade, Guidara has co-owned and operated New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, a Michelin-starred restaurant with multi-course tasting menus and servers decked out in suits and ties. Not exactly the kind of place where you’d expect a food cart hot dog to make a cameo.
But during a particularly busy lunch in 2010, Guidara overheard a table of food-obsessed vacationers lament the fact that, despite going to all the city’s fanciest restaurants, they didn’t have time for a regular New York hot dog.
“You know those moments in animation where an animated light bulb goes off over a character’s head, signifying that they’re about to come up with a really good idea? If you were in the room with me that day, you’d see one appear over mine,” Guidara said.
He pops into a nearby cart to buy a hot dog, convinces a chef accustomed to preparing four-star meals to serve, and delivers a $2 hot dog with Michelin-level appetizers to a table of unsuspecting tourists.
“Nobody has ever reacted better to anything I gave them than they did to this hot dog,” Guidara said. “Everyone said it was not only the highlight of their meal, but of their entire trip to New York, and they will tell the story for the rest of their lives.”
It worked so well that Guidara eventually added a new position in charge of those kinds of ideas, from converting the restaurant’s champagne cart into a Budweiser cart—after a guest mentioned his father liked Budweiser more than champagne—to creating a replica of the beach in A couple’s private dining room, after their tropical vacation trip gets cancelled.
“I wasn’t really into people’s dinner service,” Guidara said. “I was serving the memories for them.”
Here’s the solution: Almost every industry is a service industry to some degree, and anyone can find small ways to create memorable experiences for their clients, clients, or co-workers, Guidara said.
To that end, he offers three tips for incorporating unreasonable hospitality into your life or work.
First: stay present.
“Often, we have such long to-do lists that we can’t slow down enough to actually listen to the people around us, the things they say and all the things they don’t say,” Guidara said, adding that he would never have heard the sausage comment if he hadn’t been paying attention. .
Next, create a space for fun. Taking a $2 hot dog on a plate at a fancy restaurant is a conscious abandonment of self-imposed standards—but it made a difference to this group of diners.
Finally, Guidara said that incorporating his model of unreasonable hospitality requires “acknowledging that if what you’re trying to do is give people a real sense of belonging, then one size fits one.”
In other words, it would have been a great bottle of champagne, but nothing could match the hot dog these guests were craving.
“If you start looking closely enough, you will find opportunities for unreasonable generosity, for giving people more than they can expect, all around you,” said Guidara.
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