Our dining room closed mid-March. When we can fully reopen is unknown. We hope to gain approval from the city to create some outdoor seating. To keep our core staff working and to pay some bills, our restaurant has become a takeout and delivery business. When as anxious as we are, and struggling to inspire confidence and good humor, it is awfully hard to stay in touch with our essential purpose but here it is: We are still hospitality professionals. Even now as a takeout and delivery operation, this is still the fundamental truth. Our guests are still our guests, even if we cannot welcome them into our dining rooms. Here are some reminders from our prior life which take on new importance in these alien times:

Make Hospitality the Mode of All Interactions

Staff cannot be expected to be genuine in their hospitality to guests if they do not themselves feel cared about and respected. This was never truer than it is now. Our staff is risking their health, possibly their lives and the lives of family, just by coming to work. If the hospitality of the team is to be genuine, it must start internally – it must be “The Way” we all interact at work. Supervisors must convey caring for those we supervise. Take the time to know what is going on in their lives. Is anyone close to them ill? Do they feel safe where they live? This is not a one time effort — Keep up with how things are going for them. Be polite when giving direction and feedback. Be careful with promises. Know how best to appreciate each of them (it can be different for different individuals) and then follow through and do it! When what we call “Internal Hospitality” is the established culture, extending it to guests is natural and effortless.

Take Orders With Sensitivity

In these anxious times, the first interaction with guests is even more crucial. How we answer our phone or engage with someone ordering takeout sets the tone and can make or break the entire experience. It depends on how genuinely, how promptly and how effectively we convey interest and caring. Do not be hurried with people on the phone! Your patience will be a stark contrast to competitors who are not attuned to its importance. Would you like to know about our curbside pickup? Would you prefer contactless payment?

Bottom Line: Be Leaders Who Listen

We learn about what matters to both staff and guests when we simply take the time to listen.