Industry Update
External Article15 April 2021

What Is Hospitality? The Current Answer Doesn’t Work.

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1 min external

One of my last restaurant meals before the shutdowns started last year was at Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco. I waited on the street by a fishy-smelling puddle until I was waved toward a seat at the well-worn counter.

Crushed between two strangers on a wobbly stool, I happily ate as much fresh, sweet, cold Dungeness crab meat as I could. Happily, because the server across the bar was making me feel comfortable and cared for, safe and unhurried, though I can't say exactly how he did this.

Unlike service, which is technical and easy to describe, hospitality is abstract, harder to define. It can't be summed up in a checklist. It can't be bought. It doesn't hinge on the quality of the glassware, or the folding of a napkin while you're in the bathroom. And it can't be eroded by a slightly-longer-than-you-expected wait, or other little inconveniences, like picking a piece of crab shell off your tongue.

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