Delivering Michelin-level customer experience through unreasonable hospitality

What if your business is committed to delivering Michelin-level customer experience through unreasonable hospitality?

As technology advances at lightning speed, it's easy to get caught up in the AI and automation hype.  As businesses strive to stand out and provide exceptional customer experiences, one key ingredient remains unchanged: the power of a hospitality mindset that seeks to deliver an extraordinary experience.

In this post, we'll explore why embracing a hospitality mindset is more important than ever for businesses looking to wow their customers in the age of AI.

Danny Meyer
Danny Meyer - CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group

Commitment to hospitality is not limited to hotels and restaurants.

Every industry must embrace a hospitality mindset as a differentiating strategy in today's business landscape.

Here are some expert opinions on the importance of hospitality in business:

  • Jan Gunnarsson, CEO of Design Hotels, states, "Hospitality is not just a service, it's an attitude. It's about creating an emotional connection with guests and making them feel at home."
  • Danny Meyer, the founder of Union Square Hospitality Group, emphasizes, "Hospitality is not a department; it's a philosophy.  Regardless of their role, every employee should be focused on creating a hospitable experience for customers."
  • Paulo De Tarso, CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, adds,"Hospitality is not just about providing a comfortable bed and a good meal.  It's about understanding and anticipating guests' needs before they even ask."
  • Will Guidara, former co-owner of Eleven Madison Park (#1 Best Restaurant in the World), explains, "Hospitality is not just about making guests happy.  It's about making them feel special and valued."

These experts all agree that hospitality is an attitude and a philosophy not reserved  for the customer support team.

What Is Hospitality?

Service vs Hospitality

Hospitality is about creating emotional connections, understanding and anticipating customers' needs, and making them feel unique and valued.  

Every business can differentiate itself by embracing this mindset and consistently delivering exceptional customer service.

The Hospitality Experts

To help you identify unreasonable hospitality, we've curated the industry's thought leaders and experts who we believe can inspire business leaders.

Paulo De Tarso — The Secret Power of Hospitality

3 Takeaways from Paulo De Tarso

  1. Hospitality is not just for the hospitality industry — Every business across any industry can shift its mindset and consider how to incorporate hospitality elements in its customer/client experience.  Paulo says, "We're all here for service, whether you're a writer, doctor, or banker.  In any industry, you can inspire people."
  2. Difference between service and hospitality — Service is getting the product from A to B.  Hospitality is how you make another person feel. Service should be the expected minimum bar.  Don't just deliver a service; make your customers feel more.
  3. Customers are not the most important — They come second. Your people are paramount. If you're building a football team, you're not worrying about the fans; you're prioritizing building your team.  Paulo learned from Danny Meyer (see below) that the best way to please your customers was to ensure your organization's employees were having a great experience at work.

Danny Meyers — The Art of Hospitality

Danny Meyers is among my favorite business leaders and own one of my favorite restaurants in New York, the Union Square Cafe.  It embodies the art of hospitality, which Danny Meyer unpacks in his video.

3 Takeaways from Danny Meyers

  1. Hospitality is the most important business strategy — 2023 must be when more businesses adopt AI and double down on incorporating the principles of hospitality for their customers.  Danny Meyers believes hospitality is a powerful business strategy not taught enough in school.  Hey, Business Made Simple, it's time to host a course on BMSU.  Your competitors cannot copy this strategy: "nobody can take out their smartphone and take a picture of an act of hospitality…they can't take a picture of how you made my heart feel."
  2. Hospitality is about being a guide who cares — It's about making your customers know that you're fighting for them and on their side; you're cheering them on.  It's the premise of what being a guide with StoryBrand is all about.  The way you make the hero of your story feel is what they remember more than anything else about your service; therefore, a key emotional skill is empathy.  It's one of the core emotional skills that Union Square Hospitality looks for in new hires.
  3. Knowing what data to collect and how to connect it — In StoryBrand, knowing what your customer wants, their problems, and what they aspire to is vital in crafting a message that resonates.  In each one of Danny Meyers' restaurants, they have a saying: "Always be collecting dots so you can be connecting dots."  He goes on to say that there's no excuse not to know who your customers are and not to know what's important to those people.  To do that, you need to be collecting dots.

Will Guidara

To be a great business, you must give excellent service — no surprise.  In a restaurant, the server must take your order promptly; your food should taste great and be warm and well-presented.

Hospitality is how you make your customer feel when you do whatever service you provide.

Three Key Takeaways from Will Guidara's Book Unreasonable Hospitality

  1. In short, unreasonable hospitality is being as relentlessly intentional about how you make people feel as you are in pursuit of the product you serve — and it's something that can take not only our restaurants but also our society to new and greater heights.
  2. A great restaurant's primary focus should be relationships.  The food, the service, and the design are merely ingredients in the recipe of human connection; our reason for being is to make people feel seen, to give them a sense of belonging, and to make them feel welcome.
  3. If as many of us as possible shifted our focus to hospitality, on creating our own little magical worlds, the impact it could have would be exponential.

Highly recommend Will Guidara's book: Unreasonable Hospitality

Every Business Can Have a Hospitality Mindset

Unusual hospitality is for more than just upscale restaurants!

Showing extra care costs nothing, and the effects can be priceless.  You don't need a large budget to incorporate unusual hospitality into your workplace culture.

In the past, America was primarily a manufacturing economy, but now we are a service economy with more than three-quarters of our GDP coming from services.  Worldwide, the figure is 65 percent.

Whether you serve customers in retail, finance, education, healthcare, computer services, or communications, you are in the service industry.

The goal is to serve others.  If you look carefully, you will find opportunities for unusual hospitality everywhere.

Unreasonale Hospitality

Will Guidara, in his book Unreasonable Hospitality shares how this philosophy could apply to real estate agents.  

When renting or buying a new apartment, the agent can leave the keys on the counter or go the extra mile and leave a bottle of sparkling wine in the refrigerator.  This person may interact with the buyer or renter for weeks or months.

Imagine if the agent overheard the buyer or renter talking about a yoga nook, and upon arrival, the buyer or renter finds a new yoga mat, a candle, and a note.

Compared to the average commission, this small investment can help foster a lasting relationship.

It's simple.  It requires more care and effort.  Simply making good products and serving them efficiently is no longer enough.  What matters most is how you make people feel.  We are on the brink of becoming a hospitality economy, and every business can choose to focus on hospitality.

Four Inspiring Examples of Great Customer Experience

The Popsicle Hotline

An average looking hotel, that barely looks like a hotel rated the top ten in all of Los Angeles on TripAdvisor.


The hotel's popularity is based on the strength of thousands of reviews from guests who have experienced the wow moment of ordering popsicles through the Magic Castle's Popsicle Hotline.

So now you can understand why a family with a couple of kids taking a vacation might prefer to stay at the average-looking Magic Castle Hotel versus the Four Seasons. It’s back to that Disney paradox—two years later, you’re not going to remember, “Oh, the bed was average,” or, “Oh, the lobby was average.” Two years later, you’re going to remember, “Hey, you’re not going to believe this, but there was a phone by the pool where you could order popsicles. Can you believe such a thing?” That’s the power of peak moments, and that’s why it’s so important to transition out of that mindset of fixing every last pothole into the mindset of, “We’ve got to build some peaks for our customers.”

Wolf Appliances

A $10,000 stove's broiler stops working a few days before your two-year warranty expires.  Yikes!

This is a personal experience dealing with Wolf's customer service.

They've given their team the power to care for customers without enduring a lengthy approval process.  This could have been a costly repair, but thanks to the initiative of Wolf's customer support, they extended our warranty for an extra 30 days, so we could get the broiler fixed for free — no service fee or parts required.

Chick-fil A

People will forget what you said.

People will forget what you did.

People will never forget how you made them feel.

- Maya Angelou

On the surface, Chick-fil-A makes a lot of money selling chicken sandwiches — after all, they're one of the US's top three largest fast food chains.

However, you need more than tasty sandwiches to generate the success Chick-fil-A has experienced.  One key to their success is their excellent customer experience.

Since its beginning, this fast food chain brand has committed to making its customers feel welcome.  Employees at all levels are empowered to go above and beyond to serve their customers.  

Here are a few examples.

In 2019 a 96 year old WWII veteran entered a Chick-fil-A store in Maryland. The long-time customer was visibly shaken because he was driving to the restaurant and barely made it there because one of his tires was flat. After telling Chick-fil-A employees what happened Daryl Howard, a Manager, quickly sprang into action and began working on the veteran’s car. 15 minutes later the tire was changed, the customer was relieved and Chick-fil-A had yet another example of why it’s service is legendary.

Here's another.

In 2019 outside of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Virginia a customer, Shauna Hall, accidentally dropped her cell phone into a storm drain. The customer who was at the restaurant with her young child was distraught. A Chick-fil-A employee sprang into action again. After spending some time trying to retrieve the phone from above ground he decided to go into the manhole and grab the phone himself. Now how many employees are willing to go the distance like that? We have all had sales associates that are hesitant to even check the backroom to see if there are additional sizes in stock. Needless to say the customer was beside herself with gratitude.

Tesla - Meet Your Customers Where They're At

At Tesla, customer service is not just about fixing cars.  It's about meeting customers where they are.  By taking their service directly to customers homes, Tesla provides a level of convenience and flexibility unmatched in the industry.  

This customer-centric approach demonstrates a deep understanding of customers' needs and commitment to providing the best possible experience.  It's not just good service; it's an example of how great companies put customers first.

Opportunities for Your Business to Lean Into Making People Feel Welcome

In StoryBrand, an excellent guide serves clients well and is mindful of their best interests.  It requires empathy and listening beyond words.

The guide in the story needs a heart inclined toward hospitality.

It means being a committed student of hostmanship — the art of making people feel welcome.  It's about welcoming people, not providing a service.

In the restaurant world, people who walk into a restaurant are not customers or diners but guests.

They're people: individuals with cares, pains, hopes, and personal stories.  Your business needs a guest-centric mindset to touch guests' hearts and make them feel welcome.

When we see someone as a guest, it turns us into a host.

A welcoming mindset looks like this:

  • Openness
  • Curiosity
  • Non-judgment
  • Humility
  • Sensitivity
  • Respect
  • Presence
  • Dialogue – it means to understand the other person

We're not saying delivering your customers' needs and wants is unimportant.  However, we urge you to think beyond servicing your customers and adopt a hospitality mindset in which your brand is committed to anticipating your customers' needs and wants.

Remember, hospitality is about how you make someone feel.

Service can be methodical.

Hospitality is dynamic, authentic, genuine, respectful, and humble.

Service is essential.  But it shouldn't stop there.

We forget good service, but we remember and remark about hospitality.

Hospitality is a big word built into the smallest moments.

It's in your eyes.
It's in your voice.
It's in your gestures.
It's in your smile.
It's in your questions.
It's in your presence.

I'll ask again: What if your business committed to deliver Michelin-level customer experience through unreasonable hospitality?

Unreasonable Hospitality

More StoryBrand Insights.