How Two ECEP Members Practice the Art of Hospitality Above and Beyond
In his book, "Unreasonable Hospitality," author Will Guidara writes about the power of giving people more than they expect. Guidara, a talented entrepreneur in the restaurant world, talks about how we treat others. He shares ways in which we can create a sense of belonging by welcoming them, and their ideas, to the table (literally and figuratively), thereby creating magic where we live and work.
The members of the group, Elite Catering + Event Professionals (ECEP), found the subject of taking hospitality to the next level, and this book, a huge topic of discussion at the ECEP 2023 Symposium. Many left inspired by it and DSquared Hospitality in Seattle and The Catered Affair in Boston took several of the ideas to heart, and to their clients.
“The first thing we did was reinvent our end-of-the event gifts,” says Matt Haggerty, Staffing Operations Manager at DSquared Hospitality, which also runs the catering firm, Tuxedoes and Tennis Shoes. “Instead of cookies that are gone by the time guests get home, we now offer them special house-made granola in branded jars. Guests love it and we found an unexpected benefit – we find that many guests post about the granola the next morning.”
Acting on the 95/5 rule in the book (Guidara suggests always leaving five percent of a budget for something totally unreasonable) Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes hired a grand piano and pianist for cocktail hour as a special surprise at a sales event. The energy helped elevate the event, and incentivized guests to act, Haggerty recalls. “I literally heard one couple say, after listening to the pianist, I’m booking our next event right now because I love that song.”
At The Catered Affair in Boston, VP of Catering Ken Barrett-Sweet says that one of his colleagues was so inspired she created a unique moment for a bride. Bryanne Pepin, Senior Event Producer at Boston Public Library for The Catered Affair, had learned that the bride’s mother had passed away several years before. She asked The Catered Affair to bake and give guests cookies from her mother’s recipe.
When Bryanne received a handwritten version of the recipe, she moved into the realm of unreasonable … she found a specialized vendor on Etsy that could imprint the handwritten recipe onto tea towels to give with the cookies. The bride absolutely loved these and will forever remember The Catered Affair and the thoughtfulness of a unique memory.
Another example of “unreasonable hospitality” from The Caterer Affair is a gift given at the end of a site tour. “Once the site tour is complete and a proposal is in hand, the sales representative provides the clients with a pasta kit. In a note, it lets them know that we want to give them the space and time to think about all they experienced with us that day. In the gift package is imported Italian pasta, a Michelin star chef bottled tomato sauce and a wooden spoon branded with our logo. Dinner in 10 minutes, giving them time to keep dreaming and planning their wedding and NOT worrying about dinner!”
While the company culture of hospitality is strong at both these ECEP member companies, there are always new ways to create a memorable experience. And that is what makes Unreasonable Hospitality so reasonable!