The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
Hospitality is all about people, experiences and a smattering of escapism. It has always been about a change of scenery; somewhere special to show a client that you value their business, or your team that you value their work. Somewhere to meet with family, friends or colleagues to celebrate, mark milestones and create memories, an escapism from our everyday workplace and surroundings.
As we tentatively emerge from a state of global lockdown, our thoughts turn to how we can establish a ‘new normal’, how we can deliver hospitality once again but in a very different environment.
I don’t believe that the need or desire for hospitality has gone away. Now more than ever we need to offer that aspirational trip, adventure and experience, although the rules of engagement have now changed.
We all understand the need to be socially distant from others, travel less and maintain best practice hygiene, but now we need to find out how we can deliver hospitality whilst embracing these.
There are many questions to be addressed across the Hospitality Industry as we grapple with the confinements of social distancing, personal protective equipment for staff and intensified levels of hygiene:
How do we reassure guests that our restaurant is a safe place to eat?
How can we make our dining experience memorable for all the right reasons?
How can we make our spa experience as relaxing and as far from the stress of lockdown as possible?
How can our team create a great hygienic stay for our guests?
Fundamentally we have to reassure our guests that it is safe to re-engage with the Hospitality Industry and then we need to deliver an experience that makes their leap of faith worthwhile. Some of how we address this is sensory.
An event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone.
For the last few months many of us have been at home. Historically home has been our safe place, a place where we are surrounded by our own familiar sounds, smells and views, with our family or friends around us. As the lockdown has drawn on, this once cherished space may now feel claustrophobic and less appealing than the sanctuary it once was.
Let’s consider dining. How do we, if restaurants are to reduce consumer density, ensure that each diner does not feel disparate and isolated in the new restaurant environment? Could sound help to ‘soften’ the environment and create a dining experience that is better or different from that at home?
Sitting alone at a restaurant table may or may not appear more attractive as lockdown eases and hospitality venues begin to open up under strict social distancing, but it might become more attractive if we think about the use of space.
Historically ‘hip places’ had a buzz. Their clientele, staff, music and service all created a noise that created a certain atmosphere and gave an energy to the space, but if all people or family groups now have to be two meters apart, the sound in that space will have significantly changed. Just by reducing the number of people in a designated area it will leave you with much less sound absorbing mass, resulting in a boomy sounding space. The slightest noise may reflect to become a meal disturbing sound for other diners. Remember your guests have just emerged from the cocoons of their homes, where the space they occupied was probably smaller and filled only with their own familiar soundscape, so sudden noises from others may well feel unsettling and be unwelcome.
Think about the soundscape in your venue. Think about what music is playing, as it is much more likely that your staff and customers will hear this now. Make sure that it is delivered well, as remember, your guests have all been at home with their stereos. Think about your space. You might need to fit some sound-absorbing panels to help your space sound less like an aircraft hanger and more like the warm welcoming space that you want to offer your guests at this time, where it is imperative that they feel safe.
Moving focus to your spa, as guests seek escapism and a time to relax, how can you change the soundscape to block out the everyday sounds of mobile phones, traffic and the noise of other people to create a truly aspirational air of calm? Sound is a key factor in this. Ensure that you cannot hear any external sound in your space and then gently add music. Music that reflects and enhances the mood of specific treatments, fully immersing the guest in that individual experience. Sound can so often be overlooked, but during treatments when lights are dimmed and guests often close their eyes, other senses including hearing become heightened, so audio replaces colour and becomes a key factor in generating the most appropriate mood.
Personally I think the move away from hard surfaces, whilst harder to clean, will help with the whole Hospitality experience. At home, the sound level is generally lower; you are often the one making the noise and there are many more soft finishes in a home environment to absorb and muffle sounds. To go back to hard surfaces will create a harsh soundscape and will be an acoustic shock for guests and not necessarily a good one. Warm quality sound will help to create quality Hospitality experiences; use sound to fill the space in your venue.