Top tips for welcoming hospitality guests

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Top tips for welcoming hospitality guests

A smiling waiter

The way your team welcomes a guest can set a positive tone for their experience right from the start - this is true whether your business is a restaurant, hotel or bar. In fact, our mystery guest research demonstrates that even in a fast turn-around coffee or sandwich shop, the first few seconds of interaction are a key opportunity for operators to make a guest feel welcome.

However, getting a welcome right is a nuanced business. HGEM Founding Director, Sally Whelan, says a welcome is "something that evolves with customer demand, and varies depending on the individual guest or customer."

For example, a brisk, efficient welcome might be spot on for some guests, while others might feel rushed by the same approach. Additionally, if a customer is wearing headphones or appears engrossed in their phone, the desire for conversation may not be there.

In short, your team has to learn to pay attention to the signs a guest gives off. However, the importance of those first few seconds of warmth should not be underestimated. Eye contact, a friendly smile and assurance you will be with a guest shortly if you are otherwise engaged gives an impression of care and consideration.

If treating guests as individuals is essential to the perfect welcome, it's clear that using clich├ęs and stock phrases won't do either. Our Managing Director, Steven Pike, encourages operators to "modernise and personalise their welcome" and to "create a blacklist of tired and empty words and phrases" to use in staff training. Our mystery guests revealed that phrases such as "have a nice stay!" came across as rhetorical and disingenuous while too much "fake chat" was also a turn-off.

Finally, our Associate Director of Hospitality Culture, David Pepper, offers some key advice for creating the perfect welcome, based on a survey of over 900 mystery guests. Staff who seem genuinely happy to be there create a welcoming atmosphere for guests as does going over and above standard service, be that by whisking wet coats away to dry or holding a door open for a buggy on arrival.

However, with 42% of guests citing a lack of eye contact and a smile on arrival as the key marker of a poor welcome, it's clear that those first few seconds have the greatest impact when greeting your guests.

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