Web Exclusive: Using Enlightened Hospitality for a competitive edge

With the proliferation of hotel brands, it may seem daunting for some hoteliers to find their competitive edge. It’s no easy feat—today’s guests are more discerning now than ever, and expect top-notch service and amenities.

Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) prides itself on its signature hospitality experience, creating beloved restaurants, cafes and bars across the industry. This is thanks to “Enlightened Hospitality,” a principle that puts employees first and creates a virtuous cycle where everyone wins, from guests to vendors and investors.

Founded by CEO Danny Meyer with the opening of Union Square Cafe in 1985, Enlightened Hospitality has been implemented successfully across USHS’s restaurants for 30-plus years.

Today, USHG’s Hospitality Quotient is helping companies apply these principles in businesses of their own through strategic consulting and interactive workshops.

“What stands out to me most about Hospitality Quotient is their exceptional focus on people and experiences, and their ability to truly bring to life the guest-centric values and purpose that are paramount to great drinking and dining destinations,” said Matthew Von Ertfelda, SVP, global, U.S. and Canada Food + Beverage, Marriott International. “Whether it’s working with us to cultivate top talent, empower leaders to deliver elevated service or seeking new ways to deepen guest engagement and personalize experiences, the shared people-first values and common purpose between Hospitality Quotient and Marriott is evident. We look forward to continuing to work with Hospitality Quotient to deliver product and service experiences that animate our restaurants and bars in ways that drive differentiation and exceptional experiences.”

Hotel Business caught up with Patti Simpson, chief administrative officer, USHG, who gave us an inside look.

Can you detail what Hospitality Quotient and “Enlightened Hospitality” are? What are the tenants? 
Hospitality Quotient is our organizational learning business that partners with leading organizations to activate the transformative power of hospitality as a sustainable competitive advantage. We credit our success to the deliberate inversion of classic business priorities, stressing the importance of hospitality as a business differentiator. Enlightened Hospitality, the core principles of our HQ curriculum first outlined by USHG Founder Danny Meyer in his bestselling book “Setting The Table,” is based around the idea of an employee-first business model. As part of our “virtuous cycle,” we hold ourselves accountable to five stakeholders: our people, our guests, our community, our purveyors and our investors. It’s our belief that if our people are taken care of, that impact will drive a positive result across all of our stakeholders.

How can Enlightened Hospitality benefit hotel owners? 
It’s our belief that Enlightened Hospitality can extend well beyond the four walls of our restaurants. Although hospitality manifests differently across industries, at HQ we recognize that its significance—higher employee and customer engagement, top-line growth—is universal: from banks to hospitals, retail stores to non-profits.

How is USHG using these principles to help hospitality businesses? 
Through HQ, we provide in-person classes here in New York and more personalized consulting to provide an opportunity for leaders to embrace the hospitality mindset and its positive impact on all stakeholders. Through HQ, we provide in-person classes here in NY and more personalized consulting for large organizations—on location—to provide an opportunity for leaders to embrace the hospitality mindset and its positive impact on all stakeholders.

How do these principles benefit F&B operations, specifically?
By subscribing to a people-first business model, F&B operators are able to see a more impactful guest experience, better supplier relationship and higher employee retention.

What are some current challenges hotels are facing when it comes to F&B and how can USHG and Enlightened Hospitality help overcome those? 
We know that labor is a huge challenge for many operators in the hospitality industry and beyond. A huge part of Enlightened Hospitality starts with hiring the right people for the job. At USHG, we are looking for talent whose skills are divided 51-49% between emotional hospitality and technical excellence. We’re looking for 51%-ers whose skills include optimism and kindness, curiosity, self-awareness and integrity, a high degree of empathy and exceptional work ethic. If other F&B organizations can attract and hire the right talent, they’ll see a tremendous business opportunity.

How do you help companies get a competitive edge? 
Hospitality is our competitive edge. By applying the principle of Enlighted Hospitality, that might typically be associated more closely with traditional hospitality businesses, organizations truly set themselves apart. Particularly in tough economic times, people want some assurance that their experience at a restaurant (or a hotel) will meet or exceed their expectations.  They choose to come to our restaurants either because they have had wonderful and consistently great experiences in the past, or because our positive press or word of mouth tells them that they will.