June 13, 2016

Embracing Informality – is it time the hospitality industry learned to ‘relax’?

Hospitality Bowcliffe Hall

Stroll into Bowcliffe Hall and you’re likely to be hit by a wave of warmth that might be considered unusual for the traditional country house estate. And no, I’m not just referring to our better than average heating system. But as you wander the grounds and explore the extraordinary Private Members’ Club, the Drivers’ Club or wonder at the architecturally remarkable Blackburn Wing – you’ll likely begin to understand there is nothing ‘traditional’ about Bowcliffe Hall, and the same goes for the service and hospitality.

Our events director, Michael Gledhill, is the person responsible for the smooth-running of every wedding, party and corporate event we hold here at Bowcliffe. In this opinion piece, Michael shares his thoughts on how hospitality teams need to add a little personality and magic to every interaction…

“Here’s the thing. Hospitality is about so much more than a simple transaction. Think about a time you’ve visited a restaurant or bar, or perhaps you’ve boarded a flight. You order your drink or food and receive exactly what you requested. No mushrooms? Allergic to prawns? No problem – everything is served exactly as it should be. Service wise, your visit was technically ‘perfect’. Except, for some reason, you feel absolutely nothing.

Michael Gledhill_Bowcliffe 3

Chances are the staff failed to make even a glimmer of eye-contact, perhaps they failed to smile or generally had zero engagement. Generally, you were left feeling as if you were just another customer.

That feeling?

That’s the feeling of hospitality officially failing.

As Restaurant Magnate Danny Meyer once said, ‘service is a one size fits all – service style and hospitality is a one size fits one’.

Service in my mind is about setting a (high) level of expectation for every single person, party or event you hold. That high expectation should never ever waver. Service style or hospitality is – at Bowcliffe at least – providing the human element of engagement that goes over and above that service.

Authenticity is a word thrown about a lot in the hospitality industry – I prefer to describe it as ‘being genuine’. Every corporate event client and delegate who visits Bowcliffe is given an entirely genuine experience. We aim to be engaging, thoughtful and helpful – moreover, we aim to respond to each individual’s exacting requirements, listen to their ideas and provide answers and guidance to any indecision. It’s one of the reasons we have so many of our corporate clients return time and again – they form easy relationships with staff who genuinely enjoy interacting and providing true hospitality.

Service is doing what you do all the time, the hospitality element is asking yourself ‘if I were a delegate, company or individual, how would I want to be treated?’

Each service style is different, depending on the place you’re frequenting. But at Bowcliffe, we’ve found that the old school attitude that staff should be ‘seen not heard’ is far from what our customers and corporate clients really want.

So, I like to think it’s time we formally embraced informality. Keep the perfect place settings, impeccable manners, sublime service and marvellous food, but add a little ‘something’.

Make that ‘something’ a little connection and engagement.

After all, Bowcliffe is a centre of excellence for conducting extraordinary business, and that simply wouldn’t be possible without extraordinary staff.

What are your thoughts on the industry’s approach to informality?”

Michael.

Michael Gledhill is the Director of Events at Bowcliffe Hall, looking after corporate events, celebrations, weddings and day-to-day meetings and dining across the Bowcliffe Drivers’ Club, the inspirational, copper-clad and multi award-winning Blackburn Wing conference and events centre, plus office space inside the main Hall and in an array of beautifully restored buildings across the Estate.