Charles Joly on The Art of Hospitality

Consumer expectations for service have increased in recent years, which puts more pressure on the bartenders and servers to deliver a great experience. Are most operations up to the task?

Mixologist Charles Joly, a Chicago native, global cocktail competition champion and cofounder of Crafthouse Cocktails, will be part of a panel on hospitality at the National Restaurant Association annual industry conference in Chicago, May 19-22, 2018. Cheers caught up with Joly to get his thoughts on the art of hospitality.

Cheers: How would you rate the state of hospitality in today’s restaurant world?

Charles Joly: There’s been a lot of discussion around hospitality over the past several years. While the caliber of the offerings within restaurants and bars is becoming more re ned every day, much attention is also being paid to the guest experience. There are plenty of venues that fully grasp this. No doubt it is a key to continued success.

It should go without saying that a bar or restaurant is nothing with hospitality. Our motivation for choosing the places we frequent has far more to do with the total package than simply the product they offer.

Cheers: It’s hard to train people to be hospitable; do you have any tips for helping someone to be a bit more engaging with guests and provide better service?

CJ: I think a great rst step can be as simple as making a conscious effort to give every table a real moment of your time. Stop, listen and read their needs and desires, regardless of what is happening around you. We work in a unique environment where guests will put all of their trust into us after a very short amount of time—if we’ve earned it.

I always nd it fascinating how quickly you can bring a guest into the fold, make them feel comfortable and put them at ease. Once you’ve established this trust, by giving them some sincere attention, I can guarantee you their overall experience will be better. The food and drinks will taste better, they will be more adventurous with their order and will certainly be more likely to return.

Cheers: With more consumers either cooking at home or opting for take out or fast-casual restaurants, what are some ways that full-service operators can make guests feel special and at home and entice them to come back?

CJ: People are ordering in more. They’re also entertaining more, cooking more at home and becoming home cocktail enthusiasts. I don’t see this as a threat as much as an opportunity. You have more people that have higher expectations for what they’re eating and drinking. It offers us a more open-minded guest with a bit more understanding to what happens in our venues.

Again, it comes back to the experience. The staff needs to be on point and welcoming. The menu—both food and drink—should evolve and offer relevant items for the season, including micro changes as interesting and local produce comes around.

Technology has made it easier to order to your home, but it’s also made it easier to get to and from restaurants. It can also be used to improve the guest experience. Whether it’s notes and history tracking their preferences, allergies etc., a way to contact them while they’re having a drink next door waiting for a table or thoughtful invites to special events at the space- we need to focus on the human aspect. You can’t get that from food ordered on your phone.

Cheers: What’s one of the better service/hospitality experiences that you’ve had at a bar or restaurant recently?

CJ: I had a stellar experience at Next Restaurant in Chicago. It is consistently a world-class experience from booking to walking out the door.

I had another stand out at an unassuming Chicago neighborhood bar called Best Intentions. While you’re right at home sipping $3 beer and a bourbon, they also have a massive library of spirits tucked away in the shadowy back bar. This wasn’t what stood out to me.

I noticed the bartender—an operating owner—truly working the room. He’d notice a drink about to empty from 10 feet away and pick up the reorder from guest with only a head nod.

The care that went into even simple mixed drinks was equal to when someone ordered a classic cocktail. This wasn’t making drinks—it was bartending in all that it means to be a host, attend to people’s needs and care about the product you’re sliding across the bar.

Many of the places I go most often share many of these same attributes. The service may look a bit different, but the principles of hospitality are the same regardless of the location. Food from a styrofoam container does not come with a side of hospitality.

Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers magazine. Reach her at Read her recent piece, Talking Shop with Brittany DeLoach, Hard Rock Int. Beverage Director.

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