Our guests find comfort with consistent “wow” experiences, however, can the hospitality industry maintain this post-pandemic?
Have you ever noticed that our parents love to tell stories about us when we were young, and it’s always stories during that very innocent age range of the toddler and pre-k years? The same range my boys are in now to be exact. The age when curiosity runs rampant as they explore the sensory overload around them and touch, taste, see, and do everything for the first time.
Inevitably we all did something, or maybe several things, during our own existence in that same phase that crossed boundaries, was extra cute, got us in trouble, or just plain dangerous that live vividly in the minds of our parents to tell and/or brag about. They LOVE these stories, most likely because even if the incident gave them grey hairs back then, they look back fondly at those moments with endearment. These are the stories that get brought up over and over. They never tire of telling them, and for some reason, we never tire of hearing them despite how they usually cause some embarrassment or naturally make us feel the need to serve up an eye roll.
Nevertheless, they become classics.
I view hospitality as an industry that thrives on classics. Delivering classic experiences. We are memory makers, and if you don’t understand that every guest you serve is in your establishment specifically to make a memory, then you shouldn’t be in hospitality. You probably also are not having any fun in your role either.
My career in hospitality was centered around hotel event management, which is probably one of the most accessible avenues of the business to facilitate and produce these memories at every turn for our attendees, individually and as a group. As event planners, and operators, we get to take it one step further, and be experience makers. We get to turn to full-on sensory overload in a variety of ways to wow attendees. Our competitive spirit tends to kick in and we hope that the conference-goers are filled with stories, memories, inspiration, and funny anecdotes about their event that we planned for months, or in some cases, for years.
The goal is to set a benchmark and raise the bar for their next event.
The goal is to create a classic memorable experience.
I miss the hustle and grind of creating and delivering these kinds of experiences, and over time I’ll share more stories on events I had the pleasure of producing, legacy projects you could say. However lately I’m reminded that the experience and memory-making mentality applies right at home as well. You just have to put it into perspective, and as we venture back to work (hopefully) we can position ourselves to strategically focus on this.
Last month, my household gained a classic, thanks to my two-year-old. It will always be remembered as “the day that he got into mommy’s make-up while she was in the shower.”
I’m pretty sure almost every household has their own version of this exact story. It’s a classic scene that every mom should just expect or anticipate will happen to them one day.
Mine was when I was around 4 years old, and I snuck into my mom’s bathroom to explore her makeup drawer independently and proceeded to use her red lipstick as a crayon all over her vanity, in addition to my face. These days it’s a slightly humorous tale for my mom to tell.
I’ve somehow dodged the bullet for four years now regarding the makeup drawer trespassing, but I guess it's only fair that karma would ensure I got my turn. Boy oh Boy did our little Colton give me my turn.
Colton is our little daredevil. He’s the sneaky one. He’s on one hand the sweetest soul you’ve ever met that gives the warmest, tightest hugs and squishiest sweet kisses. He has a gentle way about him that makes everyone fall in love. He’s our “cutie patootie” as our 4-year-old calls him.
But he’s also a NINJA, that thinks it’s his calling to personify his favorite storybook character, Curious George. Fitting that he’d be inspired by “a classic.”
Just to name a few incidents, he’s figured out a way to climb up on the kitchen countertops and HULK SMASH our glass coffee pot, scaled our center kitchen island to smash a vase, removed the air conditioner register on the wall single-handedly, and decided one day to pour milk all over the floors to finger paint. These all took place in the last two weeks.
Then there was the day I heard my 4-year-old yell “mom we have a problem!” from once again, the kitchen. There I found Colton on a stool with a spice container of chili pepper in his hands that he was in the middle of shaking (dumping) everywhere. We’re all still sneezing from that one.
However last night, Colton took it to a new level. Parents, brace yourself.
I have two sections of my household that I consider, and have communicated, are off-limits to the boys. My vanity, and my closet. If they were old enough to read, there would 100% be a “no boys allowed” sign adhered to both. These are my safe zones. The girl zones.
The NO-GO zones.
While I was finally attempting to actually get a shower within a bleak five minutes of privacy, to recalibrate my mental state from a particularly BUSY day with the boys, all hell broke loose.
I remember hearing a noise near my vanity, something dropping, and seeing a pair of little toddler toes peeking out. As I got out of the shower, Colton came up to me and I realized his face looked extra smooth. Something was off. Then I noticed his lips were not the usual cherry red color I'm used to... they were flesh color. He was rubbing his eyes and trying not to cry.
Then it hit me. He had got his little hands on my AEROSOL airbrush foundation can.
As I quickly tried to grab a washcloth to wipe his face, out of the corner of my eye noticed it seemed a bit foggy all around me, but not steam from the shower kind of foggy. This was a dull brownish kind of weird haze in the air. I looked around, and then I saw it.
ALLLLL of it.
Colton had spray painted my entire vanity and countertop area, mirror, wall, chair, and cosmetic products with the foundation can. Have I mentioned my bathroom is white?
In that instant it hit me, OMG this is MY makeup story that everyone has about their kids.
“Chrissssssss, we have a problem!” I screamed at the top of my lungs to my husband downstairs. This is beginning to be our new household mantra I guess.
Let the cleaning begin of the mess I'd been served by my own little trespasser.
I started to scrub, while my husband sheepishly brought me a bourbon and diet coke. It was going to be a long night. He tried to encourage me that it would be ok and offered a “man that looked expensive” comment about the product/graffiti tool that got used. Why is it guys are notorious for saying the wrong things in the wrong moments?
Then my 4-year-old comes in to keep me company and to feel like a part of the experience watching me clean. (He’s my FOMO child.) After I provided him with a very stern lecture pointing out “THIS IS WHY I DON’T LIKE YOU BOYS IN MY S**T” (without the cursing of course)... he was a trooper that acknowledged my angst and began to come up with ways to make me laugh, per usual, because he knows I can’t resist his silly antics.
He began to drill Alexa with how to translate every phrase or word he can think of (some more appropriate than others) in Spanish. As much as I wanted to just be alone with my cocktail and cleaning supplies, it was pretty humorous.
Especially when he asked “Alexa, how do you say-my little brother is in trouble in Spanish?”
Then he got bored and threw a neon glow ring directly at me while I scrubbed the makeup grime off every single item and of course, it landed perfectly over my head. I had now become a human ring toss. Moms, you know that moment where you don’t think it could get any more unbelievable and the full-fledged defeat sets in? This was mine. Leave it to my 4-year-old to think it was an opportune moment to attempt that.
It took me two days to get things back in order, and on the bright side, it did push me to re-organize my drawers and purge a bit. Silver lining right?
And now as I write this, all I can do is laugh at this moment. Colton is too cute for words, and I don’t think it’s possible to actually stay mad at him. Not to mention I do realize he’s a toddler and was just exploring the world around him.
He created an experience, a story, that I’ll always remember, despite the fact that it wasn’t necessarily a positive moment. It will always be ingrained in my mind.
So as the world repairs itself from the pandemic, and slowly, very slowly, the hospitality industry cautiously goes back to being memory and experience makers, is it going to be possible to wow our guests and be unforgettable? I fear that we will be so focused on simply just safely accommodating them, and using the Covid-19 restrictions as excuses for being complacent.
On the other hand, I also fear that we’ll overthink how to navigate the restrictions. Sometimes we don’t need to fix what is not broken. Every establishment should have their formula for success, and the signature skills and deliverables that make them unique or differentiate them from the competition. THEIR classics. Take those and layer in the restrictions.
Not to sound silly, but consider your attendees like the toddler “when curiosity runs rampant as they explore the sensory overload around them and touch, taste, see and DO everything for the first time.” They will finally be breaking free from quarantine and the excitement of getting back to in-person, or at least hybrid events that feel special.
We simply can’t forget that guests love unforgettable experiences, and they will always have expectations to receive them. We can’t be afraid to tap into what used to work, with a polished twist that provides consistency and comfort, and classic experiences.