13 Ethics of Hospitality

By: Greg Nasser, BOH director of operations

We’re kicking off 2017 by taking you back to the fundamentals of our trade (hospitality) with a 13-part series on the 13 ethics of hospitality


#1: Respect – Respect for your craft is critical for building relationships within your team and with your guests. Appreciate the needs and basic expectations of your guests to ensure satisfaction. When dealing with your team, always work together to ease the burden of your collective workload.

Chef Alex Morgan (El Techo, Flores and Lolinda) is a great example of someone who continuously places the ethic of respect at the forefront of his daily work. He’s committed to setting up his fellow chefs for success. The respect he gives to his team members creates efficient and motivated back-of-house teams who do great work and consistently produce at the highest levels. We’ve seen extremely high guest loyalty at all three restaurants and we trace much of it back to the respect our employees receive–and show–for one another.

Respect is a three-pronged ethic comprised of craft, guest and self. When you understand the importance of each prong, then you’ll have mastered the first ethic (respect) of hospitality.

Prong 1 – (The Craft) Your craft is what you study, what you create and what you honor. Respect is essential in your daily practice when preparing for the long term. The following rituals are two examples of showing respect for your craft:
· A chef must sharpen their knife before their day starts to honor their products and be precise in their work.
· A bartender would never use a brown or rotted peel as a garnish. Instead, she or he would honor the product by using only the freshest citrus peels.

Respect for one’s craft is a value that can be transferred any every department in our organization. When each of us chooses to respect our craft, we lay the foundation for our teams. This then becomes recognizable to the guest.

Prong 2 – (The Guest) Guest loyalty is only garnered through guest satisfaction. To understand each guest’s specific expectations is very difficult. It’s a matter of studying each person individually. Whether the guest is celebrating a special occasion or is merely in need of something to eat (and quickly!), it’s on you to figure them out to the best of your ability. How many of your guests leave 100% satisfied? Do they tell you personally? When you can appreciate the needs of each guest and understand how to deliver to their expectations, then you have demonstrated respect for your guest.

Prong 3 – (The Self) When individuals work smarter–not harder–and efficiently, the collective team can accomplish great things. It’s very challenging to always be in the service of others (the guests). When everyone focuses on performing at a high level, the workload becomes manageable and the whole team wins. Having the flexibility to re-charge and re-energize after a particularly demanding schedule will allow you to take on the new challenges that will, inevitably, come your way.


#2 Effective Communication & Honesty – Answers you give and promises you make to guests and teammates must be accurate and true. Always follow through on the promises you make.

Is everything on your menu exactly what you are serving? If you have “organic strawberries” listed on the menu, are they actually organic? This ethic—honesty—should be firmly planted at each step of the decision-making process.

When a guest asks you a question that you may not know the answer to, honesty in hospitality reminds us to seek out the correct answer from a reputable source.

Effective communication is about closing the loop. Following through with all communication is an important step for creating trust and accountability among your team, your partners, and your guests.

Feeling frustrated and/or discouraged is normal and often unavoidable when working in hospitality (and any industry, really). Given that a wide variety of circumstances can change your working environment within minutes, practicing honesty inwardly can help you understand what has caused you to have those feelings. Once you understand the triggers of your frustration, the next step is communicate effectively to prevent negative circumstances from derailing you again. You gain full control of the outcome of almost all incidents when you allow yourself to identify with your feelings through honesty.

At Beretta—our very first restaurant—General Manager Tom Kennedy practices the ethic of honesty on a daily basis. He follows through on his word, following through on all promises made to his staff and rewards them for achieving great results. Tom always seeks to find the right answer to a question—no matter the circumstance. When he has the answer, he follows through in communicating it.


#3 Kindness – Every day, make someone else feel special.

This is one of the simplest ideas, in theory, but surely the hardest to practice on a daily basis. To make someone else feel special is to recognize them and to be attuned to their desires. When was the last time you made a guest or fellow employee feel? Remembering a guest’s name or a drink order and having it ready as soon as you see them walk in, is one way to practice the ethic of kindness. At the team level, postponing your duties to help a teammate carry boxes up or down stairs is yet another way to communicate kindness.

I see kindness in action quite often at Delarosa Chestnut. The Chestnut team has a guest who lunches there every day—and has for some time. Recently, the team noticed that this guest had not shown up for three consecutive days. The team thought it very unusual, so they reached out and were able to get in touch with that guest. What they learned was that she had broken her leg, making it difficult for her to leave her apartment. The team immediately took action, offering to deliver her lunch anytime and even helped her with simple chores. Their actions remind us that kindness and hospitality can, and should, extend beyond the four walls of our establishments.


#4 Integrity – Always be honest with your guests and with your teammates. Follow through on your decisions, consider all ideas, and listen carefully.

To have integrity means to have great listening—not only hearing—skills. If you’re willing to read between the lines and really listen to what a person is saying, you’ll find that you’re able to get much further.

Working in hospitality can, at times, be very stressful. I find that, when in a pressure-filled situation, peoples’ inclinations are to abandon their manners—even their decency. Let’s adjust those tendencies. A simple “please” and “thank you” can go a long way in improving any situation.

Another way to exhibit integrity is to look at food and beverage through the eyes of the guest when making decisions, big and small. Think about how a guest might react to your adding or removing a specific menu item, for example. Alternatively, consider how setting a dish at a certain price might affect your guest’s experience.  Acting with integrity when making seemingly inconsequential changes to your menu can have a great impact on how your restaurant as a whole is viewed.

Rather than give just one example this week of a team member who exhibits integrity, I’m calling out a whole team. Ed Onas, Jose Garcia and the entire Super Duper team are my favorite examples of people with integrity. No matter which of the 10 Super Duper Burgers you visit, you will always be greeted warmly and the items you order will consistently be fresh and flavorful. Super’s awesome commitment to serving up integrity alongside each and every delicious burger has resulted in a slew of loyal guests in the Bay Area and beyond.


#5 Sincerity – Stay true to your word. Be willing to admit you don’t know everything. Always seek to find the right answer.

Being sincere when interacting with a team member, guest or vendor is a powerful way to create an environment of trust. This ethic teaches us to lead by example, manage from the heart—and mind—and behave as we say we will. No one likes a hypocrite.

Sincerity is about honoring yourself, your craft and others. Recognizing strengths and weaknesses in others is at the forefront of this ethic. Do you complain about someone’s weaknesses? Do you recognize her or his strengths? Identify your co-workers’ weaknesses but don’t obsess over them. Instead, guide them through their weaknesses and focus on their strengths. It can do a lot to motivate them and your entire team.

Eddie Concha, general manager of two of our Mission neighborhood restaurants, Lolinda and El Techo, is one of the most sincere people I know. He approaches his work with sincerity each and every day. Eddie champions his team members’ strengths and helps guide employees through their weaknesses with respect, candor and encouragement. Eddie follows through on his word, and he admits when he doesn’t have the answers. By making sincerity his default, he’s created a team that also values and models this ethic.


#6 Generosity– Always offer the extras. Provide upgrades whenever possible.

Generosity does not mean you have to give away the house. It means to be conscious of how we make decisions in our business that affect the people we serve.

Guests want to be recognized. That’s why, when it’s someone’s birthday, they will let you know. You, in turn, will likely feel inclined to bring them a dessert. Generosity is not the act of giving the guest a free dessert. Generosity is more the decision you made after being alerted to the guest’s birthday.

The act of recognizing someone is more valuable to the guest than is any freebie. Recognition focuses your attention to thinking about the guest and what it takes to make them feel like you have offered them an exceptional experience.

When you take a reservation over the phone, do you ever ask the person on the other end of the line if the reservation is for a special occasion? When you walk a guest to their table, do you ask them if they are celebrating anything?

These questions will help you understand the value of recognition and will give you the opportunity to use generosity as it should be used in hospitality.

The common thread running through all of our restaurants is generosity. You might say that hospitality and generosity go hand in hand.  It’s always a good idea to be generous—whether with a guest or with a co-worker. Generosity, when practiced daily, makes the world around us more enjoyable.

The Starbelly team is known for its generosity. They always seem to know when to drop off a complimentary plate of their house-made chicken liver pate, or when to deliver a glass of bubbles for a guest who is celebrating a special occasion.


#7 Trustworthiness – Finish the tasks that have been assigned to you. Follow up with the recipient(s) to ensure satisfaction.

In my early 20s, a wise businessman asked me a perplexing question: What are two words to describe who you want to be as a leader? My answer was: dependable and trustworthy.

What I have come to learn while working in hospitality is that trust translates to the successful completion of assignments—and the work of holding oneself accountable for the completion of those assignments.

Beyond applying the literal definition of trust as an ethic of hospitality, trust as an ethic should also mean completing one’s work as a way of supporting your larger team.

If you have ever been let down by a coworker or boss, this ethic should resonate. Instead of perpetuating dishonesty as you work with your colleagues and employees, learn from those negative experiences to avoid disappointing your teams and staff.

The Delarosa Downtown team has created a network of trust within the restaurant. Team members know they can depend on one another and, when decisions are made, they respect the decision making process by doing what they can to support and further that outcome.


#8 Loyalty – Whether dealing with regulars or staff, always be true to yourself and to the business by providing the expected level of service. Continually attempt to exceed all expectations.

Guest loyalty can only be achieved through customer satisfaction. How do you achieve customer satisfaction? By concentrating on the following areas:

  • Quality: in order to be of quality you need to focus on the prep. work.
  • Consistency: at all steps of service, in your side work, through communication and in training.
  • Product Knowledge: be an expert on the ingredients, the preparation and the product.
  • Urgency: anticipate guests’ needs before they do.

Ask yourself, “What more can I do today to exceed the expectations of my coworkers and guests?”

The Belga team exhibits loyalty by regularly exceeding expectations. They always seek to understand what a guest will need next—often getting to the guest before the guest reaches out.


#9 Enthusiasm – Positive energy attracts positive energy. Aim to complete all tasks without complaint. Be eager to please your guests and team members.

The energy you put into your work will guide your career. Being enthusiastic about your work and focusing on positive resolutions creates an environment that everyone wants to be a part of.

Enthusiasm can look like completing tasks without complaint. When your task list seems daunting, recognize that moving down the list without complaint and accomplishing your goals might just give you energy

Enthusiasm is very contagious and can be a very powerful tool for creating not just a fun environment but a dynamic and accomplished team.

Back Of The House’s marketing team of Jacob and Rachel display this ethic at all times, especially when communicating with the press and through digital channels. They may be working through a lot behind the scenes, but what we see is only enthusiasm and energy. Their positive approach is infectious, rubbing off on the teams at–and helping build momentum for–each of our restaurants.


#10 Fairness – This is very important when trying to resolve conflicts with guests, staff or vendors. Use the lens of realistic optimism to understand all sides to the story—before passing judgment.

In the restaurant business (and in the hospitality industry as a whole) staff, guests and even you may, at times, feel that they/you are being treated badly or unfairly. To get the full picture, first ask yourself two simple questions:

  • What are the facts of the situation?
  • What is the story I am telling myself about those facts?

Once you’ve found clarity, it will be easier to understand the necessary action or actions to take so that the parties involved will feel they’re concerns have been heard. In order to get to this place, you must have the ability to stand outside of the experience and remove all emotional attachments to avoid reacting rashly.

Once you understand that there is more than one way to look at a situation, you’ll find that there are many ways to resolve the issue at hand.

In addition, examining a situation through these three lenses may be of help:

  1. Realistic Optimism Lens – how would I act here at my best?
  2. The Reverse Lens—how does the person’s view make sense? Where is my responsibility in resolving this problem?
  3. The Long Lens—how can I grow from this experience?

Back Of The House’s HR team (Jessica Spencer Flores and Lidia Custodio) always use the above strategies when seeking understanding of a particular incident. They approach each and every problem with empathy—getting to the root of the problem by viewing the circumstances through others’ eyes.


#11 Endurance – Remember to breathe. Try beginning your day with a workout or meditation. Above all, find ways to enjoy each day.

This ethic focuses on the self. In order to serve others, you must first feel good about yourself and the life you lead. This ethic reminds us to take care of ourselves because to provide happiness to others starts with ensuring that you yourself are happy.

Working in the hospitality industry means you work long hours, and often, long weeks. To endure, you must take care of your body and mind to build strength physically and mentally.

Endurance is key for long-term success and growth.

#12 Tenacity – Be prepared to work through stressful situations. Use proper time management to help guide you to success.
Get a jump-start on your day by planning it out before it starts. Know what you need to accomplish and see that you get it done.
Working in hospitality will undoubtably present stressful situations, as we’re in the business of making people happy. You have to be prepared to work through and resolve any situations otherwise, you might get stuck, which in turn will slow your growth. When you focus on the guest experience first, you’ll be better prepared to prioritize when stress presents itself.
Kim and Zita—our accounting team at Back Of The House—always exhibit great tenacity. It is through sheer will that they stay focused and meet their deadlines.
I want to leave you with the below, as it ties directly to tenacity as an ethic.
Perseverance. The difference between an unsuccessful and a successful person is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of will.

#13 Excellence – The service and products you provide your guests must be at the highest level of your standards at all times. Have pride in everything you do.

Whether you’re at the loading dock of your business or on the floors of its interior, always be working toward excellence. Do not settle. Do not get lazy. Above all, stay focused on your goals by making decisions based on your standards.

Excellence is not won alone. Everyone you work with must believe in excellence and take specific actions to achieve it. However, to be excellent, you and your team members must first practice ethics 1 -12. Excellence is hard to achieve in one day—not to mention over sustained periods of time. But, if you honor all of the ethics of hospitality at all times, then excellence can become habitual and a default.

This ethic is exhibited every day by Adriano and Edmondo in everything that they do. Their intention is always excellence. Excellence and success have become habitual for our executive team because, with every decision, they seek excellence to the highest degree.

Thanks for reading along over the past few months. I hope my words have resonated with you.

Are you practicing one of the 13 ethics in your work? Would love to hear about it. You can email me here.