From the Board: It’s All About Soul

Getting down to the WHY, HOW, and WHAT of a real experience.


Great F&B is not about focus groups and a room full of MBAs with flow charts. Rather, it’s about soul, passion, and excitement. Of course every successful restaurant concept is built on valid market research and firm financial planning, but it is equally weighted and fully supported by passionate individuals that believe in something more than just ROI or margin.

It all starts with the “WHY.” Whether opening a new venue, re-concepting an existing space, or hiring a new associate, educating the team on the “WHY” and “why are we here?” is one of the keys to unlocking their desire to be part of something distinct and differentiated. Explain the philosophy behind the origin of the concept, why the concept may have changed, the thinking behind the chef’s menu, the unique design elements, and the distinctive features of the music styling as well as the motivation behind the beverage program.

Give permission for the associates to find their own WHY. Why do they want to be part of this, why is this a good fit for them, why should they be part of the team, why does this interest them, and why do they want to take care of your guests?

Subsequently, “HOW” quickly follows. This ranges from HOW the chef makes the dishes, to how we source products, to how we make cocktails. More importantly, HOW will each associate find their story? More and more, our industry is about details, entertainment, and engagement; it is imperative that associates find the stories they love about the restaurant to share with the guests to enrich the experience. They must continuously challenge themselves to improve and contribute to the HOW—how they will take it upon themselves to determine the right experience for each guest and how they will make each experience personal and memorable.

Finally, everyone needs to consider the “WHAT.” This ranges from WHAT we want our guests’ lasting impression of us to be, to what we want them to tell their friends or post on social media, to what the media says about us. In addition, we need each and every associate from the GM and executive chef of the restaurant to the porter to constantly challenge themselves on WHAT they can do to add to their knowledge and skills to better the concept, guest experience, reputation, service, revenue, and profit.

Ultimately, mastering basic hospitality skills is the foundation of every great restaurant; however, it is the ability to find the right team—that will engage and own the guest experience and actively participate in the continuous improvement—that gives your restaurant soul and charisma and ultimately profitability. It takes confidence and bravery to allow your associates to learn, engage, and contribute to the guest experience on a subjective level that eventually will define the restaurant’s success.

Creating an environment of open learning and collaboration will enable you to find more dynamic associates and create better retention, because they feel connected to the concept. This, in turn, will push your restaurant beyond your wildest expectations for service, performance, and reputation. Having everyone fully engaged will make you stronger, faster, and will build a tight, vibrant team for continued success. There is always a way for each person to contribute their soul and knowledge to create the desired experience for your guests that results in achieving your desired ROI or margin.

Whether an associate or a guest, we are all just looking for a real experience with a little soul and humanity.

Lou Trope
Lou Trope
Member, Hotel F&B CorporatevEditorial Advisory Board, and
Senior VP, F&B Experiences
Destination Hotels & Resorts