Chefs have food festivals, sommeliers have wine panels – but how do the experts in the dining room share insights and create community within their profession? That’s the hole Anthony Rudolf, founder of creative agency Co.Create NYC, and Will Guidara, co-owner of Eleven Madison Park, sought to fill when they created the Welcome Conference, a one-day forum for ideas and exchange centered on hospitality. Since its start in 2013, the event has drawn expert voices not just in food and beverage but across industries to explore how care and compassion can build business and change lives. The booming audience and influence of the Welcome Conference has made the event one of the most influential and powerful in the space.
As proud sponsors of this year’s Welcome Conference, we spoke to Will and Anthony all about this year’s event – stories and storytellers, tactical tips, social good, and the possibilities of tech. Keep reading to learn why hospitality is like parenting, how AI can make us more human, and why when it comes to restaurants and conference, one size fits one.
2019 marks the sixth anniversary of the first Welcome Conference. How has the event evolved since its birth?
Anthony: It’s evolved quite a bit, from number of attendees to format to the demographics of attendees and speakers. The very first year was in its purest form hospitality and hospitality folks, probably 99.9 percent of the people in the audience. We’ve evolved in size; we went from 200 to now nearly 1,000.
The speaker range has also varied. We started branching out to bring outside perspectives in that could both enrich the community and broaden the audience. This year we have a clinical psychologist closely related to food; in the consumer package world, we have Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani. We’ll have a performance from an experience creator in Spiegelworld in Vegas. All of these things seem a bit outside hospitality, but they’ll thread the needle that hospitality is much larger than the restaurant world. A restaurant is really part of the food and beverage industry.
Hospitality really isn’t an industry so much as a way of life or thought process, a way we engage and interact with each other. Hospitality is as simple as letting someone who has their turn signal on merge in front of you instead of speeding up to the car in front of you.