OpenTable was one of the proud sponsors of The Welcome Conference 2017, the best-in-class, unique hospitality conference. ICYMI, you can watch it online here. For the fourth year running, Anthony Rudolf of Journee and Will Guidara of Make It Nice (this time at Alice Tully Hall and with an assist from co-curator Brian Canlis of Canlis restaurant in Seattle) created a day packed with speakers who shared their experiences with and insights into conflict and change. Once again, we laughed, we cried, we SoulCycle’d (sort of!), and we learned.
Some of the day’s key lessons (and there were many, so forgive us if we missed a few):
1. To be truly hospitable, we need to be hospitable to ourselves. Melanie Whelan of SoulCycle reminded us to make time for ourselves and stay in touch with what we really want. Find space for yourself every day to be with your thoughts, she urges.
2. Sam Lipp, general manager of the iconic Union Square Cafe, notes that we should compromise to achieve our goals in the face of conflict and change. He related several tales of so-called solutions to problems at the restaurant that made things worse by not first acting with tact (and, later, ultimately succeeded).
3. What is obvious to you is obvious to you, says neuroscientist Dr. John Medina. What he means is that everyone’s brain is wired differently and each one is has a different way of perceiving rewards and punishments, so how you see things is not how others do.
4. Frank Guidara, formerly of Restaurant Associates and proud poppa to Will Guidara, reminds us, “Adversity is a terrible thing to waste.” Seek out what you can learn in times of adversity and you can grow from it.
5. It’s important to understand what cannot change, counsels Mary Celeste Bealle, proprietor of Blackberry Farm. When your situation changes, especially tragically, some constants are a good thing.
6. Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, co-owners at Eleven Madison Park, reveal that during times of conflict if you can take emotions out of the situation, arguments can become constructive conversations. The brother-from-another-mother business partners have had many disagreements over the years, but they have found that conflict has always resulted in them doing their best work.
7. In times of crisis, former FBI hostage negotiator Gary Noesner says if you do nothing else, “Stall for time. Slow things down. Time cools emotion. And then listen. “People want to be heard and they want to be listened to.”
8. Richard Melman of Lettuce Entertain You, which boasts 260 restaurants in its coterie of eateries, shared his motto regarding conflict with customers. “The customer is usually right,” but we need to remember, “There are some crazy-ass people out there.” He stands firm on not allowing a diner to be disrespectful toward his staff.
Be sure to watch the action if you weren’t able to be there for The Welcome Conference 2017 — or if you’re still, like we are, missing the magic of the day. And stay tuned for news about next year’s Welcome Conference.