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GuestXM Best Practices Conference - Will Guidara - 1540.jpg Ron Ruggless
Will Guidara, author of 'Unreasonable Hospitlaity,' shared insights into creating spacial moments at his former restaurant, Eleven Madison Park.

How Will Guidara wove dreams into restaurant hospitality

‘Unreasonable Hospitality’ author and former co-owner of Eleven Madison Park shares insights into creating Dream Weaver memorable moments

Will Guidara, author of “Unreasonable Hospitality” and former co-owner of the distinguished Eleven Madison Park, systemized memorable moments at his restaurant through attentive service and the addition of a Dream Weaver position, he told the GuestXM Best Practices Conference attendees.

Guidara, who addressed the Best Practices conference last week in Irving, Texas, said, “I really do believe we can make the world a nicer place just by being really nice to everyone in the restaurant business.” He even created a “Dream Weaver” position on the Eleven Madison Park staff to execute personal touches.

“We have this unique opportunity — perhaps even responsibility — to create our own little magical worlds,” Guidara said.

From offering fine-dining Eleven Madison Park customers a chance to dine on a street hot dog to systemizing special-occasion extras like boxed Tiffany flutes for gratus engagement champagne, Eleven Madison Park became noted for its personal touches, Guidara told the assembled restaurant executives.

After Eleven Madison Park achieved its top rating for food and service, Guidara said the management team was in a position to create the Dream Weaver position, which borrows its name from the Gary Wright 1970s song.

Guidara said the Dream Weaver’s “only responsibility was to help everyone else on the team bring their ideas to life.

“They were on the floor every night during service at the ready to go bring ideas to life,” he said. “With the addition of that position, our restaurant was on fire every night, doing endless gestures.”

The gestures ranged from those that cost little, such as tracking down a stuffed “I Love New York” teddy bear for one guest, to those that were more elaborate, such as a family from Spain getting to enjoy snow in Central Park with hot cocoa and actual sleds.

“We did transformationally big things that cost nothing,” Guidara recalled. One couple had gotten married at City Hall and got a first dance to their wedding song, “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.

“We had given them the gift of their first dance,” Guidara said. “We did so many of these things, and we're making a lot of people really happy. But the coolest thing: We were happier at work than we had ever been.

And some gestures were basic, such as providing boxed food for the many customers who were headed to the airport for flights home after an Eleven Madison Park meal, he said. It was what the service staff heard or saw that led to the gestures.

“I've never worked in a team of people more engaged in the work,” Guidara said, paraphrasing the late author Maya Angelou: “People will forget what we say. They may forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

The gestures were good for the restaurant team as well, Guidara said. “For the first time, the people that were actually serving our guests were empowered. They had agency. They were no longer just serving plates of food that someone else created, they were viewing the experience as their own.”

Guidara said he was on a mission to be a bit of an evangelist for providing happy moments in hospitality.

“I'm just here to provide that the smallest amount of encouragement,” he concluded. “The next time you find yourself pursuing a relationship with a customer or an employee, try being just a little bit more unreasonable to give them a sense of belonging, to give them even the smallest memory that can perhaps even last a lifetime.

“It will build your bottom line,” Guidara said. “I can say that I have confidence based on my own experience. And after having worked with a lot of different companies from a lot of different industries, I can also promise you this:  it will make you and the people you work with feel really, really good.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

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