So, What’s The Difference Between Service And Hospitality Anyway?


The discussion delineating the differences between service and hospitality has been a staple in restaurant pre-shifts, meetings and marketing for a while now. There are only a few shades between, but the discrepancy can make a huge difference to the guest. So what is it and why does understanding their variation change the way guests view a restaurant?

By definition, service is the act of helpful activity; to provide accommodation. The key word here is act. Service is an action. It is a set of guidelines, penciling the base-level of activity to be considered part of this industry. Regardless of what service you are providing, actually performing a service is necessary. It could be cooking food, pouring drinks, offering a room, or a seat on a plane. At the very elemental level, when paid a certain amount a restaurant must provide food, a bar must provide drinks, a hotel must provide accommodation, and an airline must provide a seats. Service is the direct exchange the customer expects to receive.

So, what then is hospitality?  Well, it is the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, and generous way. In other words it is the way a service is provided. It is the quality of the act of service. It has been said that “hospitality is the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.”  Hospitality transcends service. It is what some of us would call “taking it to the Next Level”. Service is bland, dull, nondescript – hospitality gives it color, texture, and movement. It is the substance.


So, service is the action and hospitality is the quality of that action. While service is only offered when there is a need to fill, hospitality is something that, once you have it instilled in you, you can’t turn it off. It begins to cascade through everything you do. It is where kindness and thoughtfulness meet. With service we fill our guests needs, but with hospitality we anticipate them and go beyond. We are able to take information and create something unique for our guests, something no one else can or will experience, and isn’t that what we all crave – to feel special in a world growing in sameness?

It’s the difference between offering your guest water, and knowing they always order sparkling – so you bring them sparkling without asking. Or finding out the couple you’re waiting on is on their first date since the birth of their daughter, so you pack them something special to take home to her. Those are the things that set certain businesses apart from others. Many people believe that it is only the things we present guests that make the experience what it is – wine, food, amenities, valet, take-aways etc. Absolutely not. That’s all just service. Hospitality is the way they are presented. It is the feeling that evolves from a thoughtful and genuine presentation. Hospitality is not just going through the motions, it’s making each motion full of genuine care and kindness for each guest. In that, the guest will feel your generosity, and that’s something that no object can create. It is the exact feeling that will make them want to return again and again.

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Local Hospitality

I am a hospitality consultant and content creator focused on food, beverage and travel.

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