Employee Engagement and Customer Service Lessons from ‘Unreasonable Hospitality’

Adding humor to your speech - pondering on it

Written by Conor Cunneen

Published December 22, 2023

Unreasonable: A Fresh Approach to Hospitality and Business Success” by Will Guidara


On page 245, at the end of a very readable book, Guidara writes “It was too much” as he reflected on is unreasonable approach to hospitality.

I really enjoyed the book. It is inspiring in many ways but as the title might indicate, the guy is nuts. Let’s put it this way. If Guidara was to read that last sentence, his mind would go to what kind of over the top, customer enhancing unique way, he might be able to do something with nuts.

I would encourage anyone in customer service or customer facing industries (isn’t that almost everyone) to read this book. Most of the examples he illustrates are just not practical for every business, but the mindset and the passion are relevant for everyone.

In particular, the way he manages, empowers and includes staff in so many decisions is something that everyone can learn from. Interestingly, he is not afraid to highlight some examples where he got it wrong and in one instance quite spectacularly where he forced staff to memorize and rehearse, memorize and rehearse how to describe word for word each particular dish. The end result – not at all surprisingly – was that the NY Times in a scathing review used such terms as “stilted” and “bloated” to describe the meal experience.

To be fair to Guidara, mistakes like this were rare and ultimately he achieved his ambition to be named the best restaurant in the world.

Key takeaways for me were:

  • Having a clear mission that everyone can understand and buy into is critical. Guidara’s first mission for Eleven Madison Park was “To Be The Four-Star Restaurant for the next Generation.”
  • Empower your staff. We all know this to be a key element in creating a great corporate culture. Guidara obviously believes in this and provides some fine anecdotes.
  • Ask questions and Listen
  • Exceptional Customer Service is a mind set that requires constant motivation and benefits from recognition.
  • Good mentors are invaluable. Guidara was lucky enough to get good advice from many outstanding businessmen his dad and hospitality luminary Danny Meyer.

So much of what Guidara implemented is just not feasible in most organizations. Indeed, he accepted this himself when he started scaling back some of his activities because they were “too much” but if you believe that Customer Service and Hospitality is a state of mind, this book will provide additional motivation for you to provide reasonable hospitality – which because it is often quite rare – will be more than enough to wow your guests.






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