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  • Writer's pictureHeather Garlick

Do ethics belong in hospitality?

I'm not always great at figuring out quite who I'm planning to meet before I meet them. I know that sounds ridiculous. I own the business, surely I would only arrange meetings with people who I knew would be useful to me. Well, yeah, I suppose, for some. However, I prefer a scatter gun approach to business, and life to to be honest. If someone seems insightful, it doesn't really matter where their insights are directed.

And so it was that I sat down to a meeting about my brand and wound up defending my business strategy. I think my meetee was being devil's advocate. He went about trying to pull apart various different elements of my business mission and we discussed each in turn. We spent the most time on the thing I find least interesting: localism. And very little time on a thought he posed that really interested me.

He said the project won't work because:

When people go out to a restaurant or bar, they are consuming alcohol and alcohol makes you narrowly self interested. So they won't be interested in an ethical product.

I've heard objections along the lines of this in one form or another a number of times. I.E people don't like to think about bad things when they're going out/people are looking for pure hedonism when they're going out/going out is a treat so you shouldn't have to think about charity. I kind of get it in a way but in another way I really couldn't disagree more.

I've spent many years watching couples in my bars and restaurants. I'll focus on couples because they are in reality the mainstay of the suburban hospitality industry. I probably agree that a slightly different dynamic exists amongst groups of friends. But couples though. They go out to enjoy one another, to escape from the monologue of life in front of the computer, to try new things and to chat to others. In fact I would guess that when they're in that comfortable social place of a bar or a restaurant, is when they're feeling at their most benignly generous.

On this basis I did reject my friend's advocacy outright. But there was another element of the couple dynamic that I haven't considered so much lately. Because often couples are also bored. They love each other but they've pretty much run out of what to say. I would often see a couple grab a member of staff for a great long chat just to have another person be part of the conversation. And this is really important for the project because if we can think of a way of spiking the curiosity and taking advantage of that lull to provide a conversation point and another opinion, we can improve the experience for the consumer in yet another way.

This makes me wonder whether a couple would engage with a QR code on a bottle which had something engaging on that it was possible to show to others.

As mentioned, this line of thought only applies to couples. Groups of friends are a little less predictable because it is less easy to know regularity of meeting up and reason for meeting up. All of these factors can affect behaviour. I cannot hope for my product to engage someone meeting up with friends from years ago for a hen night or birthday, for example.

This element definitely needs more thought.

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