Strong community connections are key for hospitality success

“We’re better together” is a statement we’ve all heard or read many times, but what does that mean for hospitality organizations?

Community. Connection. Familiarity. These unite us and make us feel part of something greater than ourselves. A strong sense of community creates a feeling of belonging for everyone, including staff and guests.

That shared sense of belonging creates bonds between community members. By making and maintaining that all-important connection with their communities – by connecting with them and supporting them – hotels, restaurants, seniors living and other hospitality organizations will be seen as truly belonging to them.

Of course, these days the scope of community has transformed and expanded. It extends beyond internal teams and local neighbourhoods into online markets and communities that can be national and international. Creating opportunities much further afield than ever before, this also makes modern communities more complex.

What do communities look like? How do hospitality organizations connect with them?

Pardon the proverb, but it really does take a village to create a community. They encompass a variety of stakeholders and include internal and external members.

Internal communities include an organization’s team. Leaders can begin connecting with internal communities by setting the tone and the vision. But true connection comes when each member has input and there’s common understanding regarding the kind of community they belong to. For instance, what experience and sense of belonging are team members to deliver to customers, both internal and external? Team members need to understand what’s expected of them and how to engage appropriately with their external communities. They also need to have input into how that’s manifested in day-to-day actions in both the physical and on-line worlds.

External members include existing and potential guests. They’re hotel guests who come and stay or diners who eat in, take out or get meals delivered. They’re residents and other businesses in the local area. They’re loyalty program members who want access to exclusive rewards and discounts. They’re social media users interested in a restaurant’s food or story, or planning to travel to the locales hotels are situated in. Connecting with them requires understanding them, engaging with them, and being seen to truly support them – ideally in a consistent manner so the experience across communities, including the physical and virtual worlds, match.

How do hospitality organizations support their communities?

They key to being truly supportive is recognizing how different communities define themselves and what their needs are. For instance, in the past year, many consumers have focused on their “local” community and made conscious decisions to support small, locally owned businesses – to buy “local” and “small”. Yet with COVID safety concerns and restrictions limiting or preventing in-person dining and many smaller organizations not well prepared for takeout, this has proven to be only a partial lifeline for independent restaurants. In a demonstration of truly understanding and supporting that community of “local” consumers, Breaking Bread is a new website created to maintain lists of local restaurants that provide contactless delivery, curbside pickup, take-out, or meal kits.

In addition to loyalty programs, innovative examples of hospitality organizations understanding and supporting specific communities include:

  • Many of the restaurants on Breaking Bread offering discounts or special meals for front line workers and healthcare providers
  • Restaurants partnering with The Leftovers Foundation to redirect extra food to local service organizations, or with Canada’s MealShare program to designate select dishes for a “buy one, give one” program aimed at youth in need
  • Calgary’s Kerby Seniors’ Center and the ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen partnering to provide meals plus volunteers to pick up them up and deliver them to seniors at risk
  • Atlific Hotels corporately supporting hospitality industry schools and at the property level, directly supporting local charities – each hotel supports at least one, and some support up to 10 by raising funds, providing bursaries and more
  • The Fairmont Royal York making rooms available for doctors and nurses in quarantine, the Hazelton providing meals for healthcare workers, and many hotels close to highways offering truckers free hot showers and meals

Why community is so important

Relationships matter. People buy from people they know, like and trust – people from their communities. People enjoy eating or staying somewhere they feel a bond with.

Hotel, restaurant, seniors living and other hospitality organizations know that a strong community base, whether internal or external, local or online, is the soul and spirit of their business. Connecting with and supporting those communities is the key to success.

At JRoss Hospitality Recruiters, we’re focused on your success and we’re proud to be part of your community. As Canada’s leading hospitality recruiting specialist, we understand the importance of creating and supporting a strong community, especially within these challenging times. Hospitality professionals who help their organization build authentic community will succeed in harnessing its immense power. We consistently work with organizations looking for such leaders, with the motivation, knowledge and experience to bring people together in community.

To learn more on this and other hospitality trends and insights you can check out our blog.

Written by Patricia Viscount and Rob Fisher