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Enlightened Hospitality

How can architects and designers infuse the spirit of hospitality into their creations, making spaces that are truly inviting and memorable?


In the world of architecture and design, creating spaces that evoke a sense of hospitality has become an increasingly essential aspect of the industry.

One of the metrics we track weekly at Clockwork is how many books we’ve read as a team and our passion for reading and design often collide. We strive to immerse ourselves in the hospitality industry and draw inspiration from the greats and then apply them to our own service business to deliver unexpected delight.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

An experience becomes memorable when adversity is overcome with grace and speed.

In Thomas Kellher's restaurants, Sense of Urgency is a mantra that means a lot more than moving quickly. At Per Se and the French Laundry, Sense of Urgency means making the task in front of you the most important thing you are doing. For waiters that is making each guest feel that they are the only guest you have on your mind - there is no looking around, talking to other wait staff, signaling for a bus boy, etc. It means you focus on putting that plate down like it is the only thing that matters - and you do it perfectly every time. For a designer it means bringing an intense focus to each project and each conversation. Listen for what’s not being said, leverage the years of experience to look around the corner and anticipate where the next roadblock might pop up.

Danny Meyer is a renowned restaurateur and the mastermind behind the concept of "Enlightened Hospitality." His philosophy revolves around the idea that excellent food and service alone are not enough to create a truly exceptional dining experience. Instead, Meyer believes that hospitality is the key differentiator that sets apart successful establishments.

Enlightened Hospitality, as conceptualized by Danny Meyer, emphasizes the importance of genuine care and attention towards customers, employees, and the community. It is grounded in four primary principles:

  • Putting People First: Success of any hospitality-driven business lies in prioritizing the well-being and satisfaction of both customers and employees. By treating employees with respect, providing growth opportunities, and fostering a positive work environment, they are better equipped to deliver exceptional service to guests.

  • Excellence in Service: Going beyond traditional customer service to create remarkable experiences. He encourages his staff to anticipate and exceed customer expectations, creating memorable moments that leave a lasting impression. He includes a great story about chasing down a hot dog from a street vendor to deliver customer delight, you must read the book!

  • Creating a Welcoming Environment: The ambiance and atmosphere of a restaurant significantly impact the overall dining experience. Spaces that are warm, comfortable, and visually appealing. Attention is given to every detail, from lighting and music to the arrangement of tables, ensuring guests feel welcomed and comfortable. For us this is intuitive, but how many times have you sat in a table where the lighting is slightly off. Too dim or too bright and the experience is ruined!

  • Building Community: Meyer places great importance on the role restaurants play in building connections and fostering a sense of community. By engaging with the local community and supporting sustainable practices, restaurants can contribute positively to the larger social fabric.

Enlightened Hospitality philosophy emphasizes the significance of putting people first, providing exceptional service, creating welcoming environments, and building community connections. By embracing these principles, businesses can create extraordinary experiences that go beyond food and drink, establishing a lasting legacy in the hospitality industry.

Now let’s pivot to another great, most of us know Four Seasons the brand, but do you know the founder Issy Shape?

"Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy" is a book written by Isadore Sharp, the founder and chairman of the renowned luxury hotel chain, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. In this book, Sharp shares the fascinating journey of building the Four Seasons brand and outlines the core principles and philosophies that have driven its success.

The book highlights the following key aspects

  • Customer-centric Approach: Sharp emphasizes the importance of putting the customer at the center of every decision. He believes in providing personalized and exceptional service, tailoring experiences to meet the unique needs and preferences of each guest. This customer-centric approach has been instrumental in establishing Four Seasons as a leading luxury hospitality brand.

  • Employee Empowerment: Sharp recognizes the value of a dedicated and empowered workforce. He discusses the importance of hiring and retaining talented individuals who are passionate about delivering outstanding service. By fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment, Four Seasons empowers its employees to take ownership of their roles and go above and beyond to exceed customer expectations.

  • Attention to Detail: The book emphasizes the significance of attention to detail in creating memorable experiences. Sharp believes that even the smallest elements, such as the quality of linens, the freshness of flowers, or the precision of service, contribute to the overall guest satisfaction. By obsessing over every detail, Four Seasons aims to create an atmosphere of luxury and elegance.

  • Commitment to Quality: Quality is a fundamental principle that Sharp emphasizes throughout the book. He discusses the rigorous standards Four Seasons upholds, from selecting prime locations for hotels to investing in top-notch facilities and amenities. The brand's commitment to quality is reflected in its reputation for delivering unparalleled experiences and maintaining excellence in the industry.

  • Global Expansion and Adaptation: The book also chronicles Four Seasons' journey of global expansion and adaptation to diverse markets. Sharp discusses the challenges and successes of entering new countries and tailoring the brand's offerings to suit local cultures and preferences, while maintaining the core values and standards that define the Four Seasons experience.

In the world of architecture and design, creating spaces that evoke a sense of hospitality has become an increasingly essential aspect of the industry. The notion of hospitality goes beyond providing a comfortable environment; it is about crafting experiences that leave a lasting impression on the individuals who inhabit these spaces. Whether it's a hotel, restaurant, office, or residential setting, the art of hospitality in architecture and design has the power to shape our emotions, enhance well-being, and foster meaningful connections. In this blog, we will explore how architects and designers can infuse the spirit of hospitality into their creations, making spaces that are truly inviting and memorable.

  • Designing for Human Interaction: Successful hospitality design fosters social interaction and creates opportunities for meaningful connections. Architects and designers can achieve this by carefully considering the layout, flow, and arrangement of spaces. Thoughtful placement of communal areas, seating arrangements, and circulation paths can encourage people to engage with one another, enhancing the overall experience of the space.

  • Crafting Memorable Experiences: Hospitality in architecture and design is all about creating memorable experiences that leave a lasting impact on users. This can be achieved through the careful selection of materials, lighting, color schemes, and sensory elements. Paying attention to the smallest details, such as the texture of a wall, the scent in the air, or the quality of lighting, can elevate the experience from ordinary to extraordinary, evoking emotions and capturing the imagination.

  • Blending Functionality and Aesthetics: While aesthetics play a crucial role in creating visually appealing spaces, functionality should never be compromised in the pursuit of beauty. The integration of functionality and aesthetics is vital in the hospitality industry. Architects and designers must strike a delicate balance, ensuring that the spaces not only look inviting but also serve their intended purpose effectively. A well-designed space seamlessly combines aesthetics, comfort, and practicality to enhance the overall user experience.

  • Incorporating Local Culture and Context: In the spirit of hospitality, incorporating local culture and context into architectural and design projects adds a unique touch. By embracing the surrounding environment, heritage, and traditions, designers can create spaces that resonate with the local community and visitors alike. This approach fosters a sense of place and authenticity, enriching the overall hospitality experience.

And for a little more inspiration of how to blend hospitality and design, check out Unreasonable Hospitality

Written by Will Guidara, the former co-owner of Eleven Madison Park (co-owned by Danny Meyer, are you seeing the theme here) the book draws on Guidara's own experiences in the hospitality industry to offer insights and advice on how to create a culture of hospitality in any business.

The book is divided into three parts: The Art of Hospitality, The Business of Hospitality, and The Future of Hospitality.

In the first part, Guidara discusses the essential elements of hospitality, such as creating a sense of welcome, anticipating guests' needs, and delivering unexpected touches. He also shares stories from his own experiences that illustrate the power of hospitality to transform ordinary transactions into extraordinary experiences.

In the second part of the book, Guidara focuses on the business of hospitality. He discusses the importance of creating a strong team culture, building relationships with guests, and delivering a consistent level of service. He also shares insights on how to manage costs and create a profitable business.

The third part of the book looks to the future of hospitality. Guidara discusses the impact of technology on the hospitality industry, and he offers his thoughts on how to adapt to the changing landscape. He also discusses the importance of sustainability and social responsibility in the hospitality industry.

Unreasonable Hospitality is a thought-provoking and inspiring book that offers valuable insights for anyone who wants to create a culture of hospitality in their business. Guidara's stories and advice are both practical and inspirational, and they offer a blueprint for creating extraordinary experiences for guests.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the book:

  • Hospitality is about creating meaningful connections with people.

  • It's about going above and beyond to make guests feel special and valued.

  • It's about treating guests like family, even if they're only there for a meal.

  • Hospitality is a mindset, not just a set of skills.

  • It's about creating a culture of hospitality in your business.

Hospitality design at Clockwork is an art form that extends beyond the mere arrangement of spaces. It is about creating environments that embrace and delight the senses, encourage social interaction, and evoke positive emotions. By understanding the essence of hospitality, we can craft spaces that leave a lasting impact on their users, fostering connections, and creating memorable experiences. Through the fusion of functionality, aesthetics, sustainability, and cultural context, the hospitality industry continues to shape our built environment, enriching our lives in the process.


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