Hospitality is the New Black

Hospitality is everywhere these days—in the news, television, education, daily discussions, and, yes, even in churches. While the phrase “[BLANK] is the new black” originated in the fashion industry, pop culture has broadened its meaning to encompass any hot new trend. Fads may come and go, but black is a mainstay that works well with everything. The same goes for hospitality, which is applicable in a wide range of business sectors.

“Hospitality” is a word that many use, desire, and want in a product or service but is not always clearly defined. In its basic sense, it is the service of welcoming guests, visitors, or strangers. The action is usually a feeling or description of a feeling—it’s an experience. It can be seen and felt internally. People expect high standards of service and hospitality, and they’re often willing to pay more for it.

“Hospitality to me means making sure your guest is the number one priority,” said Sarah Mathieu, executive assistant of brand coverage at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), a major talent and sports agency. “What you are doing is always about helping the guests. Hospitality is not an obligation. The way you present yourself is natural and very professional. You have to master the craft of being professional by being natural. People try to do it, but when we practice it, it becomes natural. It has become part of me.”

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Similar to the color black, hospitality can stand alone or be paired with something else. The word is creeping into various sectors of business that traditionally have not been used before. It is being added to job descriptions as a qualification. For instance, the career page for supermarket chain Wegmans’ says, “Our restaurants start with bringing hospitality to life,” identifying their jobs as hospitality careers. It’s the new competitive advantage that distinguishes one business product or service from the other.

The sports industry has also taken note of the growing importance of hospitality. Sports marketing jobs that look for guest and client relations have a presence in all 30 NBA teams. For example, Marlene Hendricks, vice president of guest services for the Charlotte Hornets, had a career with Marriott International before being recruited to the Miami Heat and, later, the Hornets. Dashawnda Brown, vice president of corporate hospitality for Madison Square Garden, was once a director of sales at Four Seasons.

While these two women worked in the hospitality industry and then changed sectors, Mathieu, an alumna of Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, leveraged her hospitality education while a student and interned with the Boston Red Sox Foundation in events. This eventually landed her a position in the marketing department at CAA.

“Every interview I have been on, I have been asked, why did you major in hospitality?” Mathieu says. “I think hospitality education crafts you on a holistic level, both personally and professionally, and makes you stand out. It teaches you the intangibles: the people skills and the passion.” These skills are also transferable and crucial to career success in various industries. Caterer.com states that most hospitality employers will be looking for commitment and motivation, interpersonal skills, effective communication, self-awareness, management and leadership, and decision-making ability.

Mathieu believes that hospitality experience gives people realistic work expectations and the ability to build strong business relationships. “You know working is not a 9-5, it’s beyond,” she says. “You are constantly working with new clients, which has really helped me in my jobs. You learn how to [communicate] and get feedback from clients while multitasking. You deal with people more. My hospitality background is a big complement.”

As the ultimate neutral that pairs well with any industry, hospitality is the new black.

About the Author
Erinn D. Tucker, PhD, MBA, MS is an assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Administration at Boston University. Her teaching and research is in the areas of human resources, event management, and student engagement. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida A&M University, a master’s degree in sport administration from Florida State University, and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Winthrop University and Ph.D. in hospitality administration from Oklahoma State University; etucker@bu.edu.

Photo credit: Service bell via Bigstock.

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