“The True Spirit of Hospitality During the Holidays”

Businesses in the hospitality industry are, well, businesses, but making a profit and making a difference don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Warmth, community, family—they’re all a huge part of what makes a hotel or restaurant a place people want to come back to time and time again, and that sense of welcome is even bigger around the holidays.

Whether you’re looking to approach the upcoming holiday season in a new way or just hoping to amp up your company culture, these ideas could be your ticket to making guests, travelers, and even your own employees feel like they’re home away from home.

Welcome Guests with a Drink
Make like the host or hostess with the mostest and welcome guests with a drink the moment they cross your threshold. A glass of wine, a hot toddy, or a mug of spiced-up apple cider may seem like a small gesture (and it certainly won’t break the bank), but it’s almost guaranteed to inspire big smiles and oodles of goodwill.

Swap Out Separate Seating in Favor of Communal Tables
Restaurant seating is anything but random. It takes a ton of planning to decide where to tuck a two-top without making the diners feel shoved in a corner, and it’s not easy hosting a 10-person bachelor party without dwarfing the couple having date night one table over. That said, the holidays are about togetherness, making it painfully obvious when there’s a single dinner enjoying their turkey and cranberry sauce all by their lonesome.

On major holidays, ditch party-by-party reservations, push all your tables together, and make like everyone is family. You’ll be surprised how quickly strangers become friendly—even more so if the eggnog is flowing—and those singletons who might have settled for a lonely night at the bar suddenly have a reason to celebrate.

Host a Food Drive
There are some 815 million people in the world currently suffering from chronic undernourishment. Think those people are all in third-world countries? Think again. A shocking 20.6% of American households with children lack access to enough food to feed the entire family. Chances are, someone you know might not be able to eat dinner tonight or is planning on going without a meal at all tomorrow. Help out by hosting a food drive. Ask customers to bring non-perishable food items in exchange for some kind of perk; you may offer a free appetizer for every three canned items donated or give hotel guests late checkout. Restaurants can also pick a single menu item and donate a certain dollar amount every time diners order that dish. You’re helping the community, inspiring people to give back, and creating a little buzz at the same time. That’s a win-win-win.

Switch Out Your Products for Seasonal Versions
It’s often the tiny touches that have the biggest impact. Generic products don’t feel very season-specific, but put peppermint soap in your bathrooms and trade in your “clean linen” scented candles for a lightly piney aroma and suddenly Christmas is in the air. You can even adjust the reading material you leave on hotel room desks or on the lobby coffee tables; pick up some lovingly worn copies of A Visit from St. Nicholas, The Polar Express, and A Christmas Carol and leave them out for guests to enjoy.

Host a Locally Minded Gift/Craft Show
If you have space in your restaurant’s party room or in the lobby of your hotel, consider hosting a holiday gift or craft show that gives local artisans and entrepreneurs a chance to show off their wares. Guests will love having convenient access to a wide variety of vendors—especially out-of-towners who don’t have time to hop from shop to shop or who aren’t even sure where to start—and vendors will appreciate the exposure.

Put Together a Gift Guide
A gift guide is a longer-lasting version of the gift show mentioned above. Instead of a onetime event, you can create a digital gift guide (sent via email or available for download on your website) highlighting businesses from across your community. Keep it local, with listed items all sourced from small area businesses, or focus on a certain niche that’s in keeping with your business’s values, such as eco-friendly gift ideas or all French products.

Another idea: a guide full of gifts benefiting charitable organizations. For example, every purchase of a One Hope wine supports pet adoptions while buying this handcrafted planter ensures someone in the Central African Republic gets a week of clean water.

Break Out the Spare Stockings
Not everyone gets to be home for the holidays. Travelers who can’t get out of an important business commitment or who end up stranded by inclement weather are bound to be bummed, and bummed customers are rarely problem-free guests. Lighten the mood with a little holiday cheer, namely stockings you can hang in guests’ rooms. Have your housekeeping team distribute them as part of the normal cleaning routine so they’re ready for new check-ins, or hang them on the outside handle of each hotel room dorm for a pleasant Christmas-morning surprise.

If you’re wondering what to stuff in the stocking, this is a perfect time to do a little cross-promotion with your neighboring businesses. Soaps from the artisan soap maker down the street, postcards from your favorite book store, a sachet of pumpkin pie spice from a gourmet bakery—the possibilities are practically endless, and it’s a lovely way to get lots of people involved.

Provide Spare Winter Accessories and Toys
If you’re a hotel in a colder climate, say the mountains of Western Massachusetts, chances are you’ll see a good amount of snow over the holidays. Guests are sure to feel drawn to the glistening landscape outside, but it’s hard to join in the fun if you failed to pack your snowshoes in your carry-on bag.

Part of hospitality is anticipating your guests’ needs. A stockpile of sleds, extra gloves and hats, and coal eyes and carrot noses for handmade snowmen help guests enjoy outside activities, while spare slippers, cozy blankets, and board games facilitate indoor fun when the weather turns nasty.

Ask for Help Decorating the Tree
Putting up the Christmas tree is generally a family event, so it makes sense that inviting guests to string up lights and fling some tinsel would make them feel very warm and welcome indeed. Restaurants can create a happy-hour event all about trimming the tree; offer drink deals and light passed apps for those who come ready to decorate. Hotels can throw a similar event but target those already booked into rooms rather than the general public. Either way, except lots of photos to pop up on Instagram—and you may just be starting a new annual tradition.

For a twist, make tree decoration a gradual process. Every diner or hotel guest gets an ornament to DIY with their name, hometown, and a message. They hang it on the tree on their way out, and now they’re part of the holidays even after they’ve headed home.

Forget Generic Mints—How About Christmas Cookies?
The whole idea of a mint on the pillow during turndown service is iconic, but it’s also a tiny bit cliché. The thought behind the gesture is wonderful, but an update wouldn’t be the worst idea. This holiday season have the hotel chef whip up a daily batch of sugar cookies or gingerbread men and leave those on a plate on each guest’s nightstand. Milk optional.

Restaurants can do something similar by presenting the check alongside a plate of holiday-themed treats. It’s an unexpected flourish that’s sweet in more ways than one.

Call in the Carolers
Music and the holidays go hand in hand, but piped-in tunes just aren’t the same as a live show. Hire carolers to hang around in the lobby a few days a week (pick your busiest check-in days) or install them by the front door to your restaurant to entertain hungry guests waiting for their tables. It’s a smart way to minimize the aggravation that often comes with delayed seatings or check-ins, and it’s a nice change from the Muzak typically tinkling in the background.

Surprise Kids with a Message from Santa
Reservations that include children are their own little gift. The wonders of the holiday season are born anew when there are little ones around. Every sprinkling of twinkly lights, every Elf on a Shelf, every wonky-looking snowman is extra special through a child’s eyes. Build on that momentum with a note from Santa. Stick with generic content or pull in the parents ahead of time with a quick email survey that asks about a few key details (age, interests, one or two requested toys) and plug the answers into a form letter.
You can hand out the letter when the family checks in, or have the note sitting on the table when they show up for their reservation.

Celebrate Outside the Box
Thanksgiving and Christmas are the big American holidays, but those aren’t the only celebrations infusing this season with cheer. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, winter solstice, Festivus, Chinese New Year, Wren Day, Malanka, and Diwali all happen between November and February. You don’t have to celebrate every culture’s special day; pick those that resonate with your staff or that fit with your restaurant or hotel, then go all out with decorations, exclusive menus, promotional offerings (where appropriate), and events. It’s nice to shine a spotlight on other cultures, and people will sit up and take notice. Inclusion is one of the best illustrations of the true spirit of hospitality.

Invite Santa to Stop By
Free pics with Santa? Yes, please! The North Pole’s favorite resident is in high demand during the holidays, but not everyone wants to brave long lines at the mall to get a photo. That’s where you come in. Host St. Nick at your restaurant or hotel and send out invites. You can make it a closed event, allowing only paying guests to take selfies with Santa, or open it up to the public for a major dose of holiday spirit.

Send Handwritten Thank-You Notes
We send a combined 281 billion emails every day, but when was the last time you got a handwritten letter? How about a handwritten note from a business? It’s probably been years, or more likely never, which is why this very personal embodiment of hospitality is so memorable.

When guests choose to spend the holidays with you, be it as a diner or as a lodger, they’re trust you with something exceptionally important: their memories. If that isn’t worth a thank you, what is?
Hospitality may shine bright during the holidays, but at The Proprietor’s Lodge, it’s a vital part of our guest philosophy all year long. To experience everything our lakefront event and dining space has to offer, visit our Berkshire’s property in person or call (413) 344-9546 to make a reservation.