Editor’s Note: The Heart of Hospitality
There was a time when restaurants did not exist. Travelers could get food at inns starting in the 18th century, and the concept of take-out was established in antiquity, with food counters evident in ancient Rome, for example. However, inns and take-out counters are not restaurants. “A restaurant is based on choice more than speed or necessity. Unlike inns or boardinghouses, which served meals at a single stated time, restaurants offered a range of times when patrons could show up and expect food,” explains Paul Freedman in his book Ten Restaurants that Changed America.
By 1830, the first premiere restaurant in the United States was Delmonico’s, which provided “an extensive menu, French cuisine, an excellent wine list, and served food throughout the afternoon and evening,” writes Freedman.
It wasn’t just the food that made Delmonico’s stand out. As Freedman notes, “Delmonico’s did not invent fine food but rather refined it and the manner in which it was served.” The elite left their elegant homes to gather at Delmonico’s—to see and be seen.
The service, which had an impeccable reputation, was a big part of the experience. However, patrons had to follow two basic rules—pay your bills on time and avoid becoming “obviously drunk or rowdy,” writes Freedman. The penalty for crossing these lines was consistent and public. “Arriving at the restaurant, the offender would be warmly welcomed and shown to his usual table,” writes Freedman. “His order would be taken with dispatch, but no food would follow. The waiter would apologize and promise to see what could be causing the delay in the kitchen, but still nothing would come forth. Apologies and promises would go on until the miscreant realized he was never going to be served anything unless restitution were made.”
Devising such genteel solutions to thorny social problems is a relic of the past. Now, the reputation of a hotel or restaurant can ebb and flow based on online reviews and Facebook posts. A single video of a fraught interaction between an employee and a guest can lead to a host of bad publicity. If that employee happens to be a security professional enforcing property rules, lawsuits can result.
In this month’s cover story, Assistant Editor Sara Mosqueda discusses this reputational threat and how security can prepare for and mitigate such coverage. Training security teams to anticipate social media feedback is obviously important, but liaising with those in the company who work on and monitor social media platforms is critical. Experts stress that the security team should reciprocate, informing the head of public relations or social media about any incidents that might pop up on platforms that could affect the brand.
In the end it was Prohibition, not bad behavior, that doomed Delmonico’s. “Federal agents raided Delmonico’s in April 1921, and on May 21, 1923, the last meal was served, accompanied by mineral water,” writes Freedman. Wine, it seems, is even more important than Yelp.