How To Be A Good Guest (Consider the Lobster)

Ever consider that receiving service at a bar or restaurant is a two-way street, and you’re on one end? Did you know there is a difference between being a customer, a client and a guest? Have you thought lately about how your actions directly impact your experience? Why is it important to Consider the Lobster*?

Let’s start with defining the Guest, Client and Customer, and why you want to be one rather than the other two:

Customer =   1. a person who purchases a commodity or service (Merriam-Webster), 2. a person or thing of a specified kind that one has to deal with (nice one, GOOGLE)

Client = a person who pays a professional person or organization for services (Merriam-Webster)

Guest = a person who is invited to visit or stay in someone’s home; a person to whom hospitality is extended (Merriam-Webster)

While Customer and Client are both described as performing a business transaction (“buy and you will receive”), the Guest is someone who actively participates by responding to an invitation to spend time with the host in a room or space. The value does not lie in the good or commodity, it lies in the action and manner of spending time together. 

Now let’s reflect on the top reasons we go out to eat and drink (rather than staying at home):

1) To Taste => sensory fulfillment, learn through new sensory experiences

2) To Meet People, To Be In Good Company => connection, recognition, learn through socializing

3) To Travel, To Be Transported => forget the daily grind, dream, tell/hear stories, learn through imagining

You’ll notice that learning is a common theme. It’s true, no matter how mundane or irrelevant, we humans are constantly seeking knowledge. And it turns out, there are multiple ways to learn, not just from person to person, but for each person individually. Some things you just understand better when you taste them, others, when you read about them or by physically going there. Understanding yourself and how you learn is a process, but it’s a fun one and humbling, too. Know your limits to break your limits… or stick to them if that’s better for you.

Be self-aware; that’s nobody else’s job but your own. Your bartender can sum up all their psycho-analytic power and deliver you a bomb-ass Beverage Surprise, but in the end you’re buying a well-practiced party trick (the “read my thoughts” party trick). So just don’t throw it in their face if you didn’t get the surprise you were looking for; appreciate the effort put into trying to meet your needs and making your experience a good time.

Another key word: home. Although the space is neither your home nor the home of your service professional, it’s a great metaphor to keep at the front of your mind, something you might call a “3rd Space”. Treat the situation with the same regard as a real host-guest relationship: give your hosts and their home respect and gratitude. You will be shocked how much unending enthusiasm and generosity come of this. Remember, service is not slavery, and everyone is human- you are not OWED anything, rather you are an active participant in the outcome of your experience whether it be positive or negative, no matter what your role. Even if you are the kind of person who prefers a simple business transaction, taking the time to speak clearly and ask the right questions can set the tone for the entire evening (ex. mumbling something about garlic and then getting a bowl of garlic bananas, when what you were trying to say was “I hate garlic”).

Obviously, some situations fall outside of these general parameters and those experiences cannot always be remedied. This post does not delve into the many ways in which hospitality can fail- the goal here is to address the role of you, the guest, and how you can affect your own good time. Try it.

* Consider the Lobster, an essay by David Foster Wallace, addressing narcissism and self-awareness, among other things… like lobsters and Kafka. Read it here:  http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2004/08/consider_the_lobster?printable=true

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