Small things with big impact

On my travels, locally and abroad, I’ve noticed that there are numerous small things that make a big impact in the hospitality industry.

“Sometimes doing something ordinary a little different makes a bigger impression.” –Renate de Villiers

Here are a few things that caught my attention at different guesthouses, restaurants, hotels and other venues:

A normal cup of coffee becomes more special with a hint of nostalgia:



What could have been a normal champagne birthday celebration became a special champagne picnic at the Kamonande Game Reserve in Limpopo:



Not just the ordinary glass of champagne, but one with an edible hibiscus flower:

Champagne with Hibiscus

Champagne with Hibiscus

A common dinner at a fancy restaurant gets new meaning with entertainment in between. Dinner theater is becoming more and more popular as customers search for new, exciting things to do.

Waiters with some extra skills (like magician tricks or surprise elements) make a much better impression than the usual “can I take your order” attendant.

What small things does your restaurant or tourist destination do to make a bigger impact on your guests?

Let us know your thoughts and ideas by commenting below, or send us your comments via Twitter (@TravellingMG) or Facebook.

For more info about Travelling Mystery Guest, contact Renate on

Hospitality Working Hours – A different approach

In the hospitality and tourism industry it is almost expected that you will have at least one staff member complain about his or her working hours. It’s almost understandable, even though we all knew what we got ourselves into when we took the job.

Still, hospitality hours are hectic and many hospitality experts would agree with me that we need to find a way to make it work for both our customers and our employees. We can’t tell our guests to leave that we can go home now, can we? But we also can’t tell our staff to forget about spending time with their loved ones. We need to find a way to make ends meet.

But how?

Keeping guests and staff happy

Keeping guests and staff happy

Shift work is probably one of the first and best solutions. Shift rotating rosters are probably just as good a solution, if not better. This not only allows hospitality managers to balance the skills of employees during different parts of the day, but it also allows employees to learn about different departments in the industry. This stimulates and motivates them to go the extra mile and it teaches them the versatility of hospitality, allowing them to develop different skills.

Be a soundboard – listen to the employees’ complaints. Many times people just need someone to listen to what they have to say. Who knows – they might just have the ideal solution to the problem.

For restaurants it might be possible to make changes to the opening and closing times of the business. The Whippet Coffee Shop in Linden, Johannesburg, for instance, mentions on their website that

The Whippet believes in a lifestyle approach to business – we believe in giving our staff reasonable so that they can spend time with their families – this means our kitchen and store opens and closes early. This also allows our chef and store owners to keep their passion for the food, drinks and the people they serve. We hope you can share our philosophy on life.”

(See really cool photos of  The Whippet Coffee Shop here: Kikisofpeopleandplaces)

So, what is your philosophy on life?

Share your comments below or chat with us on Twitter (@TravellingMG).

A smile versus true friendliness

In hospitality (and in life) I believe there is a difference between a smile and true friendliness.

Smile VS Friendliness

Smile VS Friendliness

When you get trained in hospitality, one of the first things you learn is to “always smile, no matter what”. So that is what you do. You smile, no matter what. The problem is that we don’t always feel like smiling, so we’ve taught ourselves to smile without emotion. It has become a way of doing in the hospitality industry, which prevents us from sharing emotion with guests. (And sometimes, whether we like it or not, guests want us to share emotion with them, as that is one thing that makes them feel at home).

We must remember that our customers are not just customers, but they are people too. Just as we can feel when they are unhappy, they can sense our fake smiles. Still, no one is perfect and we all have bad days sometimes. All I am saying is that we, as hospitality professionals, should do as much as possible from our side to appear friendly, even when we don’t feel like it.

How can we change our attitude in a matter of minutes?

  • Go for a five minute walk outside. The fresh air might just do the trick. Changing your scenery is the ideal way to get your mind off things.
  • Quickly watch a funny home video or an inspirational video on Youtube.
  • If the reason for your bad mood is the customer, try to fit in a joke in the conversation – that might lighten the mood a little…
  • Quickly listen to your favourite happy song. You can even close the door and pull out a few dance moves if you must. Any kind of exercise for a minute or two could lighten your mood.
  • If you feel you can’t change your mood right away, see if you can’t find someone to assist you with difficult customers for now. If not, at least keep the fake smile then.
  • Make the decision to change your attitude and don’t give yourself time to think about it. Just do it. Changing your attitude changes your day.
  • Talk to children or elderly people – it’s more difficult not to smile at them.
  • Last, but definitely not least, eat a small bar of dark chocolate. Apparently it acts as a natural anti-depressant. (Just don’t over indulge and make sure you’ve wiped your mouth before you interact with guests!)

Do you have any other suggestions?