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Monday extra: Welcome to Welcome
A NYC hospitality conference and dueling restaurant tech afterparties
The best thing about restaurant conferences is the food, always. I’ve been to a lot of them; I’ve even hosted one myself. Last week, I attended another, the Welcome Conference in New York City. The best bite of food I had at this particular conference was a piece of stuffed pasta from New York’s Rezdora, served at an after-party thrown by reservations platform, OpenTable. Less than 200 yards away, Resy threw its own party at Tatiana, chef Kwame Onwuachi’s Lincoln Center spot recently named best in the city by the New York Times.
Jokes about the party face-off aside, restaurant technology companies’ support of an event that felt decidedly un-technological was nice to see. For well over three years since the first awful days of the pandemic, restaurant tech has pitched itself on utility and problem-solving. That’s still true, but as it continues to evolve, it’s nice to sometimes see humanity peek through. (In other words: hospitable hospitality tech.)
This particular one-day hospitality business event feels more like a show than a conference. It’s targeted to any business leaders interested in “unreasonable hospitality” as espoused by Welcome founder and Unreasonable Hospitality book author Will Guidara — but at its heart it’s a restaurant conference. (More on that in a minute.)
The word “unreasonable” here stands for going well above and beyond what’s already expected, into extreme surprise-and-delight territory. It’s the point behind Guidara’s message to all business leaders: They should care — a lot — about the people they serve and the people they employ. They should make these people feel exceptionally welcome. They should be… kind.
Those are lessons Guidara honed at the helm of one-time best restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park; they’re lessons he’s spent years spreading beyond restaurants.
This maybe sounds like a lot of warm fuzzies, but it also does feel (really!) like the future of business success. In an increasingly polarized world with bad news at every turn, it’s nice to feel nice. Overly optimistic or not, it’s a message that feels good to get behind.
I shared more about the conference for Fast Company.
Here’s a snippet; click through for more: