What’s Your Story?

Everyone loves a good story, you just need to read the pages of Hello magazine, or even our own trade press such as the Caterer to see that we like to hear about what goes on in people’s lives behind the scenes, and get a feel for the real person.

And for any hospitality business telling your own story is a great way to engage with your customers – be they existing or potential.

Hopefully your perfect customer is the type of person you want to spend time with, because you have an affinity with them, share a passion, or like to engage with them.

Telling your story is an ideal way to communicate to your customers what you have in common, and what is different about your restaurant or hotel.  Everyone talks about identifying a USP (unique selling proposition) but some business owners find this a challenge.

Telling your story makes it easier as even if your restaurant is almost identical in every other way to half a dozen other hospitality businesses in your town or area the one thing that will make you different is the story behind you, your team and your business. And because you’re talking about you, it’s so much easier to be authentic.

Your story provides a great way to grab people’s attention. It creates a less obvious or blatant way to build your credibility and customers’ trust in you. You are starting to build that relationship, demonstrate empathy and create that sense of belonging for your customers. It’s also a great way to share information, and educate your customers.

Before writing war and peace consider what you want people to remember from your story. Your story becomes a part of your brand; your identity; so ensure people are left with an image that’s congruent with everything you believe in and is important to you. This is your chance to show why you are perfect for your ideal guests or customers. This is the point where you make sure you tell everyone about and demonstrate your difference – in detail.

Describe what you do, who you are, what is important to you, what makes your hotel or restaurant different, what makes you the best in your market or your area or your price range. And don’t be afraid to go into detail; all good stories give detail. The more detail you give, the more compelling the reading, providing it’s in tune with your ideal customers’ needs and interests.

Reflect back on all the things that customers ask you about – the history if the building, the origin of the name, what’s the story behind a peculiar feature, where your meat comes from

Here are some more examples of being different and how telling a story can help.

  • If all your veg comes from local organic farms, or even your own kitchen garden, describe this, maybe even a little bit about the farms, and the gardeners. If you go up to Smithfield to buy your meat tell people why you’re prepared to get up at an unearthly hour and what you look for in your choice, and what makes it so delicious. One hotelier I know even rears his own pigs – the perfect story especially when combined with photos of the pigs running around!
  • If you’ve made efforts to reduce your carbon footprint, detail your goals, what steps you’ve taken so far, the support you’ve had, the changes you’ve made to your systems, purchasing, equipment, and training, and some of the challenges you’ve faced. Tell them about the quirky practices or products you are using, and what customers might see around the restaurant or hotel as part of your mission. What has been the impact to date, and what are your plans for the future?
  • If you’re a hotel and you provide special activities for guests, make sure you tell people not only that you provide them, but go into the details. How did you get involved in this in the first place – maybe a hobby of yours, or from a quirky request from a past guest that led into something more. Talk about the hosts for these activities and their story too.
  • If you provide picnics, tell people what’s included, about the quality of the products, and about how it can make their day special, and what opportunities it opens for their day out. Give some example itineraries, places to go, discount vouchers – the ideal ‘morning for walkers’ or an ‘afternoon out for foodies’. Don’t just end up being the same as everyone else. It only makes your job harder.
  • If you’ve designed all your rooms or your restaurant around a particular theme, tell them how this came about, the research you did, the features you’ve incorporated and the added extras they can expect. If you’ve had a checklist or criteria for your rooms then share this with guests. It’s not to brag, but to show the care, thoroughness and attention that you’ve given to their experience.
  • What’s the history of your building, village or community, and other places of interest associated with them (including places they may be familiar with outside your area)

And don’t forget the individual personalities that truly make your restaurant, hotel or hospitality business unique. What are their stories?

  • How did any of you end up being where you are today?
  • How does your chef get his inspiration?
  • What’s the story behind that exceptional flare of your waiters
  • Who’s the inspiration for your beautiful gardens

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

And the best bit about these is that your team can tell their own stories, to bring them to life.

Once you have your story(ies) you can use them on your website, for PR, in marketing material, in your blog, include snippets in your menus and other onsite merchandising, at networking events, even in sales conversations or speaking… Anywhere you want to engage and get the attention of your potential or existing customers.

You know that even if you’re in a road with 20 other restaurants or hotels, there will be unique personalities in your business or values that you can promote. Now it’s time to tell your customers about your special features and in detail to ensure they book with you and not your competitors. Keep your perfect customer(s) in mind throughout, and show you really understand them.

So, what’s your story? Write up your story to include: what you are selling which is unique, what makes you different, and your passions and values to reflect your identity.

Stop being a shrinking violet, get out there and tell your story!

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2 thoughts on “What’s Your Story?

  1. Joseph Hegarty

    Your challenge is an interesting one, particularly as I’ve been attempting to write my memoir for some time. Don’t worry there is not enough room here for the full story, so I picked out some highlights. I started life as the son of a small hotelier family in the west of Ireland. I moved into vocational education and the to higher education and wound up as Head of School at DIT, Dublin where I spent the next 30+ years. During those years I availed of the opportunity to contribute to hospitality education in some developing countries. My first assignment was to Bali, Indonesia where I spent 7 month engaged in the development of a new hotel school at NusaDua. On my return to Ireland I was invited to contribute to the launching and developing programmes for the Les Roches Hotel School in Switzerland. Following that after a few years I had my second UNDP/ILO assignment in Lagos/Kano in Nigeria as a CTA for a major hotel school development. That project was followed by short term stints as a project evaluator in Uganda, Fiji, and later in the Seychelles. Inbetween I spent a month in Geneva, Switzerland as. technical adviser to the ILO Convention on Hotels, guesthouses and related industries. I returned to Uganda on an EU project to “Kick-start” the national curriculum for hospitality and tourism education.
    In 1990 I was assigned once again by UNDP/ILO to be CTA in Kathmandu, Nepal.
    Meantime I was contemplating the notion that chefs had a more important role than mere “cooking operatives” when I was asked to become a member of a steering committee to develop quality assurances for the whole institute at DIT. The outcome of this exercise was that the institute was authorised by the government to grant it degree awarding powers. Once this steering committee had completed its work my colleagues and I co-authored two books. One was ‘The Story of DIT’, the second was ‘Academic Quality Assurance in Irish Higher Education’. I then set myself the challenge of engaging with my colleagues in the school in developing the first Culinary Arts Degree. I was able to take a sabbatical during which time i wrote a book on ” Standing the Heat” a handbook for developing a curriculum that maximises career opportunities for students through merging traditional apprenticeship/ vocational education and training with a more cognitive education that prepares chefs to be more than mere cooking operatives, and introducing concepts that establish the culinary srts as a discipline deserving of serious scholarly sttention. Prior to my retirement I initiated the heads of a Masters in Culinary Innovation while encouraging my colleagues to educate themselves to the highest standards. In my retirement I have been once again back to Uganda to implement the national curriculum. Once again I was given an assignment to participate in an EU workshop on ECVET in Ankara, Turkey. Now in my retirement I enjoy among other tings these short term opportunities that arise, gardening, and engaging with my grandchildren, the latest of whom arrived this very day. Needless to say I have been blessed by the love and companionship of a wonderful wife Eileen. How’s that for a short story?

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