The word “hospitality” fuels an entire industry. Restaurateurs and hoteliers are constantly on the hunt for what makes us walk through their doors, and better yet, what makes us come back again and again. But we all can learn from what makes a place inviting or an experience gratifying, whether it’s to host friends for a casual weekend or an all-out cocktail party.
Brian Lee, a veteran in the hospitality industry, has spent nearly two decades as the Director of Guest Services at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, one of the top-rated properties in America. And to him, the origin of genuine hospitality has less to do with business and more to do with building a sense of belonging – whatever the setting.
“I’ve realized that what we are doing is less about luxury and more about maintaining a feeling that Blackberry is a home and our guests are guests of the family,” Brian says.
More than thirty years ago, Kreis and Sandy Beall and their son Sam opened their home to guests, preparing intricate feasts for every person who arrived at their 4,200-acre property in the Great Smoky Mountains. These days, the family continues to awe visitors – not only because they have fine amenities like a James Beard award-winning chef (Joseph Lenn), an expansive wine collection and activities ranging from gourmet cooking to kayaking – but because they cultivate an experience tailored to the guest.
In other words, hospitality has much to do with anticipating and knowing the needs and desires of those around us. “It starts with being a great listener,” says Brian.
And yet, what we offer and the atmosphere we create shouldn’t be arbitrary – it should come from a place of authenticity that reflects who we are as the host. Sam, for example, is a chef by training. His mother spent countless hours in the garden, now kept by a master gardener, which source ingredients for their restaurant, The Barn. Everything at Blackberry Farm emanates from the soul of a family that has long cherished the land, prepared quality food and fostered memories.
Brian attributes such success to one word. “Yes. Genuine hospitality requires a ‘yes’ attitude. In everything we do at all times – whether making a great meal or crafting a challenging activity – we listen and learn what we can do to provide those ‘wow’ moments. And in that way, it really is more about the individual.”
Photo by beall + thomas photography