Hospitality: the perfect recipe does not exist

Meeting a need that the guest didn’t even know he had. If you can do that with genuine interest, then in my opinion you’ve got the definition of hospitality. I told you about this once before in a blog post, in which I wrote ‘Hospitality it should not be a trick‘. These days, hospitality is still an important concept in the facilities management world. We’re all looking for the perfect recipe for the ultimate guest experience. But what does it look like and is it really about that one perfect recipe, or is the art more in the preparation and the ingredients?

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    Rutger Verstegen

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Hospitality: the perfect recipe does not exist

Philosopher's Stone

In my search for the recipe for hospitality, I came across a few figures from a distant past, namely the alchemists. In order to clarify what they were doing, I consulted this century's philosopher's stone:

Wikipedia: Alchemy or alchemy (from the Arabic: al-kimia) was an ancient branch of natural philosophy in which scholars investigated matter in a speculative manner. An important goal of alchemy in Arab and Western tradition was the creation of the Philosopher's Stone, to turn ordinary metals into gold, cure diseases and live longer. To achieve this goal, many Arab and European alchemists relied directly or indirectly on Aristotle's natural philosophy (Physica, Meteorologica), which assumed that each of the four elements could be transformed into another by combining it with a different quality - hot, cold, moist or dry.

Hospitality experiences everyone differently

To this day, no alchemist has been able to manufacture the philosopher's stone. Does the same perhaps apply to creating the ultimate guest experience? Is there even a perfect recipe for this? Take your favourite restaurant visit. For one visitor, the ultimate restaurant experience involves candlelight, music, a host who regularly checks whether everything is to their liking, an explanation of the menu and its preparation and advice on the wine list. However delightful this may sound, someone who is at the same restaurant for a business dinner will experience the candlelight as too dark, the music as too overpowering and the waiter as annoying, interrupting the important conversation at the most awkward moments.

The right elements

If you ask me, there is no fixed recipe for hospitality. There's no fixed mix of elements that tastes good to everyone. It's a dynamic process in which we look for the right elements each time to suit someone's unique tastes. And better still, to exceed them. Translated to the facility management field, it is therefore not necessarily daily cleaning. Of course, daytime cleaning can be the perfect interpretation of hospitality for someone who wants interaction with the cleaner so that specific wishes can be immediately met. Another person, however, experiences hospitality when he or she can sit down at a clean workstation without noticing a thing. In that case, the cleaning must be carried out silently, as with that business dinner. This can also apply to that exaggerated/cute heart in the cappuccino or the time-consuming/comfortable chat at the reception.


Every time, it is about assessing the wishes and expectations of your guest and then responding to them with the right mix of ingredients. The person in question is important. What does he or she find important and what makes this person happy? What do they expect from their visit and how do I exceed that expectation? This personal mix of elements is the key to the recipe for hospitality. In a restaurant, you can come up with a fixed concept of how you treat your guests. If you don't like this concept, you can choose to eat somewhere else or at least organise your business dinner somewhere else. This is not possible in an office building. There is therefore an even greater urgency to respond to the different wishes and expectations of office users.

Is experimentation the recipe?

Constantly experimenting with ingredients in order to come as close as possible to the ultimate guest experience. That's how hospitality works in my view and what ensures that expectations are exceeded. It's not about that one perfect recipe. That seems to be a utopia. As far as I'm concerned, the true meaning of hospitality is the search for the elements that best fit the personal hospitality recipe of the guest in question. And that brings us back to the old alchemists: they may not have found the perfect recipe for the philosopher's stone, but in their search for it they did become the founders of modern physics. And that is worth its weight in gold.

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