It’s been a restaurant/bar industry trend for quite a few years now to refer to customers as “guests.” It has spread to other retailers as well. I have frequently used this description myself.
We all like the sound of “guests;” it appeals to the welcoming instincts of the retail and hospitality trade. The problem is that it’s not really accurate.
- A guest traditionally does not pay, whereas a customer of a business does.
- A guest is expected to be grateful and appreciative of a host’s hospitality.
- A guest implies a temporary interaction.
I think using “guest” as a description can lead a hospitality professional into having the wrong attitude toward their customers.
I believe the word “patrons” is the best description we can use in the hospitality business for our desired customers, much more accurate and focused than “guests,” or “customers.”
- It emphasizes that we are dependent on the “patron” to financially support our business, which is true and should never be forgotten.
- Whereas “guests” owe thanks to their “hosts,” we as hospitality operators should always be grateful for our “patrons” support, which allows us to prosper in business.
- “Patron” implies a longer term relationship, which we should all be striving for with customers.
- A “Patron Focused Mentality” directs our attention to the customers that spend to actually support our business; not all “guests” are equally valuable. A person can be a customer and yet not be very beneficial to a business if they are cheap, don’t visit regularly, or absorb an unprofitable amount of time, attention and resources. The word “patron” comes closer in meaning to describing someone who is truly beneficial (profitable) to the business.
Using the word “patron” captures the precise meaning of the customers we want and value, and allows us to differentiate them from run of the mill customers or “guests,” who may or may not be valuable.
Using the more accurate term helps us never forget to thank our patrons consistently for their patronage, and work hard to have a long term profitable relationship with our patrons!
And as an unrelated fact, Patron is a heck of a good tequila!
Cheers — TTBG