The Hospitality Professional: Part One

Developing your pre-shot routine

So, there I was, driving in my car. It was a dark and stormy night!

Okay, so it wasn’t stormy, and it wasn’t even dark yet, just one of those pleasant late-spring evenings with the sun just setting and a warmth in the air, with the promise of summer days to come. And I was driving to work.

You see, with the pandemic shutdown, I had been idled from both of my main pursuits, my consulting practice with Raving, and the cigar store/bar I own and operate in downtown Carson City, Nevada. The store had been closed for three months and we were just getting it back open. That meant new procedures, new technology and new techniques. And one of my roles was to work as a server/host on the floor, seating guests, acting as bar-back, server, store clerk, cleaner and all-around sanitizer.

This was ideal for me, as after 42 years in the hospitality and gaming business I like to keep my hand in frontline operations where I started. Plus, the store/bar is a good laboratory where I can test out new theories, tactics and ideas from my consulting work. Always better if you can tell a client that your idea has been tested in a real-life service situation. Plus, I spent many years on the frontline serving, bartending, dealing and supervising. So in a way, it’s like coming home any time I get a chance to work the floor.

Now you know the backstory, so let’s return to that dark and stormy … er, warm and sunny evening.

There I was, driving in my car with my Ray-Bans on. The top was down (yes, it’s a convertible, because I’m a rag-top man). The Hawaiian shirt I picked out was fluttering in the breeze, a surfboard was sticking out the back (okay, nix the surfboard, but I can imagine it, can’t you?). That’s right, I was working on some summer beach mojo, and to cap it off I was dancing and rocking in the driver’s seat to the sound of the Beach Boys blasting out “California Girls” at top volume on the stereo. Thank the stars I wasn’t stopped by a cop, or the night might have ended quite differently. But, as it was, I made it to work in one piece and literally danced my way into the bar. And had a great time. And showed our returning guests, both regulars and strangers alike, that same good … no, make that GREAT time.

Because that’s what they come for. That’s why they’re there … to have a great time.

And as a hospitality professional, I realize that it is not my duty just to serve them accurately and efficiently, but to also participate in creating that great time. And you can’t do that if you are down in the dumps, worried about some part of your personal life, caught up in the mundane boredom of everyday life, or mired in the monotony of a job where you do the same thing over and over and over and over again.

No, you need something else. You need something great, something to get you pumped, jacked-up and ready to hit the floor with the energy and enthusiasm that your guests and fellow associates deserve.

Your role is not as a worker, but a professional, a hospitality professional.

I have written about this many times before, and decided to start a little series on the life and times of a hospitality professional. What do they do that makes them special, that makes them stand out? What are the tips, tricks and techniques they have learned in their quest to become a professional that makes them so successful? You know, the servers who make twice as many tips as anyone else. The shooting stars who work their way into the top levels of our organizations. The inspired leaders admired and revered by their team members since they too were once that frontline team member. Who are the professionals and how do they do it?

Hospitality is defined as … to create an enriching and sustaining environment for others.

And professional is defined as … one who through long years of study, preparation and experience has become an expert in a particular subject or field of endeavor.

So, a hospitality professional is … one who through long years of study and experience has become expert in the act of creating a sustaining and enriching environment for others.

Who are these hospitality professionals I speak of?

Well, you might be one, or the person sitting next to you as you read this on the way to work (or wherever you are). You see, they come in all shapes and sizes, from the housekeeper and room attendant, to the bartender and bar-back. From the dealer and floor supervisor, to the cashier and beverage server. From the executive vice president in charge of operations to the general manager. From the grocery store to the 7-Eleven. From the gas station to the fast food joint. From the high-end clothing store to the four-star resort/casino. You find hospitality professionals at all levels and in all different places.

So, allow me to welcome you to “The Hospitality Professional: Part One.” And I have already painted a picture for you of my first subject, and that is … wait for it …


Or at least that is what I call it.

You see, one thing I have noticed, be it in my own experience or in studying others, is that the professional never leaves their efforts to chance. From the surgeon entering the operating room, to the lawyer entering the courtroom, to the player taking the field, to the hospitality worker entering their workplace or property, they all share one thing in common … they are ready to go. They are pumped up, refreshed and their mind is in the RIGHT place. They have prepared themselves mentally and emotionally to take the stage and flawlessly perform their part in whatever play they are in.

And that’s what I was doing that evening in the car. Pumping myself up. Letting the cares of the day and my personal life evaporate in the sheer joy of bopping to the sound of the Beach Boys and getting my summer mojo on. So, I could hit the floor with the right frame of mind and the energy that my guests and fellow associates expect of me.

Since I am a golfer, I liken it to a golfer’s pre-shot routine

Watch a golf tournament on TV sometime and you will see the same thing from every golfer you watch. Before they hit the ball, they go through a pre-shot routine designed to deliver them to that moment of hitting the ball with just the right physical and mental mindset. They coordinate body and mind to become one and PICTURE the shot they want to make. And then, 99.9 times out of 100, they MAKE it.

Looking back, I really don’t remember when I started doing this, or if I even knew I was doing it consciously. I just knew that my entire shift at the casino went faster, better and with more success when I pumped myself up for work, and it just sort of developed from there. Music is a large part of my routine, as is timing. So that I’m not rushed, I give myself extra time. Even down to the clothes I choose to wear (even if I have to change into a uniform later). And I can assure you, although I like many different genres of music, I was never listening to any blues or sad country songs on the way to work. I even developed some worktime playlists just to put me in the right mood.

If you are to be a hospitality professional, I don’t care who you are or what position in our industry you hold, then you too must develop and execute a pre-shot routine every time you prepare to enter your workplace. Whether you work the floor or the back office or in the executive suite, you are not outside of this critical procedure. You need a pre-shot routine.

What does it look like? What does it consist of?

That’s up to you to develop. But ask yourself, “How will it take me from an average Jane or Joe to a focused, energized, enthusiastic individual ready to hit the ground running in whatever I do?” After all, you wouldn’t want the surgeon who’s about to operate on you to be thinking about her impending divorce while scrubbing up in the washroom … would you?

Enough said, I think you get the point. Many do, but so few ever truly develop this. Oh, a few do, the great ones. SO, if ya wanna be great, you got to enerjate (my new word for being energized, focused and enthused). You gotta have a pre-shot routine.

It is the first step in your day as a Hospitality Pro.

Steve Browne 18 Articles