Today, in an effort to stimulate my creative brain cells, I decided to take my laptop to a local coffee shop across from Forsyth Park. The Sentient Bean is a comfortable, worn-around-the-edges coffee shop with several seating areas. You can settle down at one of the many tables with wooden chairs or opt for one of the comfortable overstuffed couches scattered around the two rooms. Coffee is $1.25, with refills at $0.50 each. You get a real cup if you are “sipping in” with variety of coffees and teas to choose from. Quiet conversations between patrons can be heard above the key tapping on laptop computers, gently adding their own light to the sunlight from the large windows, filtered today by a sky wrapped in blanket of gray and white tweed clouds.
Hotels have always welcomed their guests to sit and lounge in their lobbies or lounges. Comfortable chairs, sofas, tables and chairs made it possible for a guest to escape the confines of their guest rooms, meet with clients or friends, or just have a quiet conversation with someone sitting next to them at the bar. Restaurants and coffee shops are now following suit, realizing that while customers still want the privacy and option of solitude, they like to be in the company of others, feel the energy and break the isolation that so many experience-- Entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their businesses going or need a place to meet prospective clients, home-based business owners who need to escape the proximity and distraction of dirty laundry or dishes piled in the sink. Students looking for a place to have a coffee and a sandwich, meet their friends, do some studying. Desperate housewives dishing the latest with their friends. These are customers in need of services with a side of hospitality.
Sitting here, I am struck by the fact that there are no intrusive wait staff checking back with me every few minutes. Now, in a conventional restaurant, that kind of attention may be welcome, but it can also give the impression that they are rushing you out the door. No one has come to my table to see if I am having more coffee or when I am going to free up this table. I am free to go or stay, and welcome to get some more coffee, have a muffin or sandwich. The atmosphere is more like being in a comfortable home with food available if you want it and no one waiting for you to get up and go. It is home without the solitude and the opportunity for social interaction on my terms.
Social networking is built on the premise that people like to choose who they interact with and share as much or as little as they like on their terms. Judging from the fact that all the tables and couches are filled, the hospitality at the Sentient Bean is just as popular as the coffee and muffins.
Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a workplace consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Hospitalityjobsite.com. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing Alto II with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and creating original gift items available on http://www.etsy.spoolhardy.com/. You can read more of her blogs at hospitalityjobsiteblog.com and view additional job postings on Nexxt.