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Appetites: 5 thoughts on hospitality

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Nick Rancone at the Corner Table
Hospitality plays a key role in creating a fabulous experience when eating out, says Nick Rancone, who is the owner and managing partner of Corner Table (seen here) and Revival.
Courtesy of Eliesa Johnson

When you're going out to eat, the food and drink are probably on the top of your mind. 

But there's another element that's just as important to a great experience: hospitality.

Nick Rancone has spent a lot of time thinking about hospitality. He's the owner and managing partner of Revival and Corner Table — two restaurants blocks apart on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Here are five thoughts on hospitality from him.

1) Guest experience begins outside the establishment.

The tone is set before a guest interacts with any staff members. Is the restaurant's website easy to use? Is there a parking lot? If so, is it clean? Plowed? All of these things affect a patron's experience.

2) Be nice. 

It seems obvious, but it can be easy to overlook. A smile goes a long way in making someone feel welcome. Plus, it's free.

Nick Rancone at the Revival Restaurant
Nick Rancone pours wine for a customer at Revival in Minneapolis. Knowing what a customer wants before they have ask for it can elevate an experience from good to great.
Courtesy of Eliesa Johnson

3) Mimic a duck. 

Working at a restaurant can be hectic and chaotic, but staff needs to hide that from the guests. To that end, Rancone tells his staff to think about a duck. It can be kicking its legs like crazy under the water, but above it, the duck is calm and collected. The guests need to remain unaware of any bedlam in the kitchen, and only interact with a polite, composed staff.

4) React to the guests. 

Rancone wants to be able to give his guests what they want without them ever having to ask for it. If Rancone notices that someone opens the door for his or her date, he'll approach them more formally. If someone looks nervous or like they feel out of place, Rancone will tone things down and be a little more humble and less formal. 

5) You'll have a better time without your smart phone. 

Rancone is striving for a person-to-person connection at his restaurants, and the cell phone can get in the way of that. That said, Rancone loves Instagram as much as anyone, and welcomes his guests to share pictures from their experiences at Corner Table and Revival. Just consider waiting until you're home to post something. That way you can fully appreciate the experience you're having in the moment.

Use the audio player above to hear the full conversation between Nick Rancone and MPR News host Tom Crann.