Can the church learn anything from Walt Disney, Starbucks, and the Ritz-Carlton? My answer is a resounding YES!
I'm beginning (actually, continuing with intentionality) a project that will dive into the world of hospitality and pull key principles that will have application to the church world I live and work in. The motivation for this renewed effort came from great guest experiences over the weekend from two establishments at opposite ends of the dining spectrum: Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Taco Bell. In both instances, the staff went beyond the expectations to deliver exemplary service. You expect it at one, but are surprised at the other, right? Why should price be any indicator of the level of service delivered? What about a place with no "price" at all - the church?
The companies I named in the opening sentence are the primary research targets, but you could say that the hospitality industry in general will be my field of research. My proposition is that the world of restaurants, coffee shops, fine hotels, and the ultimate in customer expectation and experience - Disney - can provide tangible and beneficial principles for the church to adapt in welcoming guests and members alike.
My primary research will be visits to different establishments for observations and interviews - coffee at Starbucks and Panera, meals at restaurants, interviews with management and staff at Disney and the Ritz (I'm still working on an angle to get on-site visits as a business expense!).
Secondary research will include books and periodicals about the companies (I have multiple books on Starbucks and Disney; I just added a gem on the Ritz; a tangent branch of this study includes the science of shopping -5 books; if I continue that line, I'm sure my daughter will be more than willing to "research"!). I will also be following hospitality news via blogs and the Internet.
Another important contribution would be what you, the reader, could generate for me. I have a basic "evaluation form", if you will, that has been adapted from Mark Waltz's book First Impressions. If you are interested in being a "researcher" for me, let me know and I will get it to you for your use during the upcoming holiday season. What am I looking for? Any experience in which you encounter hospitality (or in the worst case, you expect it but don't receive it). Churches would also fit in this research - in addition to being the recipients of the findings, I believe that churches will be a prime area for what is working - and not.
Comments can be made on this blog, or you can reply privately to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share this with as many of your friends as you would like - the more input the better the results will be.