Communication in the Hospitality Industry
This handbook forms part of the undergraduate course H01G01 Communication in The Service Hospitality at Glion Institute of Higher Education.
Copyright © 2017 Glion Institute of Higher Education
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.
Very special thanks to Michelle Wells and Phil Wade for checking the proofs and suggesting improvements.
Communication in the Hospitality Industry is intended to help you think strategically about communication and aid you in improving your writing, presentation, and interpersonal communication skills. We will look at a set of “best practices”, communication tools and guidelines that will give you the opportunity to put them into practice.
Learn how to:
- Use effective strategies to communicate in any medium, and in any situation (one to one and groups)
- Write clearly, concisely, and convincingly
- Create impressive presentations that are delivered with confidence and poise
- Give and receive feedback that will improve yours and others’ communication
- Listen for understanding
- Use IT tools that enhance communication in Hospitality
- Work effectively with others in small groups or teams
I wish you much success and enjoyment on this course!
Part 1: Effective communication in the service hospitality.
“[What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
Some men you just can’t reach.”
**]– Cool Hand Luke
1 What is communication?
What does the word communication mean to you?
Take a moment and write down your answer.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of English (2010) communication comes from Latin commūnicāre and means “to share”. It is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.
We can divide communication into three basic parts: verbal, non-verbal and written. There are also many kinds of communication such as business communication and interpersonal communication.
Verbal communication is about speaking, and written communication is about writing (in any medium such as email) but what about ?
Take a moment and write down some of your thoughts.
Non-verbal communication has a lot to do with body language (facial expressions, body posture, gestures and proximity). Strictly speaking, body language is not really a language because it does not have a grammar and does not have an absolute meaning. It is therefore open to interpretation amongst different people and cultures.
According to Paul J. Meyer (as cited in Sayre, 2014), founder of the Success Motivation Institute and author of Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul, ‘communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.’
2 A need for effective communication in the hospitality industry
Can you think of why effective communication is crucial? Take a moment and write down some of your thoughts.
Communication is essential in the hospitality industry. I’m sure you’ve had the annoying experience of not getting what you ordered for in a restaurant or café. Hopefully you’ve never missed your plane or suddenly had to look for other accommodation at your final holiday destination. Miscommunication can be disastrous.
On the other hand, problems arise not only from what we communicate, but also from how we communicate. In an industry where the services we provide are not tangible, how we communicate information is equally important as what we communicate. In my experience, a lot of guest complaints and dissatisfaction arise from the wrong kind of communication. A lack of eye contact, a rude gesture or a slip of the tongue can lead to some very regrettable results.
So what is effective communication? Please write down your definition. Keep in mind that communication occurs not only between the staff and guests but also among colleagues at the workplace
We need to be able to communicate correct and coherent information in a way that is not only polite and professional but also representative of your hospitality business or institution. Effective communication is therefore easily understandable, correct, and tailored to the needs of the recipient (appropriate).
3 Effective communication strategies
A well-known adage in business English is to “know to whom you are writing [communicating]”. We have to know who we are communicating with and tailor our message appropriately in terms of style, register and purpose.
A successful communication strategy begs the question:
‘What is the purpose of your message?’
Here is a checklist of the most important communication strategies for any message:
1. Is your message concise? A good rule of thumb is minimum content, maximum meaning.
2. Is the purpose of your message clear to the recipient?
3. Is your message coherent?
4. Is your message well organised, structured and presented? For example, the correct use of paragraphs, bullet points, the three-part speech etc.
5. Is your message correct in terms of information? Is it precise?
6. Have you tailored your message to the recipient appropriately?
7. Have you chosen the most appropriate medium? For example, sending an email might be more appropriate than a telephone call at an unsocial hour. Furthermore, there is a saying that email stands for ‘evidence mail’ as it provides a written back-up in case of misunderstanding.
8. Does your message represent your business/institution in the best and most professional way? For example, does your message contain the company logo and signature if it is in a written form (email)?
9. Have you communicated all the information that you intended to?
10. Have you provided your name and/or contact details?
Part 2: Writing
“[Writing is refined thinking.”
**]– Stephen King
1 A need for good writing in the hospitality industry
What is ‘good writing’ and why is it important in the hospitality industry? Please write down a few of your thoughts.
The hospitality industry relies heavily on the written word, from warning signs to food and drink descriptions to emails – writing is everywhere, and not all of it is well written. Good writing is not merely the adherence to grammar rules and spelling, it is also comprehensible and engaging. Good writing in hospitality is indispensable as we not only have to be professional but also understandable to a vast variety of customers whose native language may not be English.
I once worked at a hotel that inscribed this sentence under all of their beautiful, little ashtrays:
Stolen at the Tartan Hotel.
Is this an example of good writing? Please write down your thoughts.
In terms of grammar, it isn’t. We require the preposition from instead of at we need to expresses movement. However, do you think that most guests who read this (or stole it!) understand it? I believe most of them laughed out loud – although it has an error (which is unprofessional), it has conveyed the meaning intended, and it is engaging (an excellent way to market the hotel).
In sum, good writing should not only have correct spelling and grammar, but also be clear and concise.
2 Being clear and concise
Imagine that you have just taken a room at a hotel. You’ve had a long journey and you’re therefore a little tired and hungry. So you decide to take a quick shower and then go downstairs to get something to eat and then maybe go for a stroll in the city. But before you leave the room you remember to put all your valuables in the safe. However, you can’t figure out how to operate it and the instructions are long and complicated… Do you see what I mean? No one wants to read writing that will unnecessarily waste time.
If you need to send an important written message and I charge you five dollars for every word you write, I’m sure that you’ll write a very short message that is direct and to the point. And I’m positive that you’ll not waste the reader’s time!
A golden rule amongst many writers is KISS: keep it short and simple. Less is more!
Here is a checklist on how to write clearly and concisely:
– Read your writing afterwards and remove all the words that you don’t need. A publisher once returned Stephen King’s unsuccessful manuscript with the following message: [_ Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft -10%. Good luck _].
– Use short sentences. This is one of Ernest Hemminway’s top tips for writing well.
– Use short paragraphs. According to Stephen King, paragraphs are almost as important for how they look as for what they say; they are maps of intent.
– Use bullet points if you have to communicate multiple instructions. Structure is very important and gives clarity (this checklist is one example!)
– Use simple words that are precise – e.g. write ‘I him’ instead of ‘I called him’ as it may be confusing to people who aren’t native English speakers.
– Use the active voice.
: Rewrite the following sentence to make it more clear and concise.
Consumer demand is rising in the area of services.
: Consumers are demanding more services.
Notice that the same meaning is conveyed in the suggested answer using only five words instead of nine. This second sentence is therefore short and direct.
3 How to write convincingly
As Stephen King (2000, p.307) puts in his non-fiction book On Writing, ‘I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.’ As an English teacher, I have observed that when my students are not confident they often employ tactics that make their writing look unpersuasive and affected. One of these tactics is to use the passive voice.
To quote King (2000) again:
‘The timid fellow writes The meeting will be held at seven o’clock because that somehow says to him, “Put it this way and people will believe you really know.” Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write The meeting’s at seven. There, by God! Don’t you feel better?” (p.295)
We form the passive with be (in the correct number and tense) + past participle (3rd form verb). Many of my students adopt the passive voice without being aware of it because many institutions and authorities still use it.
Imagine that you’re at a restaurant and a waiter spills red wine on your new shirt or blouse. You then later make a complaint to the headwaiter, and he responds saying:
1 I’m sorry that wine was spilled on your blouse.
2 I’m sorry that our waiter spilled wine on your blouse.
Which example would you prefer to hear? I would prefer to hear the second as the headwaiter acknowledges that his waiter caused the accident. The first sentence avoids mentioning the waiter as the headwaiter might be trying to avoid blame – he might even be implying that the fault is yours! This is one of the uses of the passive voice, and as you can see, it has a lot to do with fear. And I think this is what Stephen King meant.
Writing convincingly has a lot to do with sounding natural, being honest, respectful and honest. One particular way of connecting with your readers and sounding persuasive and engaging is to give your writing a human touch. Notice in my own writing above that I used an ‘I statement’ – I wrote: I would prefer to hear the second… I could have just written The second answer is correct.
I also think it is very important that you should have a good grasp of grammar and writing rules. For instance, did you notice that I started a sentence above with And? Yes, this is allowed! As David Crystal (2011) points out:
‘There are sentences starting with And that date to Anglo-Saxon times. We’ll find them in Chaucer, Shakespeare, the King James Bible, Macaulay and in every major writer. And God said, Let there be light … Joining sentences in this way has been part of the grammatical fabric of English from the very beginning.’ (p.9-10)
Part 3: Presentations
“[Presentation = performance.”
**]– Mark Powell
1 What is an impressive presentation?
What do you think makes for an impressive presentation? Please write down your definition.
I think impressive presentations are both motivating and memorable. The best presentations that I have seen took me on a ‘journey’ which gave me special knowledge and insight about a certain topic. The presenter also knew his or her topic very well and had spent a lot of time planning every detail, slide and visual aid. Useful handouts also accompanied the presentation. Last but not least, the presenter used effective body language and appropriate soft skills when interacting with the audience.
These are Kevin Daum’s (2013) 5 Tips for Giving Really Amazing Presentations:
1. Give it Focus – concentrate on your message. Don’t ramble.
2. Tell Compelling Stories – connect with your audience on an emotional level.
3. Give an Entertaining Performance – don’t drone on in dull monotone.
4. Use Media Only to Enhance – don’t go overboard with presentation tools.
5. Create a Worthy Leave-Behind – give your audience something to remember you by.
You can read the article [+ here+].
2 Creating your amazing presentation
The first step in order for you to create your presentation is to consider structure. One way of doing this is to remember the mnemonic Bomber B. It stands for the parts of a presentation in a logical order:
– something that you say or do that has a lot of impact and gets the attention of the audience of the audience, e.g. a surprising fact, a story or joke or audience participation
– thanking the organizers for inviting you (if relevant), a few words about yourself, telling the audience the topic and overall structure of your presentation
– main points of your presentation (three main points is a good number)
– an explanation of how your message connects to the needs of the audience
– examples to make your points clearer
– short for recapitulation
Five-Minute Activities for Business English, Cambridge
1. Keep it simple and concentrate on your core message.
2. Focus on your audience’s needs – what is it that they really need to know?
According to Carmine Gallo (2013), successful presentations are understandable, memorable, and emotional.
Please read the article [+ here+].
– I prefer to give handouts at the end of the presentation as I find they distract the audience. Some may not even stay for the presentation if they get their hands on the handouts!
3 Delivering with confidence and poise
I remember when I participated in Glion’s Got Talent in 2015 with two other lecturers. We performed two songs; ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and we came second and won a prize (a coffee machine!). I believe we delivered that performance with confidence and poise mainly because we had rehearsed a lot. I don’t really know how well the other acts had rehearsed but I’m sure we were more rehearsed than everyone else, and we had planned our performance in every detail.
Your presentation is a performance. And I’m sure that every performance needs to be planned and rehearsed to some degree.
Can you think of any other tips you would give to your classmates on how to deliver with confidence and poise? Please write them down.
Here are my other tips on how to be more confident and in control of your feelings and behavior:
1. Know how to use your presentation tools effectively – I like to use a wireless remote PowerPoint clicker (Logitech) so I can shift slides from anywhere in the room. The clicker also comes with a laser pointer so I can point out something on the slide without having to use my hands which is not accurate and does not look very professional.
2. Record yourself – a video recording of yourself will show you what you’re doing wrong. Oftentimes, you will notice that your body language is not optimal. It will also show you mistakes that you were not aware of.
3. Remember: this is YOUR presentation, you are in control, and you have something important to say!
4. Organize yourself well and be ready for any technical glitches
Part 4: Interpersonal communication skills
“[Most people do not listen with the intent to understand;
they listen with the intent to reply.”
–] Stephen R. Covey
What do you think you have to do in order to listen for understanding? Please write down your thoughts.
Listening is one of the most important soft skills. This is one of the accounts about listening that Dale Carnegie (1936) mentions in his bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People:
‘Midnight came. I said good night to everyone and departed. The botanist then turned to our host and paid me several flattering compliments. I was ‘most stimulating.’ I was this and I was that, and he ended by saying I was a ‘most interesting conversationalist.’
An interesting conversationalist? Why, I had said hardly anything at all. I couldn’t have said anything if I had wanted to without changing the subject, for I didn’t know any more about botany than I knew about the anatomy of a penguin. But I had done this: I had listened intently. I had listened because I was genuinely interested. And he felt it. Naturally that pleased him. That kind of listening is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone.’ (p. 272-273)
Listening requires your full attention and your body language (eye contact, facial expressions, nodding) will give out signals to your interlocutor. Whether you are listening to a hotel guest, colleague or teacher, be aware of how you listen, which is of crucial importance. Does your body language and minimal responses (mmmhm, yeah, uh-huh) show you as listening? And even more importantly, do you understand what is being said to you? Refusing to listen to someone is simply disrespectful and your interlocutor will gauge your response. Your interlocutor may even throw you a question (as an English teacher, I do this all the time to check for understanding)!
According to Andy Eklund (2014), ‘the biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.’
Please read his article .
2 IT tools that enhance communication in hospitality
Can you think of any IT tools that enhance communication in hospitality? Please write down some examples.
There are many IT tools that can enhance communication in the hospitality. We could basically sum them up into five categories:
1. E-mail system
2. Phone system
3. Website (along with social media and mobile apps)
4. File-sharing system (such as Filecloud, Dropbox and Google Drive)
5. Customer relationship management system (CRM)
Please read Phil Bickerton’s article ‘7 Technologies That are Transforming the Hospitality Industry’ [+ here+].
What do think about number Smart appliances (no° 7)? Do you really think they could effectively enhance communication in the hospitality industry?
As our technology becomes more sophisticated, it is worthwhile to remember that how we use these tools will be crucial in delighting the customer, and ensuring optimal.
3 Working effectively with others in small groups or teams
Can you think of a time when you were part of a team or group that worked effectively together? Please write down your experience.
I remember having to prepare for a ball when I was an apprentice at the Dolder Grand Hotel in Zürich. At our team briefing, we were all given our roles and were informed that our goal for the evening was that the ball should run smoothly and that the guests should be delighted. On that evening I remember that the kitchen communicated well with the service, we were organized with regards to time management and the entire staff collaborated to make the evening a success. This would be my example of effective teamwork.
Please read Tara Duggan’s article [+ ‘How to Work Effectively in a Team Environment’+]
Communication, collaboration, time management and business acumen are indeed essential. In addition to these points, I think that team members should be strategically placed in roles that they are exceptionally good at. Therefore, I think it is important to know your colleagues and to plan with them strategically. It also goes without saying that soft skills are also important when working in a team.
My maître d’ always used to say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and I think this nicely illustrates the importance of teamwork and the need for everyone to perform their part to the best of their capability.
A group differs from a team in that group members usually have their own specific tasks or responsibilities. You could say that team members are dependent on each other whereas group members are interdependent or even independent.
Bickerton, P. (2015, January). 7 technologies that are transforming the hospitality Industry. Retrieved from [+ http://www.hospitalitymagazine.com.au/management/7-technologies-that-are-transforming-the-hospitali+]
Carnegie, D. (1936). How to win friends and influence people. London: Penguin.
Crystal, D. (2012). The story of English in 100 words (2nd ed.). London: Profile Books.
Daum, K. (2013, July). 5 tips for giving really amazing presentations. Retrieved from [+ http://www.inc.com/kevin-daum/5-tips-for-giving-really-amazing-presentations.html+]
Duggan, T. (2017). How to work effectively in a team environment. Retrieved from [+ http://smallbusiness.chron.com/work-effectively-team-environment-57331.html+]
Eklund, A. (2014, April). Listening to understand vs. listening to reply. Retrieved from
Gallo, C. (2013, February). The three basic secrets of all successful presentations. Retrieved from [+ http://www.inc.com/kevin-daum/5-tips-for-giving-really-amazing-presentations.html+]
Huwyler, P. (2016). Teaching Hospitality English. Bern, Switzerland: ReNovium.
King, S. (2000). On writing: a memoir of the craft. New York: Scribner.
Oxford Dictionary of English. (2010). Oxford Dictionary of English (3rd ed.). (2.0.2). [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from
Sayre, J. (2014). Effective communication [PDF document]. Retrieved from [+ http://www.virginia.edu/finance/focus/presentations/effective-communication-sayre-fall-2014.pdf+]
Communication in the Hospitality Industry is intended to help you think strategically about communication and aid you in improving your writing, presentation, and interpersonal communication skills. We will look at a set of "best practices", communication tools and guidelines that will give you the opportunity to put them into practice. Learn how to: • Use effective strategies to communicate in any medium, and in any situation (one to one and groups) • Write clearly, concisely, and convincingly • Create impressive presentations that are delivered with confidence and poise • Give and receive feedback that will improve yours and others' communication • Listen for understanding • Use IT tools that enhance communication in Hospitality • Work effectively with others in small groups or teams