'Serve them, win their hearts'

Ron Burtz

Larry Stuart has been a leader in the hospitality industry for many years and has started up, opened or operated over 60 restaurants, seven major hotels and one airline. He has worked with Walt Disney World, Southwest Airlines and Loews Hotels at Universal Studios, Orlando, and is now author of the book “The Spirit of Hospitality: How to Add the Missing Ingredients Your Business Needs.”
He told a Custer audience last week that his job description includes kissing babies, greeting and cleaning up after guests and busing tables. However, he said at the end of the day the bottom line of his success is “if you love your customers and serve them unconditionally you will win their hearts.”
That was Stuart’s message to about 18 people who turned out for a training event at Crazy Horse Memorial May 3. The presentation was sponsored by the S.D. Department of Tourism and was part of the department’s observance of National Travel and Tourism Week.
Stuart’s presentation, which included a team-building exercise, was focused around seven essential ingredients every business needs, whether it’s a hospitality business like a motel or restaurant or any other kind of industry. He listed those ingredients as kindness, humility, encouragement, generosity, gratitude, accountability and team unity.
“People won’t always remember what you said or what you did,” said Stuart, “but they will remember how you made them feel.”
He also said when a business focuses on building relationships the dollars will flow. Stuart encouraged leaders to write personal notes to their guests, noting that “sending a note for a dollar can bring back $1,000 in return business.”
Stuart complimented the members of the Department of Tourism team who accompanied him on the statewide tour and told the audience, “You have no idea how blessed you are” to have a team like this supporting you.
“South Dakota is on the map,” said Stuart, in terms of its value as a tourism destination in the age of COVID-19. He said, along with his home state of Florida, the state is uniquely positioned to thrive in this year’s tourism season.
“I tell everybody I know about it,” said Stuart.


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