Anytime a friend outside of the hospitality industry asks me if they should invest in a new restaurant or, god forbid, open their own restaurant my response is NOOOOOO!!! Go to Vegas, put your money on black. Your odds of winning are much higher. Most people don’t understand what it takes to be successful in this industry because they underestimate how much of themselves they have to give.

Success largely depends on the intangible components in hospitality–the secret sauce.

Early on in my career, I fell in love with the energy of the industry. That fleeting moment when it all comes together—the food, the service, the ambience—that moment is energizing, deeply satisfying, and intoxicating. The look on a guest’s face when you and your team have truly nailed it. Knowing that you’ve played a very small part in the creation of a memory for a perfect stranger.

That satisfaction is intangible.

As I progressed in my career I got further and further away from those moments. I started working for myself and rediscovered what I love so much about the hospitality industry. It’s always been about making an impact and the people.

My passion for this industry has shifted to a focus on empowering leaders and executives to be the best version of themselves. I can’t seem to get away from chasing the intangible.

How do you know you’ve nailed it as an owner or executive in hospitality?

How do you know you have a winning business model?

In restaurants, guests keep coming back to your place because it’s like a drug.

Not because it’s trendy, or you got a great review. Sure, that gets them in the door. What keeps them coming back is the full experience. They can’t get enough of your restaurant and can’t quite pinpoint why they’re drawn to your place. It’s illogical. Rarely is it about one thing—food, design, hospitality, service or atmosphere—it’s about ALL of those things, and so much more.

In hotels?

You have no reason to leave. The hotel has thought of everything. Lighting, light switches, outlets, design, music, scent, flow of the public space, food/drinks, programming and most importantly, the people that work there.

Successful, original hotels and restaurants have a unique heart and soul that no one can emulate.

The French call it je ne sais quoi.

The technical, American terms are: culture & brand.

The secret sauce is not tangible.

You’s always about the intangible.

The memory, the experience, the feeling a guest has when they’ve been transported. Once they experience it, they’ll pay anything to have it. Again and again.

Sometimes we get off track in this industry. Investor demands, increasing labor costs, rent, unrealistic demands from owners, etc. All tangible and critical to success. But when the focus on the tangible outweighs the intangible? You’re in trouble.

Do your homework. Know what your strengths are. Ask for help. Understand the business of hospitality. Be original.

Commit to your art. Commit to your vision. Commit to your path. Fight the good fight.

You see, if you focus on the intangible long enough, it will eventually become tangible.