Get a Master Class in Restaurant Hospitality from Frank Bruni, Gabe Stulman, and More (Videos)

The first-ever Welcome Conference put front-of-house service in the limelight with talks from a range of industry pros.

What is good hospitality at a restaurant? It’s a difficult question to answer because hospitality, by its very nature, is about making people happy. And understanding how to make people happy—particularly in an expensive, over-stressed city like New York—is not an easy thing to do, let alone define.

For some, good hospitality can mean the obsessives at Eleven Madison Park getting their NSA on, Googling you to find out that you tweeted about feeling homesick for Michigan the day of your reservation, and then working some subtle references to the Wolverine State into your meal that night. But it can also be the charmingly weathered waitress at a roadside diner dignifying your loneliness by quietly pouring you another cup of coffee before you’ve even asked for it.

Anyway, enough two-bit philosophizing—some smarter folks than I recently got together at the first-ever Welcome Conference to try to pinpoint the elements that make a customers’ experience at a restaurant special, and to delineate various schools of hospitality. It was sort of like a TED conference for front-of-house workers, with high-profile speakers like Eleven Madison Park’s Will Guidara (one of the hosts), Nick Kokonas (Alinea, Next), and Gabe Stulman giving talks about various aspects of the trade. Former New York Times critic Frank Bruni also took the stage to discuss why waiters, hosts, and maître d’s rarely get the attention that chefs and bartenders do in food media.

Check out some of the highlights from the Welcome Conference below.

Gabe Stulman

Nick Kokonas

Brian and Mark Canlis

Will Guidara

Watch the rest over at the Welcome Conference website.

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