Season 2 Episode 3

"Unreasonable" Hospitality:
Being Nice & Cozy

“Unreasonable” Hospitality: Being Nice & Cozy

Season 2 Episode 3

About The Episode

In this engaging episode, Will Guidara, a pioneering figure in the world of fine dining and hospitality, and the author of “Unreasonable Hospitality,” joins hosts Connie Fontaine and Harry Cohen. Will delves into the philosophy and practical applications of 'Unreasonable Hospitality,' sharing impactful stories from his career, including the origins of his concept and how it can be applied beyond the restaurant industry. The conversation also covers the importance of hospitality in creating meaningful relationships, the impact of small gestures, the forgotten art of friendship, transforming criticism into thoughtful guidance, and maintaining a balance between perfectionism and kindness. We’ll also gain beautiful insight into what Will’s working on now. We learned so much from Will, and true to his reputation, he left us feeling nice and cozy.

Connect with Will Guidara

"I believe that almost without exception, every single one of us does the same thing for a living. We're in the business of serving other people... And we all have this beautiful opportunity to make the choice about whether we want to do that through the lens of service. Or through hospitality."

- Will Guidara, Author and Restaurateur

Season 2 Episode 3

Episode highlights

1:44 Introduction and Welcome
2:34 The Power of Hospitality
5:03 Defining Hospitality
6:50 Real-Life Stories of Unreasonable Hospitality
7:50 The Impact of Caring
10:58 Creating a Culture of Hospitality
11:36 Systemizing Hospitality
12:25 The Oscar Experience
18:49 Learning from Mistakes
24:48 The Origin of Unreasonable Hospitality
32:16 “Crushing” Simon Sinek
32:56 The Welcome Conference and Simon’s Involvement
34:48 The Birth of ‘Unreasonable Hospitality’
42:14 The Tension of Perfectionism: Collaboration & Empowerment
43:04 Criticism is a Gift
48:00 Intentional Friendships and Their Importance
55:02 Supporting Friends Through Loss
63:20 Closing Thoughts and Gratitude

Discover More

About Will Guidara

Will Guidara is the author of the National Bestseller Unreasonable Hospitality, which chronicles the lessons in service and leadership he has learned over the course of his career in restaurants.

He is the former co-owner of Eleven Madison Park, which under his leadership received four stars from the New York Times, three Michelin stars, and in 2017 was named #1 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. 

He is the host of the Welcome Conference, an annual hospitality symposium that brings together like minded people to share ideas, inspire one another, and connect to build community.

A graduate of the hospitality school at Cornell University, he has coauthored four cookbooks, given a TED Talk on the secret ingredients of great hospitality, was named one of Crain’s New York Business’s 40 Under 40, and is the recipient of WSJ Magazine’s Innovator Award.

Full transcript: Will Guidara

[00:00:00] Will Guidara: I actually believe that almost without exception, every single one of us does the same thing for a living.

We’re in the business of serving other people and we may be selling them different stuff, but we’re all in the business of serving them. And we all have this beautiful opportunity to make the choice about whether we want to do that through the lens of service. Or through hospitality. Do we wanna raise the level through which we do it?

And I think that’s a beautiful thing. 

[00:00:27] Harry Cohen: Ladies and gentlemen, that was Will Guidara and what he just said is a sample of what he’s going to share with you on this upcoming podcast. Will is a renowned restaurateur and author of the best selling book, Unreasonable Hospitality. He’s also the former co-owner of Nomad and Eleven Madison Park, which was rated the best restaurant in the world under his leadership.

[00:00:50] Connie Fontaine: He’s also gone on to host the Welcome Conference and has a brand new hospitality group uniquely called “Thank You”. And I would also say what a wonderful guest he was warm and kind and welcoming and so generous with his time and his spirit.

[00:01:05] Harry Cohen: In fact, he wrote us this beautiful email at the end, thanking us And he wanted to give all three of us a big hug. The third person is our producer, Ashley, and he made us feel exactly like he talks about in his book and his work . And so we’re going to let you guys hear everything he has to offer.

I’m excited to share this with my team and listen to it for the third and fourth time to hear what we can take away from it. It is rich.

[00:01:39] Connie Fontaine: lots of beautiful nuggets, and let’s share this with everybody right now.

[00:01:43] Introduction and Welcome

[00:01:43] Connie Fontaine: Good morning.

[00:01:44] Harry Cohen: Good morning. Will, it is such an honor and such a privilege and such a delight that we get to chat with you about your book and much more. Let me give you a brief introduction. Then we’ll get into some of your amazing work and accomplishments. Will, you are considered a pioneering and influential figure in the fine dining and hospitality industry known for your innovative approach and creating a memorable guest experience, your bestselling book, unreasonable hospitality has taken the world by storm.

You’re a generous leader in the hospitality industry and much more. You grew up on the business side of the restaurant world under your dad, who’s also a restaurateur and leads a restaurant group. And your dad is your role model, and we are just honored as hell that you agreed to do this. Connie,

[00:02:33] The Power of Hospitality

[00:02:33] Connie Fontaine: Well, yeah, good morning. I mean, what we’re I think most excited about, will, is to help proliferate your story, your message because it piggybacks on so much of what we share on a daily basis. And yet it takes it to another level. You know, Simon Sinek. In the forward it was really clear that this is for everybody.

This isn’t just the restaurant business. And that’s part of why we’re so excited about this because not everybody knows that. And this applies to doctors, real estate agents, you name it. And so we want to get into that with you today. And I think we’re going to make a big difference for our listeners.

[00:03:06] Will Guidara: Well, I’m so excited to be here. And I have to say that the energy that the two of you bring through a screen, it’s like a warm bath on a cold day. I feel very, I feel, my, my three year old daughter recently has learned the words nice and cozy. Which is the most hilarious and endearing thing to hear a three year old girl say she’ll wake up in the morning and she’ll be like, Dad, let’s get a blanket and get nice and cozy.

And I feel nice and cozy with the two of you. So I’m excited for this conversation.

[00:03:35] Connie Fontaine: the best compliment in the

[00:03:37] Harry Cohen: Really? And, you know, it cuts right to the chase of our mission, which is your mission, which is to spread this to the world, way beyond the hospitality industry, and that feeling of nice and cozy. How cool is that, that, that you feel it. Cause that’s our mission. It doesn’t matter what we say. It doesn’t matter what we do as Maya Angelou said it’s, how do we make people feel?

And that’s our life’s work. Getting that to more people with the. The simple tips and ideas and stories that will nudge everybody to say, you know what, I can do a better job of making people feel nice and cozy.

[00:04:24] Connie Fontaine: You know, that’s going to be the, that’s going to be the term of the day. You know

[00:04:26] Harry Cohen: Totally don’t think that this won’t be the point. You know what I mean? We say, Connie and I were talking this morning in preparation for this and You know, we love your work, but we love our work. And Connie said, well, this is, you know, his stuff is be the sun, not the salt on steroids.

And it really is, it gives such practical application to how we make people uplifted and feel great. And. We’ll get into the stories of how you have done that and how you are doing that and our purpose. 

[00:05:02] Will Guidara: what,

[00:05:03] Defining Hospitality

[00:05:03] Will Guidara: You know, what’s so funny is one of the things I try to do. You know, on your phone, you have the notes app, right? Where you can just constantly kind of have an ongoing stream of consciousness. And one of them on my phone, one of the pinned ones is called definitions of hospitality. Which I think is important.

I think that if anything matters to you, you should challenge yourself to Say it in different ways, or re articulate it in as many different ways as possible, because the better you are at articulating something, the better you become at compelling those around you to embrace it. And so after this, I will add hospitality is making people feel nice and cozy.

[00:05:41] Connie Fontaine: Nice and cozy. I love

[00:05:42] Harry Cohen: And it really is and ever new and the ways to apply this are infinite. 

[00:05:50] Will Guidara: Yeah. I think talking about this and in different ways, I’m curious about some of those definitions of hospitality. Do you have any of that were in your notes that you think about

Yeah, I mean, let’s see, hospitality is cozy?

being creative and intentional in pursuit of relationships. Hospitality is about making people feel seen. Hospitality is setting expectations. Hospitality is extending an invitation. Hospitality is a dialogue, not a monologue. Hospitality is I mean, I could

[00:06:26] Connie Fontaine: Yeah. No, I love

[00:06:27] Harry Cohen: mean, 

I’m going more, please, more, please. 

[00:06:30] Connie Fontaine: Well, and as a restaurant owner, Harry, you specific, like I connect on it on so many levels will, but I mean, I think within your restaurant, you’ve seen that come to life too.

[00:06:39] Harry Cohen: I mean, I want to marinate in each one of those phrases. 

 I gave your book to several people and I own a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And I said, listen, I’m doing this podcast with the author.

You’re kidding me. No. 

[00:06:50] Real-Life Stories of Unreasonable Hospitality

[00:06:50] Harry Cohen: So did it impact you in any way? And two different people that just, it just. It, here’s the part I love. It’s not that we don’t know that it’s true. We know how true this is, but that it can make people behave different, better. One guy, one of my servers, he’s a professional server. He said 

I had this couple and they wanted a Manhattan with two cherries and I gave him three cherries because of the book. You know, now seriously, and then he said, they gave me a huge tip.

Ta da. Okay. And my bar manager, second degree sommelier. Somebody wanted, I guess, a drink with ice cream. We didn’t have ice cream. He went down to the gas station and got ice cream for that couple,

[00:07:37] Connie Fontaine: Not a hot dog, but ice cream.

[00:07:38] Harry Cohen: Not a hot dog.

[00:07:39] Will Guidara: No, but that’s beautiful. This is, can I say just a

[00:07:44] Harry Cohen: yes, you could say anything.

[00:07:46] Will Guidara: First of all, to anyone listening to this right now. 

[00:07:49] The Impact of Caring

[00:07:49] Will Guidara: If you’re questioning whether there’s relevance in this conversation to what you do, I actually believe that almost without exception, every single one of us does the same thing for a living.

We’re in the business of serving other people and we may be selling them different stuff, but we’re all in the business of serving them. And we all have this beautiful opportunity to make the choice about whether we want to do that through the lens of service. Or through hospitality. Do we wanna raise the level through which we do it?

And I think that’s a beautiful thing. I think what I wanted to do with the book and those two stories are beautiful affirmations for me that it’s working is one, there’s so many people out there that actually understand this intuitively, but they perhaps needed someone to put a little intention to their intuition or to help them articulate what they understand in their heart and in doing so make it easier for them to bring these things to life. And

[00:08:50] Connie Fontaine: Sure. 

[00:08:50] Will Guidara: Other people who just need permission because I think we live in a world where it’s not cool to try too hard sometimes, or it’s not cool to go above and beyond.

And I think we need to reframe what is cool and give people permission to follow their heart and actually be the try hard. Remember, like in high school, you were like, you’re a nerd if you tried too hard. Right. And I think there’s a part of us that never stopped. being high schoolers. And so my hope was like, that this book could give a lot of people permission to say, Hey, it’s actually kind of cool to do this stuff.

And don’t be embarrassed in wearing your heart on your sleeve and just kind of go for it.

[00:09:37] Harry Cohen: You said it in your book, which is making it cool to care and caring we say is a learnable skill. We can make it cool to care. We can teach people how to care more. And you said, allow their heart to be expressed. One of the things that, Mindy Holman, who brought us together she’s the chairman of the board of the company that we work with. You know, she brought your book to a shareholders meeting a year ago.

And she said, I challenge you all to find ways to be unreasonable in your expressions of love, truly caring for each other, your families. Customers, your communities, and it grew and grew and that notion to be unreasonable in the expression of your love is what we all want to do. It’s been around for thousands of years.

All the sages have spoken about this.

[00:10:34] Connie Fontaine: And it’s the other important point that Will makes is that it’s not just about that experience that you’ve given. It’s how it makes you feel to have done it. And it’s about all the people around you and the teamwork that it inspires 

[00:10:44] Will Guidara: Yeah.

[00:10:45] Connie Fontaine: You saw that in your own restaurant too, didn’t you? As you started making customers feel seen and heard it sounded like the team started to make each other feel a little more seen and heard, as well. 

[00:10:55] Harry Cohen: 

[00:10:55] Will Guidara: Well, yeah, I mean, I think it’s like anything. 

[00:10:57] Creating a Culture of Hospitality

[00:10:57] Will Guidara: You end up in a world Where every one of the team is more engaged with their work. You end up in a world where every one of the team is more fulfilled by their work.

You end up in a world where it’s just more fun. And, the byproduct of that, actually, as strange as it might seem, is that you’re also making your customers really happy. But I, I think that the satisfaction of the customer is a byproduct of everything else.

What I love about your appreciation board, which, by the way, my, my team always goes through all the messages and then everyone’s Oh my gosh, well, this one’s so cool. We have to do this one. You gotta meet these people.

[00:11:36] Systemizing Hospitality

[00:11:36] Will Guidara: I believe you can systemize all of this stuff.

And in fact, you need to systemize it. And you systemized the expression of gratitude, right? Like we talk about creating these practices all the time in life. People create practices and meditation every single morning. I’m going to wake up and before I have my coffee, I’m going to do 20 minute meditation or every single day I’m going to get on the Peloton for 30 minutes or every single day, I am going to write in my journal, but. You can create just as much of a practice around hospitality and gratitude and appreciation and all that stuff simply by putting systems in place. And honestly, some of the most effective ways to get people addicted to this stuff is when you start with a system.

And so I’ll give you an example. 

[00:12:25] The Oscar Experience

[00:12:25] Will Guidara: I spoke at Sundance film festival last year. And anyone who flew anywhere in the year 2023 can attest the fact that flights were severely delayed. That one was especially delayed. I think the flight was delayed like seven hours. I got to the hotel at four in the morning and I’ve been staying at a lot of hotels recently and one of the pet peeves that I’ve developed is how lengthy the check in process can be.

Where they want your email and your cell phone number and your wife’s maiden name and all this nonsense. And like it feels like it’s just endless. And so I’m, I wake up. in the back of this car at four in the morning in front of this hotel and walk in bleary eyed, readying myself for that process. Cause I’m always very careful in spite of the fact that it has become a pet peeve to not take that out on the person following a set of rules, cause it’s not their fault.

And I need to be patient in those moments, even if I’m feeling impatient. But I walk in, And there’s a guy. Just standing. The only guy left in the hotel. He was the overnight manager, Oscar. And he’s standing inside the door and he just has a room key. And he said, Mr. Gadara, you must be exhausted. Here’s your room key.

Go get some sleep. We can check in the morning. Caveat. He did not know who I was. He wasn’t doing that because he knew who Will Gadara was. I was just the last person to check into the hotel. So it was clear. Went upstairs, fell asleep right away. Feeling like warm. And cozy, right? Nice and cozy. Because sometimes it’s those simplest gestures that can be the most profound when they hit you in the moment where you need them the most. Fell right to sleep. The next morning, I have never been more excited to check into a hotel. I ran downstairs, excitedly, gleefully checked in, and then ran around the hotel to find the general manager.

Finally found him, and I was like, dude. Dude, Oscar. I mean, he’s definitely the best employee you’ve ever 

had. Like you’ve got to give this guy a raise. He would not believe what he did. It was unbelievable. And he goes, yeah Oscar’s great. I’m probably not going to give him a raise, but also that thing that he did had nothing to do with Oscar. And I was like, what? Apparently the delays into Utah were actually really bad, worse than in most parts of the country throughout the entire year. And so some number of months earlier, they sat down, they had a meeting. With the team and they said, how do we systemize some hospitality into our reaction here?

And that’s what they came up with. If you checked in after I think it was two in the morning, they just gave you the room key, let you go to sleep and they check in the morning. Breaking a ton of rules, by the way. That’s not really allowed in hotels, but they chose to prioritize people over policies.

It’s a beautiful thing. He went on to say, this is actually where I’m going to make the point of the story. That Oscar wasn’t actually that hospitable at all when, when they started this program.

[00:15:15] Harry Cohen: Wow.

[00:15:16] Will Guidara: But once they created a framework within which he was asked, forced to operate, and he started to get addicted to reactions like the one I had, he started to become more and more hospitable and through drawing within the lines of the system they created, he was increasingly compelled to color outside of the lines and find unique opportunities to deliver gestures of his own.

[00:15:43] Harry Cohen: That’s beautiful. I am inspired by that story to look for more ways myself to do more of that because I always go to the, How do we help people? Myself mostly, but others as well. We’re in the business of being and doing, being and teaching. I want to be hospitable myself. I want to be loving and kind. I want you to feel warm and cozy. How do I create? How can I create more systems so that I do that more effortlessly and easily, and now can I get more people to do that? So that’s a whole new world for me.

[00:16:25] Connie Fontaine: it was not just listening. Like you talk about active listening and how important that is. This is anticipated through probably active listening to people who weren’t so happy to have to stand in line at two in the morning and check in. So

[00:16:37] Will Guidara: It’s just simple pattern recognition. It’s just looking for recurring moments and figuring out how you can be more in your response.

[00:16:46] Connie Fontaine: yep.

[00:16:47] Harry Cohen: I’m thinking about a salesperson in the car industry. Okay. Now you, it’s beautiful, there’s a hundred million little contact moments of repetitive opportunities to do that.

It’s how do we create the Oscar experience, which will be forever called the Oscar system.

[00:17:08] Will Guidara: And the smallest things go a long way. You know, it’s so funny. Here’s an opposite example in the car business. My, I have lived in New York City for basically my entire life since I graduated college. And so we didn’t need cars. We didn’t have cars and then my wife opened a bakery in Los Angeles.

I opened a hotel in Los Angeles and we figured we should get a little house. So we just got a little bungalow in L. A. Now we need a car. And my wife is just so amazing and impossible to buy gifts for, by the way, because she just wants for nothing. She does not like really any, she doesn’t like clothing or jewelry or bags or anything.

And so now we’re finally getting kind of our first car, but we’ve done well in life. And so I’m like, all right, what do you want to get? And she’s: I want a two door Jeep Wrangler. That’s the car I’ve always wanted. I’m like, all right, well, this is a cheap date here. All right, let’s do it. So we, let’s do it.

We have a weekend off and I’m like, we’re getting the car today. We’re going to find somewhere that can sell us this card that’s going to be our, you know, mission. And so finally we find someone to get the car and we find this dealer and they’re so lovely. Honestly the hospitality there was pretty extraordinary.

Gave us a drink, whatever, just the warmth, the kindness, the whole thing, finally get in the car. So excited to drive off the lot. And then the last thing they said was, Hey, there’s a gas station two blocks down. You have just enough gas in the car to get you there.

[00:18:39] Connie Fontaine: Whoa. Oh,

[00:18:41] Will Guidara: And that was the end of the experience.


[00:18:43] Harry Cohen: Oh, beautiful. Oh, is that good? Oh, is

[00:18:47] Connie Fontaine: how Well, but

[00:18:48] Will Guidara: It’s a how not to. 

[00:18:48] Learning from Mistakes

[00:18:48] Will Guidara: And by the way, you can learn just as much from the people you don’t want to emulate as you can from the people that you do.

[00:18:53] Harry Cohen: Oh, I like that.

Ooh, I there’s, there there’s a scientific principle someone came up with to define how human beings remember experiences. It’s called the peak end rule and they remember it based on the peak.

[00:19:09] Will Guidara: So what I mean by that is whatever the furthest deviation from zero for better or worse. And then the very end. And this dealership, it was like watching an amazing gymnast at the Olympics who does everything right. And then just totally flubs the landing. Right.

And that’s the only thing I’ll actually ever really remember about buying a car there

[00:19:34] Harry Cohen: Wow.

[00:19:34] Will Guidara: 50 bucks.

[00:19:36] Connie Fontaine: would be memorable.

[00:19:37] Harry Cohen: That story is such a beauty for so many reasons. You know, morals and stories, the morals that I took are, Oh, wow. I was waiting for you were cruising along. And then, you know, the opposite of the stick, the landing, I was wondering where’s it going to go?

Ow. And we all know what’s going to happen. That feels like with the now make sure you know, make, I added 20 percent onto your bill and you didn’t know that,

[00:20:03] Will Guidara: Yes.

[00:20:04] Harry Cohen: The awful and great principle, great illustration. And for me, we can learn as much from things that go poorly. As we can from things that go well and take the lesson from that for ourselves.

When somebody drops the ball there, but for the grace of God go I, I’ve done that. And I might do it again. And I want to learn not just from their screw up, but from my own. And I don’t

[00:20:31] Will Guidara: And yeah. And like the way you’re inspired by that, this is now cause inspiration can be passive or it can be active. Right. I think way too many people receive inspiration passively, which is if you just listen to that story, wherever you are, you’re like, wow, that’s crazy. Yeah. You can learn more.

That’s inspiring. But okay, great, now what happens? Nothing. Or you can say, let’s make this an active pursuit. So if I own a car dealership, now, what I’m thinking is I’m gonna have a team meeting, and I’m gonna share that story, and I’m gonna challenge the team to spend an hour brainstorming. How do we do the opposite of that? The opposite of that is, by the way, not giving them a full tank of gas. That’s not the opposite of that because that’s whelming. They did something underwhelming. Full tank of gas is whelming. How do you actually take that exact moment and that experience and make it overwhelming? And by the way, that’s where it gets fun.

[00:21:27] Harry Cohen: love 

[00:21:28] Will Guidara: Because if you’re selling cars, you don’t get to do the fun part of designing the fender or designing the dashboard like that. I would love to design a car. How fun would that be? We don’t get to do that. There’s other people that have spent their entire careers getting to the point where they’re allowed to do that.

But we can design this part, which is, what is the experience of driving off that lot feel like? And,

[00:21:53] Connie Fontaine: Yeah, they were giving you your wife, her dream car. I mean, that was an opportunity to celebrate, take a picture for her, draw a picture, 

[00:22:00] Will Guidara: like the entire dealership out there clapping, confetti cannons, whatever it is 

[00:22:04] Connie Fontaine: or some version, whatever they heard was important to her.

[00:22:07] Harry Cohen: so, I mean, we always, we’re always looking for ways to up the experience of delivering this. What I will call love, you know, true, caring and compassionate love for others. We went to a workshop, our leadership team years ago. It was actually nine years ago, we went to a four seasons and they gave a little talk and he said three things and I can remember this today, you know: Get it right. Get me right. Wow me, if you can. Just get it right, just deliver the thing that I ordered. Yeah. Get me right. Just know me. If I ordered black coffee, they know that I don’t like cream. And then wow that last one, wow man, if you can, and that’d be, and then a not nice little nugget. Get it right.

Just, you know, if I ordered 

[00:22:50] Connie Fontaine: The bare minimum. Yeah. 

[00:22:51] Harry Cohen: ordered eggs, don’t give me French toast. Get me right. Know a little bit about me. And then the third, wow man, if you can, gives license to do it in a creative and beautiful way. It doesn’t matter how, so

[00:23:06] Will Guidara: Yeah. 

[00:23:07] Harry Cohen: it made 

[00:23:08] Will Guidara: I love that. I just wrote that down. Hey, by the way, I just, I want to finish this. The opposite of sending people away with an empty tank of gas would be, Hey, you just got a car. You’ve been wanting this car for a really long time. Go on a joyride on us. Here’s a 50 Amex gift card to refill the tank once you drain it on your joyride.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

[00:23:28] Harry Cohen: Totally.

[00:23:29] Will Guidara: then I’d be just cruising around, because they’re giving you actually two things. They’re giving you a tank of gas, but that’s not what they’re giving you. They’re giving you the permission to just go. Go on a joyride, which by the way, there is something with the etymology of that word that every single car dealership should lean into, a joyride.

[00:23:46] Harry Cohen: right, right, right.

[00:23:48] Connie Fontaine: Well, I think you put an exclamation point after the point that was made with the four seasons story. And that’s how that last moment happened. So even if they wowed you yesterday, but you checked out today, how do you make that person leave feeling that? Wow. And that’s, I think that’s what I just took away, Will, was like, every last moment with somebody is the opportunity to leave them with something special. And I think that’s what I would be inspired to do.

[00:24:14] Harry Cohen: And I want to do that with every exchange that I have with every human being.

[00:24:18] Connie Fontaine: I mean with all people

[00:24:19] Harry Cohen: I want people to feel what it means to be inspired to be the sun. I want people to go, I mean, you said such a sweet thing to us to begin with. It was so lovely. I feel like mic drop. Okay, we’re done. You know, we’re done.

[00:24:32] Connie Fontaine: But if you’re not nice at the

[00:24:33] Harry Cohen: That’s right. I mean, I hope, I hope, I hope at the end of the podcast, you still feel the same way. Do you still love us? Do you still feel warm and cozy?

[00:24:44] Connie Fontaine: Do you know, I don’t know if we did a good enough job setting up the origin story too. 

[00:24:48] The Origin of Unreasonable Hospitality

[00:24:48] Connie Fontaine: I mean, I would love for people to hear your idea around the whole paradox around unreasonable hospitality, you know, where it came to you. I love the hot dog story. 

I’d love for you to set that up because people will buy your book after listening to this, but I’d love to give them a reason why.

[00:25:04] Will Guidara: No, for sure. So I’ve been at, I’m a restaurateur. I’m not sure. We dove so quickly into the conversation. I run restaurants. I have my entire life. And I was at a restaurant in New York called Eleven Madison Park, and it was kind of a mediocre restaurant, but we had these ambitions of making it one of the great restaurants in the world, and got all the locally available accolades.

Four stars from the New York Times, three stars from Michelin, before we finally landed ourselves a spot on the list of the 50 best restaurants in the world. And we went there full of excitement and enthusiasm, only to come in last place on that list the first year we were there. I quote my dad often, one of my favorites of his quotes is, Adversity is a terrible thing to waste. You can’t always control what life throws at you, but you can control how you allow it to challenge you, what you learn from it. How you kind of use it to fuel your competitiveness. And honestly, I look back now with hindsight and really feel that coming in last place that first year was the best thing that could have ever happened because it lit a fire in us.

And here’s the deal. The idea of being the best restaurant in the world is kind of patently absurd, right? There’s too many restaurants. It’s too subjective. When you earn the spot, the top spot on that list, what it actually means is that. You were the restaurant having the greatest impact on the world of restaurants at that point in time.

And so literally that same night that we came in last place, I, I wrote on a cocktail napkin, we will be number one in the world. I really do believe you can talk things into existence. If you set audacious goals and are patient in your pursuit, you can accomplish just about anything. If you’re willing to commit yourself enough to the cause.

And, but a goal that a strategy is nothing more than a pipe dream. I needed to know what our impact was going to be. And every other restaurant that had topped that list before us was run by a chef who is unreasonable in pursuit of their product and relentless in pursuit of change and that night I decided our impact would come through being unreasonable in pursuit of people and Relentless in pursuit of the one thing that will never change, which is our human desire to feel seen to feel cared for to feel a sense of belonging to feel welcome And so that’s where unreasonable hospitality came from. Those two words I wrote on that same cocktail napkin. And then it was a matter of figuring out what did that mean.

[00:27:27] Connie Fontaine: What that meant. 

[00:27:31] Will Guidara: a lot of people hold themselves back hold

themselves back in life because they don’t start pursuing an idea until they fully understand it. I actually think you just need to start pursuing ideas and trust in the fact that they’ll reveal themselves to you fully along the way. And so with the team for years, we just started trying to figure out what this meant. And the light bulb moment, which has become kind of the story of the book that a lot of people have taken away with it from it happened one night or one day, it was a lunch service and the team was just getting crushed, right?

It was busier than normal. And so I was in the dining room, busing tables, which is what I do to support my team when they’re busy. With intention, because I think that one of the greatest things a leader can do is do the most menial task to support the people on their team. It not only gives you the best sense of what’s actually happening in your business to do the thing at the very front of the frontline, but it also sends a meta signal to your team that no matter where you are within the hierarchy, you’re never going to ask them to do something that they are not.

You’re never gonna ask them to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. And while I was at this table, clearing their appetizers, I overheard them talking. And they were a table of four foodies, from Europe, on vacation to New York, just to eat at restaurants. And they had a trip of a lifetime, and they were talking about it.

They’d been to Le Bernardin, and Daniel, and Per Se, and Jean-Georges. Anyone listening who doesn’t know what those restaurants are, trust in the fanciness of the names that they are some of the best restaurants. They had the trip of a lifetime. But then one woman jumped in and said, Yeah, but you know what we never had was a New York City hot dog. And it was just one of those lightbulb moments, and I dropped off the plates, ran outside, got a hot dog, ran back inside. Then came the hard part, which was convincing my fancy chef to serve it in our fancy restaurant. But I convinced him, and he cut the hot dog up into four perfect pieces, and added a little swish of ketchup and mustard, and perfect little quenelle of sauerkraut and relish to each plate.

We made it look very fancy. And then before their final savory course, which was our signature honey lavender glazed muscovy duck that had been dry aged for two weeks, I brought out what we in New York call a dirty water dog to the table, and they freaked out. I think, Athletes always go to the tapes when they’ve had a bad game to see what they did wrong to try to make sure they don’t repeat those mistakes.

None of us go to the tapes often enough when we’ve had a good game to see what we did well to make sure we keep on doing that thing. That’s how you take these almost accidental moments and grab onto them and hold onto them. And so we unpacked the hot dog and put a system behind it and that truly started the new path that we were on and opened all sorts of doors and the rest you can read about in the book.

[00:30:21] Harry Cohen: It’s, you know, it’s such a beautiful story and illustrates the essence of what you’re saying. And we were reviewing and preparing for this podcast and rewatched the episode from The Bear, one of our favorite TV shows to, to show that it had legs. The cool part about this is the fact that the TV show, The Bear took that concept and brought it to life.

The, The part that excites me about this, you cannot repeat it enough. You can’t remind each other enough. I’d forgotten that scene. I was reminded. I was like, Oh my God. Yep. They referenced Unreasonable Hospitality.

And as I, and brought, but the cool part about this work.

Is that why we’re doing this is to find new ways to say it again, to be creative in the expression of this work so that we can find more better ways to do that hotdog story, our own version of that hotdog story. It’s whatever it is for each other. 

 Will, your work has inspired us. And I want to just tell you that our connections are interesting in that Simon Sinek, I was at a retreat 10 years ago, and it was this listening retreat that we were inspired to do something massive in the world, and lo and behold, 10 years later, here we are.

And Simon helped you in the forward to the book, articulate your beautiful mission. 

[00:31:54] Will Guidara: You were with Simon at Massive? Okay. Do you want to know something?

[00:32:00] Harry Cohen: you were invited. This

[00:32:05] Will Guidara: Oh, this is funny. So it’s a longer story about me pursuing a friendship with Simon. Actually, I’ll tell you real quick because it’s fun. 

[00:32:15] “Crushing” Simon Sinek

[00:32:15] Will Guidara: I was not at the restaurant one night. Simon Sinek came into the restaurant.

One of the people on my team texted me they’re like Simon Sinek’s here. And I was like, oh my gosh, like I wasn’t in New York City. And so in my world, my – not my industry, my company – if I text you the words “crush him,” it means do everything to make sure he leaves like there is no world where he’s not going to leave thinking we are the best restaurant in the world like crush him.

And so I said crush him

[00:32:43] Harry Cohen: by the way, I’m stealing that

[00:32:47] Will Guidara: And so the next day asked my assistant to find Simon’s email, email them. And then I said, hey, I hope you enjoyed the meal. It’s such a pleasure to have you in. I’m sorry I missed you. 

[00:32:56] The Welcome Conference and Simon’s Involvement

[00:32:56] Will Guidara: Now I have a conference called The Welcome Conference that I host in New York City. And it’s a big conference. We keep tickets very low in their prices.

We can’t afford to pay speakers what they would normally get. But in this moment, And by the way, that night I’d done, I knew who Simon was obviously, but I did a much deeper dive on Simon from whatever hotel room I was in. And I was like, I need Simon to speak at the Welcome Conference. And so Simon and I met for a coffee at the Nomad and eventually, with his sister Sarah, and eventually I pitched it. And he did the, oh yeah, that sounds cool, let me think about it, I’ll get back to you. Which was his way of saying, I’m going to say no, but I have no desire to say no to you now. But I was like, no, I’m going to, I’m going to get him. And so I emailed everyone in my entire company. I said, if anyone ever sees Simon in one of our restaurants, you need to text me right away.

And so I got a text. We had a restaurant in Aspen, EMP Winterhouse, it was a seasonal pop up, and Simon was at a six top, not under his name, he was there with someone else, and I said, crush him, and then, at the end of the meal, go up to Simon and say his dinner’s with my compliments. So, Simon, he wasn’t there under his name, and so, at the end, someone goes over and says, Mr. Sinek, Will’s so sorry he couldn’t be here. Tonight’s with his compliments, and he just turns, he’s sitting next to his sister, and he goes, Well, I guess I’m speaking at the fucking welcome conference. And so, so, so Simon speaks, we become very close friends. He asked me to go to speak at Massive and this must be

[00:34:30] Connie Fontaine: That’s funny.

[00:34:31] Will Guidara: 2018. 

[00:34:33] Harry Cohen: Way after mine. Yeah,

[00:34:35] Will Guidara: so you know how Massive works. It’s 20 people there and it’s like kind of a salon of sorts, but it seems, I don’t know if this is always the case, but he had three people do a little mini presentation. 

[00:34:47] The Birth of ‘Unreasonable Hospitality’

[00:34:47] Will Guidara: The year I was there, the theme was loyalty and he asked me to speak and I spoke. And at the end he and his publisher, Adrian Zachheim said, that’s a book.

You need to write a book. And so unreasonable hospitality only exists. Because of the 20 minute talk, I did a massive. So we were both at the place that gave birth to this book.

[00:35:06] Harry Cohen: Seriously. I mean, I was there five years before or four years before, and it was a listening focus with Bill Ury, Harvard Negotiation Project. The focus was listening. And from that. It inspired me. I’m ready to make a difference in this world. 

 I mean, give Simon some love for what he has done, is doing, did do, and will continue to do. And 

[00:35:33] Will Guidara: I’ll see him tonight. 

[00:35:35] Connie Fontaine: Not, 

[00:35:35] Will Guidara: So I’ll send him your love. Yeah.

[00:35:37] Connie Fontaine: Well, it’s not nearly as impressive, but when I saw Harry speak on this whole platform around Be the Sun, Not the Salt, I said, that’s going to be on t-shirts all over the world. I want to help you.

[00:35:46] Harry Cohen: and

[00:35:47] Connie Fontaine: So that, hence the book, but it’s not nearly as cool as Simon Sinek telling you should

[00:35:52] Harry Cohen: on a second. I mean, talk about massive. No, what? No, it is as cool because this, to your point, this earlier point, what is our true mission here? We want to make this a household expression that people can imbibe and get and lean into forever. There’s 8 billion people in the world. They can understand this simple concept of be the sun and not the salt.

And until I die, that is our mission. You talk about big, hairy, audacious goals. It seems silly to put it out there. No, it doesn’t. It feels like, let it be

the way 

[00:36:31] Connie Fontaine: Yeah. 

[00:36:31] Harry Cohen: of the world. People can understand.

[00:36:33] Will Guidara: it out there

[00:36:34] Connie Fontaine: You know, we didn’t intend, but children like your daughter have picked up on this vernacular teachers, parents have started to use the book because the graphically, the cover says everything it needs to say, look, kids get it right away. You want to make them feel like this, not like

[00:36:48] Harry Cohen: One, one little girl said, you know what, I have to be aware of the soil that’s dry so that I can water that person’s soil their, their metaphor of being aware of another to be that extra kind. And so, You know, I feel such a kinship for our collective mission to, to do this work and our intertwined values are so beautifully aligned. 

[00:37:18] The Philosophy Behind ‘Thank You’ Hospitality Group

[00:37:18] Harry Cohen: So let me ask you, Will, you started a new hospitality group called “thank you”. Not “you’re welcome”. Could you speak to that? Because it had to be an intention. 

[00:37:27] Will Guidara: yeah. Well, I’ll tell you. The word you’re welcome, that phrase, I’ve always actually struggled with. When someone says thank you, you’re welcome. I don’t know, I like the word welcome. When someone’s entering your space, you’re welcoming them. But so, that’s almost an aside. The Welcome Conference, that’s all about hosting and hospitality and welcoming people.

Thank you… I saw a lot of people succeed in the restaurant space. And, Get to the point where it’s impossible to get a reservation at your restaurant, right? Start to almost act as if when a guest is lucky enough to get a reservation they should be grateful to be there. And I owned the number one restaurant in the world. It was the hardest reservation in America to get and what was always very important to me was that me and every single person on our team always felt grateful that someone chose to be with us and never fell into the trap of feeling like they should be grateful to be with us.

And so Thank You is a hospitality company that is based in gratitude that no matter what we do or ever come to achieve, we will always feel grateful for anyone who chooses to grace our doorstep.

[00:38:49] Harry Cohen: Mike drop. I love that. And didn’t know that. And man, is that beautiful?

[00:38:57] Connie Fontaine: can I ask you, well, as you’ve been teaching, you know, and spreading this yourself, is there anything surprising that you’ve learned from other people

[00:39:05] Will Guidara: I mean, that’s what I try to do in the newsletter and with Unreasonable Hospitality out in the world.

There’s all these little nuggets that i’m picking up along the way Just trying to share them in real time I think what, it’s funny, I was having a glass of wine, I’m in Austin and there’s a woman who used to work with me is now running a bunch of restaurants here, we had a glass of wine last night and she was telling me about a new Italian American restaurant they opened in Austin and she was, you know, as one does when you’re talking to someone that used to work for, you want to brag a little bit and talk about the stuff that you’re doing that is perhaps inspired by them.

And so she was telling me about their moves. Like the, when we say moves, like these are little things that we’ve designed into the thing. You don’t use them all the time, but they’re there. They’re in the toolkit. They’re ready to be deployed at any given moment’s notice. And so they always have a bouquet of red roses behind the bar at this Italian American restaurant with a very specific purpose.

That if there’s ever a couple having a date at the bar, the bartender just grabs a red rose out of the bouquet to give it to him. It’s a move, right?

[00:40:13] Connie Fontaine: hmm. 

[00:40:13] Will Guidara: and So the most inspiration I get is by seeing a move that someone else has and then figuring out how to deploy it in a different way within my world or use it to inspire other people in other industries to deploy differently in theirs.

And there’s

so many of them out there. Yeah. 

[00:40:33] Harry Cohen: I just stole that. That’s such a beautiful, just that concept of look for moves. Have your eyes peeled, you know, Mindy talks about, have your eyes peeled for opportunities to uplift and be helpful. Have your eyes peeled for moves,

[00:40:48] Connie Fontaine: I mean, I think seeing that deployed at your restaurant, Harry would be different, there’s a version of that move. That’s what I love about it. It’s feasting off the idea and making it yours,

[00:40:56] Harry Cohen: And I mean, the crush it I just stole. From now on, it will, the same mission, which is: Oh man, I can just use that to help make somebody’s evening. Oh my god. Thank you!

[00:41:10] Will Guidara: Yeah. And you only say crush it when you’re really like, not everyone gets a

[00:41:13] Harry Cohen: No get them in. Get this four top, get this is a two top, get them in. That’s not no, it’s 

[00:41:19] Will Guidara: Get them a reservation, give him an extra dessert or crush it. 

[00:41:23] Connie Fontaine: Crush it. There’s several levels. 

You know, you mentioned, Will, the Unreasonable Hospitality out in the world. And for our listeners, if you’re not following Will on social, you should. That’s where you get those moments of inspiration. And what I love is that you’re sharing other people’s inspiration from you. It’s how are people finding it in the world or using it in the world. And, I love those. So Instagram, LinkedIn, I don’t know where else you post, but that’s where I follow.

[00:41:49] Will Guidara: Yeah. That and then the newsletter, which I do called Pre Meal, which comes out every two weeks, which people can sign up for it on, which is less stories, of unreasonable hospitality, but it’s more just like to the point of keeping your eyes peeled. I saw this, I was inspired, and this is the lesson that I want to pay forward through it.

[00:42:10] Connie Fontaine: All right, great. That is good.

I think Harry, go ahead.

[00:42:13] The Tension of Perfectionism: Collaboration & Empowerment

[00:42:13] Harry Cohen: let me ask you, Will, how do you deal with your perfectionism and still be the beautiful, kind,wonderful human that you are.

[00:42:26] Will Guidara: I think one of the best pieces of marriage advice I ever got was, you’re a good husband if you can wake up every single day and make the choice to pursue your wife. But it’s a daily pursuit. You don’t just figure it out and then you’re good. And that is most certainly true with me about this. My, I will spend the rest of my life walking the line between these two sides of who I am.

One is like this person who loves to support and empower and give agency and autonomy to the people around me. And then the other is this person who has some pretty intense OCD like tendencies and likes everything to be exactly a certain way. And by the way, both of those things are very important parts of why I’ve been successful.

You don’t achieve the levels of excellence I have without being that excellence focused, without striving for that level of perfection, and you don’t create the kind of cultures that I’ve created without understanding the power of collaboration and empowerment. Yet, those two things are not friends. They don’t actually go naturally together. But that’s not a bad thing, I think it’s actually a good thing, because the success I’ve found with the people I’ve worked with has not been in spite of that tension, it’s been because of that. I think, if you are not pursuing two conflicting goals and embracing the tension between them, you are not fully unlocking those two things. the potential. And so, yeah it’s, it’s walking that fine line and recognizing that in some there’s going to be days where I walk it just right. And there’s going to be other days where I fall off in either direction and the falling off isn’t what defines me. It’s how I get back onto it and, and what I do. In order to get back onto it.

[00:44:33] Harry Cohen: I love that point, which is we will always fall, mess up, cross over the line, it’s doing the next right thing, or apologizing well or clean up the mess we just made. We will, the beauty of that is that the screw ups are our greatest teacher. They remind us more than we need, you know, we don’t need anything other than our screw ups and they’ll be like, Oh, right.

Oh, right. 

Thank you.

[00:45:03] Will Guidara: Yes

[00:45:03] Criticism is a Gift

[00:45:03] Harry Cohen: We talk about be the sun, not the salt. And the salt is very deliberate in that we say, and I know cause it’s empirical, that negativity, disrespect, unkindness, uncivility, or you would say sarcasm is really bad. It’s that example of you don’t have any gas in your tank.

It really stinks up the joint and makes people feel horrible. So never, that’s the aspiration, never salt people’s roots. Can you speak just a smidgen about that? Because in the restaurant business, but in life in general, people go, well, you know, sometimes you gotta, you know, rip them a new one and no. You know, you know, you talk about how to give feedback and criticism is a gift, but never make people feel like crap.

Can you speak a little bit to that?

[00:45:52] Will Guidara: Yeah. Yeah, I think like with many important things there’s nuance because sometimes you need to rip people a new one? Okay, often you need to give people thoughtful criticism. I’d say all the time concurrent with consistently giving them showering praise. I don’t think a culture can do anything of consequence if it has not built a culture where feedback is normalized, where people are not only receptive, but are also seeking out feedback, both positive and constructive.

And I think that criticism is so important because it praises affirmation. Criticism is investment. We don’t grow in the absence of criticism. People telling us when we’re falling short or when we’re just not living up to our full potential. But it’s like anything, it’s not only what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it.

[00:46:54] Connie Fontaine: Yeah. 

[00:46:54] Will Guidara: are giving people constructive criticism in pursuit of helping them grow, that is one thing. If you’re tearing them a new one, it’s just to make them feel like shit. And then what are we really doing here?

[00:47:05] Harry Cohen: Mm hmm.

[00:47:07] Will Guidara: Now what you said before you, you quickly alluded to it that I always talk about this idea that criticism is only thoughtful when you do it in the right way.

And I have rules of criticism, criticize the behavior, not the person, criticize without emotion, criticize in private, not in public. And the point of all that is that, listen, hospitality is being intentional in pursuit of relationships. We come up with all these moves when we are intentional in our pursuit of how you kind of craft the most incredible experience and we need to be just as intentional in how we craft an experience of growth for the people on our team.

[00:47:41] Harry Cohen: Oh, I love that. I love that. Be just as intentional in how we craft a moment of growth for members of our team. Now, that’s true for parenting, too. It’s true for how do you talk about something 

[00:47:54] Will Guidara: So yeah, that’s how I feel. Yeah. It’s about like any relationship. 

[00:47:59] Intentional Friendships and Their Importance

[00:47:59] Will Guidara: We, Simon and I are going to be at this little conference together and with my wife, we’re doing a three way conversation about friendship. And it’s going to boil down to that exact same thing is how are you more intentional in pursuit of friendships because that is actually the one that has fallen by the wayside a little bit like, there are all of these thought leaders around how to be the best parent. There’s, I don’t know, I’d imagine that’s a multi billion dollar industry on how to be the best spouse. There are increasingly more around how to be the best leader and the, like all these different things. But yeah, I don’t believe you can live a fulfilling life without good friends. And no one is talking about how to be more active in pursuit of friendship. I don’t know how I fell into that line of thinking, but I’m 

obviously thinking 

[00:48:53] Harry Cohen: no, We, because it’s pure and good. And, you know, you follow where the juice is, and the juice is. 

[00:49:02] Will Guidara: Oh, intention! Just the intention.

[00:49:04] Connie Fontaine: Yeah. 

Yeah. Well, in our member Duncan Campbell, Harry, when we talked to him old, wise, beautiful philanthropist that we’ve spent some time with. He’s got an amazing cause. Friends of the Children. It’s a national organization of which we also brought a chapter to Detroit. And that was one of the things he said.

He wanted to share wisdom with listeners that said, value your friendships. He’s got friends that are maybe not as successful, not as involved with many other things. But those same friends have been his friends. And don’t they have one night a week? 

Anyone that can get together gets there. And it’s that intentional moment for him. And that was a Brilliant little moment with him.

[00:49:43] Harry Cohen: and another great one is Arthur Brooks. He’s, you know, wrote this book From Strength to Strength is the latter years of your life. What have you learned? How can you know, be successful and happy and fulfilled? And friendship is nutritious and as important as exercise and sunlight and everything else.

So this investment in deepening. Our friendships, you can, you know, talk about systems in place and structures and ways to make those friendships enduring and rich and rewarding. I mean, I have the Friday night testosterone club I’m doing for 40 years, which is,

[00:50:19] Will Guidara: I love that.

[00:50:20] Harry Cohen: we go out and go to movies that, you know, like roadhouse and, you know, lethal weapon, 17, you know, all of that movies that our wives are not going to see, but that, that It’s an ongoing ritual of connection, and it’s usually involving dinner and then ping pong.

But it’s really deliberate, the structures that we put in place, to your point, to make that

[00:50:44] Connie Fontaine: Will, are we going to be able to listen to this conversation that you and Simon and your wife are doing? 

[00:50:49] Will Guidara: I don’t think this is going to be recorded. No but Simon and I are, it’s just become a thing we’ve been talking about. I would imagine there will be something we put out into the world 

[00:50:57] Connie Fontaine: Alright. 

[00:50:58] Will Guidara: at some point.

[00:50:59] Connie Fontaine: Is there a nugget right now you want to share about this intentional friendship piece and what you’ve been thinking about?

[00:51:05] Will Guidara: I mean, just like the different moves, right? Like one of the things, I mean, what you just shared about the Friday night testosterone club, what a beautiful example. During COVID, I mean, you remember. When COVID first started, we all had those zooms where we were all just dialing in and connecting with people that we loved with no agenda outside of a desperate need to feel connected to other people.

And I was with a group of friends. There’s a restaurant in Seattle called Canlis Restaurant, which I think is one of the great restaurants in America. And Brian Canlis, third generation owner, he and his brother Mark run the restaurant now. Brian was my roommate in college.

And there’s this thing called the Canlis Board. That’s an independent restaurant. They don’t need a board of directors, but we have a board. And it’s me and a guy named Randy Grudy, the CEO of Shake Shack. And this guy, Tom Clifton, it’s like a group of us. We’re all very close and it doesn’t happen anymore.

Which is a part of the point I’m about to make, but for a long time, we would have a Canlis board meeting every year and we’d spend three hours talking about the restaurant and then three days just pouring into one another.

Anyway, on this first Zoom. Matt Canlis is the oldest of the Canlis brothers, and he’s a pastor in Washington State.

He shared a prayer that a woman in his church had given: I pray the things we’re being forced to do today are things we choose to do tomorrow. Because there were a lot of things that we were forced to do during COVID that we probably should continue choosing to do, and yet, we’re just a couple years out, and so many people have already let so many of those things go. We were better at connecting with our friends during COVID than we are outside of COVID. And this idea, there’s that whole book, Bowling Alone, right? Like how our world is coming apart because we don’t have these reasons to actually just connect through clubs, right? We can lament the fact that there’s a decline in bowling leagues or the Elks thing is not a thing anymore, or we can just create our own and do a testosterone club on 

[00:53:04] Connie Fontaine: Yep, 

[00:53:05] Will Guidara: see it.

Dumb movies that play ping pong. 

[00:53:08] Harry Cohen: I love this conversation. See, one of the things that you talk about, that we talk about, that is, and again, empirically true. The aggregation of marginal gains is not just about process improvement for improvement of a business or a cycling team. It’s about the improvement of our personal lives. The marginal improvement of the aggregation of marginal gains for our lives. How can I up my friendship plural?

How can I deepen my friendships and or my relationship with my intimates 

[00:53:47] Connie Fontaine: We challenged each other in January, Harry, to do something different and unique. I texted somebody new every day, somebody I thought, and I thought, who do I miss connecting with? Your example of COVID. Somebody I used to at least connect to because we were homebound and we did all of January.

Now I’m sitting here thinking, well, Why didn’t I keep doing that? It felt really good and it made people feel really good. I’m going to get back to that.


[00:54:10] Harry Cohen: you for that. 

[00:54:11] Connie Fontaine: to take that away from today.

[00:54:12] Will Guidara: I want to share three things with that as a starter. A, I’ve become somewhat addicted to the voice note.

For that, just for that.

[00:54:22] Connie Fontaine: love that

[00:54:23] Will Guidara: Because a text, the written word can only go so far. The sound of someone who you love’s voice carries with it so much gravity. And so like yesterday I just left two random people voice notes, someone who I haven’t seen in two years.

I said, Hey, I’m walking down the street, I’m thinking about you. And so I’m just, leaving this to tell you that I was just thinking about you. Hope you’re well. 

[00:54:42] Connie Fontaine: I just got goosebumps. 

[00:54:43] Harry Cohen: dude stolen.

[00:54:46] Will Guidara: thing, the next thing is the power of a calendar invite. If this podcast was not in my calendar, I would not have remembered to log onto the podcast. Now I’m going to tell a story that will finish point number two. 

[00:55:01] Supporting Friends Through Loss

[00:55:01] Will Guidara: So a friend, and this is all around friendship and it’s all around, being as creative and innovative and intentional in pursuit of friendships, right?

Not reserving our best efforts for our work and our marriages and our children. One of my very good friends. Very good friends. I’ve known him since freshman year of college. He lost his dad two years ago. Okay, so, when it comes to the holidays, I have to think about what I’m going to get for my wife as a gift. I mean, I sit down and I’m like, Alright, I’m going to spend the next hour thinking about this. And I’m online, I’m Googling stuff, I’m thinking, I’m remembering. I’d spend an hour trying to figure out what is the right approach to take in making my wife feel loved for Christmas. And so I did the same thing with him.

I said, what is the right way to support a friend? When they’ve lost a parent, and it’s the first time I’ve experienced, I lost my mom a long time ago, but I haven’t had a close friend lose one of their parents. And I was like, gosh, I’m sure a ton of people are calling him right now. Anyway, this is what I ended up doing. I sent him a text. When I heard. It was not a crazy long text. But it was, hey, buddy, I just heard and I’m so sorry. I said, here’s the deal. Starting tomorrow morning, I’m going to call you every single day at 9. 30 in the morning for the foreseeable future. To set expectations, I don’t expect you to answer. But, I want you to know that if there ever is a morning when you want or need to talk to someone, you will always see my name ringing through to your phone at 9. 30. And I put it in my calendar. I set up a recurring invite in my Outlook every day for 30 minutes at 9:30 with no end date. And I called him at 9: 30 every single day for eight months. He didn’t answer for the first 7 to 10 days, and then going forward from that moment, he probably answered 98 percent of the time, and here’s the thing, when you go through a loss, it can be hard to feel connected with the people in your life, because you feel like you owe them a certain amount of weight and gravity in the conversation when you ultimately have it. When you’re talking to someone for 5, 6, 7 minutes a day, every single day, You can be emotional if you need to be emotional, but you don’t need to be emotional because you feel like you owe it to a friend who is not the one suffering the loss.

And so we would get on the phone and talk about I don’t know, like Twinkies for five minutes or this. And, And it’s just I sometimes, I’ve talked to so many people who have suffered loss and feel like they are totally alone because people don’t know how to reach out to them. 

[00:57:49] Connie Fontaine: hmm.

[00:57:50] Will Guidara: Um, Is That the perfect way to walk down that road with someone?

I don’t know. Is it a way to do it? And did he feel supported by it? And is it proof that with just a bit of preparation and thoughtfulness and taking how you support a friend through a moment of loss as seriously as you do every other element of your career. Yeah.

[00:58:17] Connie Fontaine: That was two points. Really. I mean, the calendar invite is the, but what, how you help somebody with grief specifically to be there consistently for them the way they want. That was two

[00:58:28] Will Guidara: Yeah, no, the calendar invite was point, no, calendar was point two. 

[00:58:32] Connie Fontaine: Okay. 

[00:58:33] Harry Cohen: but 

[00:58:34] Connie Fontaine: it was, 

[00:58:35] Harry Cohen: well, 

[00:58:36] Connie Fontaine: but you heard how quiet we were for a 


That was really important.

[00:58:40] Harry Cohen: it, Stealing it. I mean, I feel like cup runneth over, man. And I don’t know how we’re going to edit this so that what 

[00:58:48] Connie Fontaine: good juicy stuff. There’s so much good juicy stuff. 

Is there anything else? Like legacy wise, what do you, how do you want to leave the world is a better place. You talk about your father. That’s an honor that you can honor his legacy. And now we want to talk about yours. What’s your legacy that you leave behind?

[00:59:07] Will Guidara: I mean, I don’t know, I hope I have not yet figured out the ultimate legacy that I end up leaving. I’m in a, I’m in a very interesting season right now where, I mean, anyone who read the book knows. that I did what I did at the restaurant because I was laser focused for the first 20 years of my career with very clear objectives and exactly what I wanted to accomplish.

And then I did, and then I sold the restaurant and then I kind of almost went back and started opening restaurants again. Then COVID hit and that was a blessing because it gave me the grace to decide what I wanted to do next as opposed to running back and doing the thing that I’d always done. Then I wrote the book and I’m in a season of doing various things that bring me joy that I think have the ability to be impactful without having this big end goal in mind, outside of finding different avenues to talk about what I believe in hopes that other people might believe in it a little more themselves. And that is that, I don’t care what you do for a living, we can all make the choice to be in the hospitality industry and Gosh, it’ll make your businesses more profitable. It’ll help you achieve whatever goal But it’ll also just feel really frickin good and make the world a better place And

[01:00:29] Connie Fontaine: I like that.

[01:00:30] Will Guidara: if at the end of the day if I were to pick a legacy now If I could just get as many people as humanly possible to embrace that style of thinking that would be pretty fulfilling but I’m in like a What do they call them? Walkabouts? Like, I’m just, I’m kind of just testing different things to feel what can bring me the most joy and be the most impactful at the same time. kind of enjoying the ride and seeing where it takes

[01:00:57] Connie Fontaine: It’s good. Yeah. Evolving into the friendship message I think was really interesting for us today. I didn’t expect it. Got a lot out of it. Yeah. Feeling real warm and cozy. Is it nice and cozy or warm and cozy?

[01:01:09] Will Guidara: We, it was nice and cozy when I 

started it, and then I think I inadvertently

changed it. to warm and cozy. 


[01:01:16] Connie Fontaine: thank you for

[01:01:17] Will Guidara: So this mission that you’re on, I’m going to take from that, that you use the expression, the season that you’re in now in this walkabout phase of your life. And. Everybody goes through these seasons of their life, and it’s very helpful for me to think about that and whatever season that we are in together and for our listeners, that no matter what, Well, what will bring you the most joy, no matter what season you’re in, what will make the most impact for the most people and do the most good, man, do I love that,If our lives are a story. Every season is a chapter and that means you can’t rush through any one of them. Otherwise, it’s gonna be a pretty shitty book, right? Like you need to sit in each season and fully let it flesh itself out. Otherwise, you’re gonna have a bunch of bad chapters in

[01:02:25] Connie Fontaine: If it’s a great book, Yeah. You can’t have a great book with a bunch of bad chapters, right? Every season matters, even if it doesn’t feel like a great season in the moment

[01:02:33] Harry Cohen: That’s beautiful. Oh man. I hope people who listened to this get really special, Will. Really

[01:02:42] Will Guidara: for me as well, to be 

[01:02:44] Connie Fontaine: I’m

[01:02:44] Harry Cohen: No, it was more for me.

[01:02:48] Connie Fontaine: loves to do that.

[01:02:49] Harry Cohen: I always do this. No. I love you more. I have a dear friend. He goes, I love you, brother. And I go, no, not even close. We have this side. It’s not even close.

[01:02:56] Will Guidara: Not even close.

[01:02:58] Connie Fontaine: Well, we, I look forward to watching your journey and your next, this chapter that doesn’t end for a while, obviously your next chapter and how much goodness you can spread. Look forward to watching.

[01:03:07] Harry Cohen: So, and if I ever get to meet you, I want to give you the biggest hug. Just that. Thank you, my brother.

[01:03:13] Will Guidara: I’m a hugger as well, so 

[01:03:15] Connie Fontaine: Yeah, we are too.

[01:03:15] Harry Cohen: 

[01:03:15] Will Guidara: Here’s to being nice and cozy.

[01:03:18] Harry Cohen: being nice and cozy.


[01:03:20] Closing Thoughts and Gratitude

[01:03:20] Will Guidara: Guys, this was such a, this was a blast. I appreciate all of you

and I hope to get three solid hugs from each one of you at some point in the next 20 years. At some point it’ll happen and I look forward to it.

[01:03:33] Harry Cohen: Love it.

[01:03:34] Connie Fontaine: Excellent. Have a great day. 

[01:03:36] Harry Cohen: Bye guys. 

[01:03:36] Connie Fontaine: do 

great stuff. 

[01:03:38] Will Guidara: you guys take care,

[01:03:39] Connie Fontaine: Bye 

[01:03:40] Harry Cohen: Bye guys.

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