behind the smiles

Those working in restaurants and hotels make up the largest single employment group in the nation and hidden behind their smiles is the highest concentration of need anywhere in the country. There are so many ways to help serve hope to people during your day to day life. We’ve pulled together a few to get you started


1. carry loaded unexpected 20s

This is probably the most fun you will ever have with a twenty dollar bill.

Request several Unexpected 20 envelopes (click below) and carry one or two in your wallet or purse loaded with a twenty. Then watch for an opportunity to give it to someone in the industry not as a tip but as a gift. That might be a housekeeper, cook, front desk employee, bus boy, etc. The goal is to give it to someone not expecting it.

Invite your kids to help decide who to give it to — they may even want to deliver it.

Consider giving one to your server in addition to a generous tip and ask if they would give the Unexpected 20 to the person on working who is having the hardest week. Most servers will know immediately who that is and it probably will be someone in the back of the house.

You can even create “Do It Yourself” Unexpected 20s by downloading a template PDF and printing out.


2. build relationships two minutes at a time

Each time you go into a restaurant or hotel, carve out a few extra moments to look staff in the eye and honestly engage. Introduce yourself and be intentional about the questions you ask. Then pick up the conversation the next time you see them. Just be aware of how busy they are. Consider timing your visit early or late — away from peak hours – when talking could put them behind with other tables in their section.


3. names are important

When you introduce yourself, ask for their name and how they are. Use their name naturally but never in a patronizing or suggestive way. Be sure to say goodbye and thank them using their name. Give them a sincere and specific compliment if possible. If service was rough, ask if it has been a tough day. Again – be mindful of how busy they are when you engage.


4. your phone can help cultivate a relationship

Create an address book entry by restaurant or hotel and enter the names and details of everyone you meet before you leave. Then review your notes for 15 seconds before you walk in the door the next time. Nothing communicates real care more than remembering names and details.


5. become a regular

One of the best ways to care is simply to focus – pick a few restaurants, coffee shops, or bars and become a regular. If you travel often, use the same hotels. Intentionally get to know staff. Plan your visits when they are less busy (early or late) so they can talk without slowing down service to other customers. Look for creative ways to truly become friends with those on the staff. Show up with homemade cookies for the whole staff near the end of a shift.


6. write receipt notes

With your tip, write a personalized ‘thank you’ on the restaurant copy of the receipt using your server’s name. Not only will they see it, but their manager will see it too when the receipts are reconciled.


7. become an intentional tipper

Treat tips as a way to surprise and honor your servers. 20% should be a minimum and look for opportunities to give more. If you have the money to do so, ask what was the biggest tip they have ever received and top it just for fun. When you stay at a hotel, leave a $5.00 tip per night in the room with a note thanking the housekeeper – they have one of the worst jobs in the hotel and receive little appreciation. Consider leaving an Unexpected 20.


8. organize a care blitz

We can help you involve your work colleagues or friends. A Care Blitz builds on the Unexpected 20 idea and adds community. All of you show up with an Unexpected 20 to give to a person who is dealing with a specific crisis. Our Big Table team identifies the person and works with both you and the manager to plan the surprise.


9. adopt a restaurant

Gather a group of friends who will adopt one restaurant in your neighborhood. Use these suggestions and then get creative. Examples: look for ways to celebrate birthdays, show up with pizza just before closing.


10. even more ways to love

When you go through a drive thru window, greet the person taking your money and thank them.

Treat hotel desk staff with extra grace. They take the brunt of what goes wrong in a hotel and don’t get paid well to do it.

At the end of a meal, if the restaurant has an open kitchen, thank the cooks.

Thank you for caring for our friends in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Together we are making a difference every single day.