Putting “Hospitality” into Our Hospitality Areas

Hotels inspire designs for beautiful physical spaces on premium levels. But hotels also demonstrate a level of client treatment that goes unmatched in sports venues. It’s time to go beyond the expected service tasks and engage in true hospitality.

I’ve had the pleasure of working not just with sports and entertainment, but also with the hotel industry over the past ten years. There is one thing that experience has taught me loud and clear: There is a difference between service and hospitality.

What do we offer in our “hospitality” areas in sports and entertainment? That offering must not only justify the cost, but also make it more desirable. Yet time after time, we simply focus on the basics – more institutional furniture, food packages, and how many people it can fit. We tend to forget the most important piece of this puzzle – that true hospitality should come along with these titled areas.

We look at our hospitality areas, trying to decide what we can do different with them, how we can fix them up to make them more appealing, and yet the one thing we never change is our hospitality experience.

Think about it. We enter the stadium or arena. Our tickets are scanned. We are herded to the nearest elevator, where people ask us what floor we need and tell us to have a good time. We get off on our floor and sometimes have a greeter, but more often than not, the “greeter” is just someone double-checking our tickets and telling us which direction to go. We enter the hospitality area, and a server comes to introduce themselves. We let the server know if we need more of anything. Sometimes the person who sold the area to us comes in and asks how we’re doing.

Is this hospitality? No, these are expected tasks.

What do our guests remember? They really don’t remember the service (the expected tasks). What they remember is the hospitality they experience, the engagement, the care, the special moments that made them feel valued, appreciated, and actually made them feel like they belonged there.

Hospitality Is Engagement

How does our staff engage our hospitality clients? Is the engagement sincere and genuine, or is it robotic? Instead of entering, introducing ourselves, telling the client we will be back and forth should they need anything, and then leaving, how can we help our staff be more engaging, thus creating a more hospitable environment?

Provide a Memorable Check-In Experience

What could we do as a true concierge to check-in our hospitality guests? What if we were to not just check their tickets and show them which direction to go, but rather, we offered them a tasty beverage right then and there or gave them a small welcome gift as we have someone escort them to their designated hospitality area? What if we made that first touchpoint in hospitality areas one that was memorable?

Treat Clients Like Royalty

What do we know about our repeat hospitality clients or suite lease clients? Have we taken the time to really know them? Do we know what coffee they like? Do we know what wine they prefer? Do we know what other beverages they prefer? What are their favorite comfort foods? Do they have a favorite player or past player, or in the entertainment industry, a favorite recording artist? Can we make sure we provide them a personalized touchpoint in their area that says, “We know your likes, and we care about you. We want you to feel like royalty when you are with us.”

Many teams have former players on payroll. A surprise visit once in a while is truly a memorable experience. Having clients’ favorite coffee or making sure their bar is stocked with their favorite tasty beverage lets them know they are thought about, and they don’t have to ask for it every time they come. Autographed photos or exciting action pictures or records of their favorites hanging in their room gives that extra special touch that sets us apart from other venues that have a more traditional look.

Discover What Is Special About Each Client

How we show our appreciation matters. We do events for our hospitality leases. We have special experiences at our venue. What if we did more unique experiences like Lisa Banbury worked with her staff to do at MSG? Banbury and her staff found things that were special to their clients, and they provided a unique experience for each one. This effort creates lasting memories. This is true hospitality.

Pay Attention to the Little Things

That’s the big things. But what about the little things? Our clients just had a great experience at our venue. We charge a small fortune for food and beverages. But what if just before they left, we offered them all coffee, tea, and cookies? What if we made the end of their experience as thought about and cared about as the beginning? What if we sent them on their way after helping them wind down with us?


We look at our hospitality areas, trying to decide what we can do different with them, how we can fix them up to make them more appealing, and yet the one thing we never change is our hospitality experience.

I remember when I was renewing suite leases and asked our suite holders how we compared to the other venues in town. Every single thing they told me was not about the service portion. All of their comments were based on the hospitality experience they received at other venues.

The feeling of being valued, the feeling of being special, and as one suite holder told me, the feeling of being Richard Gere in Pretty Woman when they anticipated his needs, knew his likes, and engaged him with care and respect. This is what is memorable. This is what makes people choose us over other venues.

Let’s be known for the experience we give, not the newness of the room. Let’s put hospitality into our hospitality areas.

Kathy Burrows is the President and Owner of Sold Out Seating.

Continue Reading: Premium Seating Has Changed Over 30 Years. Why Hasn’t Your Sales Strategy Changed with It?