Minutes Count at Happy Hour...and So Does Hospitality

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With strong cocktails and well-priced nibbles, happy hour turned out to be my favorite time of day at bubu Lowry, which I review this week. But happy hour isn’t always so happy.

Earlier this summer I was meeting a friend for an early dinner at Cho77, chef-owner Lon Symensma’s casual followup to the ever-charming ChoLon. But traffic on I-25 was bad, and parking in the Baker neighborhood was even worse, so by the time I arrived, my friend was already seated. I joined him and waited for a server to come over, eager for a drink to help put my busy day behind me. The server didn’t mention happy hour, and when I inquired, she said I’d just missed it. Official time: 6:01 p.m. Yes, I’d missed it by a minute. But what about hospitality? Isn’t the spirit of happy hour more important than the letter of the law? Even cops look the other way when you’re going one mile per hour over the limit. 

Contrast that with a similar situation at Linger. Same I-25 traffic, same non-existent parking. Several friends were already there, kicking off girls' night with food and drinks from the happy-hour menu. I sat down around half-past six, and several others dribbled in shortly thereafter. A friend asked our server if we could still order off the happy-hour menu, expecting a “no” since it technically ended at 6:30 p.m. But he surprised us by saying yes, he could probably squeeze in a drink order — not just for the two of us who’d arrived at the bell, but for the stragglers who’d come in even later.

Two servers, two restaurants, two approaches. One felt like hospitality, and we received it as such, happier among ourselves because of the server’s generosity. The other felt like service, which Danny Meyer defined in his seminal book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality In Business, as the technical delivery of a product, or in the case of Cho77, the non-delivery of a product.

Yes, it was a little thing. But as the saying goes, it’s the little things that count. 

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