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Getting Frank on Hospitality

This month’s blog comes to us from Mexican War Streets Manager Frank Battista. For those who have had the opportunity to interact with Frank, the importance he places on hospitality and creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable may be obvious. For those who don’t know Frank as well, he’s included the below sentiment as an introduction to the thoughts and stories on hospitality that follow, all of which define his heart.

A word from the author: Please know that before reading this, I would love to be able to share some sort of physical orb of thoughts, feelings, and memories that you could see and hold and play with and then be able to say, “I understand.” To that, I would say “thank you” (because writing for an audience is scary.)
On Hospitality

During my 14 years in the coffee industry, I have been lucky enough to experience a number of beautiful interactions with people who have sought them or been willing to experience them. There have also been those who have been hesitant to have them, and those who just came in for a coffee or a paycheck but eventually allowed themselves the opportunity to have them. These types of varied interactions have included (but are not limited to):

  • Celebrations of new jobs, homes, and babies; the completion of theses and graduations; as well as other similar dreams realized.
  • The anguish and mourning of the loss of jobs, homes, children, parents and dreams.
  • Hearing about the trials and triumphs of leaving or joining the corporate world or service industry.
  • Being witness to instances of misogyny, classism and racism. Seeing confrontation, discussion, and reconciliation of those instances.
  • Ruminating on politics, local and world events, philosophies and existential crises; theorizing about what it means to be human and a co-resident of this planet.
  • Spilling a cappuccino on Gary Oldman (being an expecting father at that time, my attempt at diffusing the situation was to ask him what it was like to be a dad. He had good things to say.)
  • Cleaning up after children and adults alike.

All of these interactions began in a place of recognition. Recognition of the inherent value and dignity in one another as well as a willingness and desire to truly be with and spend time together. It is this acknowledgement of the relationship between host and guest to which we give the name, Hospitality.

I like to believe that when a guest walks into a Commonplace coffeehouse, they walk in with the desire for more than the economic transaction of money for coffee. It is on us as Commonplace staff to give due consideration to the fact that people are literally choosing to spend their life with us, from a few moments of their time to the money they have spent a portion of their life earning.

I also like to believe that when someone comes to work for Commonplace, whether initially seeking employment or for their 487th shift, they aren’t just coming in for a paycheck or a staff discount on coffee. They are there seeking more. They are seeking to be a space maker and host to relationships beyond what is offered by mere customer service. They are also people who have lives, interests, talents, and dreams beyond their role as barista. In the hospitality relationship, we also rely on the guest to give due consideration to this fact when interacting with our staff.

It is in both of the above-stated beliefs, my hope exists that instead of seeing a dichotomy between employee and customer, or perhaps staff and guest, that we instead see each other as people and individuals. That we give each other due consideration when we are together in a shared space and while in that space, acknowledge how we affect each other. Commonplace is not created by its ownership or staff alone, but by the relationship between all of us interacting in hospitality with each other.

This is why I work in coffee. It is a great window into the interconnectedness of the world. It provides an invitation to interact with the farmers, growers, and exporters; the chemists and artists; the baristas and roasters; the owners and guests; the architects and delivery drivers; the philosophers, bakers, economists, and so many more. I like to believe that whether you see it as a happy accident or the result of intentional design, the value in all of this is intrinsic to our humanity, and if we take the time to acknowledge these things, we will discover the wonder in people and the things that are commonplace among us.

If there is anything you take away from all of this, it’s the following:

  • To guests, please stop and give due consideration to the real intimate beauty of what occurs in the simple choice of where you get your coffee, whether it is with us at Commonplace or elsewhere.
  • To staff, please stop and give due consideration to the intimate beauty of how you have chosen to spend your time in service and have been provided with the opportunity to be part of so many lives.

Let’s all see the simple beauty that can and is occurring wherever and whenever we are with each other in Hospitality.

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