Skip to content

Blog / Why Hospitality Isn’t What You Think It Is

Why Hospitality Isn’t What You Think It Is

Jody Jean DreyerBy Jody Jean Dryer

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13 (NIV)

I always pair service and hospitality as one term. I don’t believe service and hospitality are interchangeable, or that you should have one without the other. Happy, satisfied guests require both. Not convinced? Have you ever been assisted by someone as nice as could be but without the know-how to get the job done? On the other hand, you may have been served by someone more than competent, but the experience left you feeling like road kill, as though you’d been run over (and back again), and you have the tire marks to prove it.

Service implies providing a benefit before, during, and after interactions. And good service suggests leaving guests fully satisfied with their experience. But service is a transactional experience, a fair exchange between parties. Transformational guest experiences require something more. They require hospitality. If service is getting it done, then hospitality is loving on people in the process.

In the New Testament, the Bible refers to hospitality with the Greek word philoxenos (pronounced feel-o-zee-nos, according to my dictionary). It combines the idea of offering brotherly love (philo) to a stranger or alien (xenos). In Greek the word hospitality takes on an intentional meaning that stretches our more conventional understanding of opening our homes and hearts to family, friends, and neighbors. It expresses the idea of befriending and loving the stranger. Wouldn’t it be great if every interaction started with the attitude of loving a stranger? This mentality takes what could be a transactional interaction and makes it relational. Hospitality is not an equal exchange. (“We hosted last month. It’s their turn.”) It’s more like an unconditional offering of kindness and genuine affection with no expectation of reciprocity.

Service and hospitality is the alchemy of ability and aptitude that makes for unforgettable guest experiences, both personally and professionally. My still-developing skill in the area comes from being (all bragging aside) a great waitress, spending years in Guest Relations at Walt Disney World, coming from a down-home Midwest upbringing, living in the politely hospitable South, and participating in the In Search of Excellence training videos—just part of the curriculum offered to me in the school of life.

No matter the business or even philanthropic pursuit, the importance of this idea can’t be overstated. Good service and hospitality generates results and makes us feel oh-so-good. Its opposite—the failure to offer service and hospitality—sincerely and consistently erodes loyalty. As my merchandise bosses used to say, “If our guests go away, you do too.”

Whether they walk through the door of your home, your retail location, or your web portal, you serve guests, too. And instant surveys that measure service quality in business—not to mention Instagram, which displays impossibly beautiful models of hospitality to imitate on the home front—can paralyze us. Why does it so often feel overwhelming to open our home to guests? Maybe because we think everything has to be “just so” to offer an invitation. Let me remind you (and me): don’t fall victim to the “perfection trap.” Rest assured the best experiences are usually those that are warm, inviting, heartfelt, and often spontaneous. This is about entering into a relationship, not about displaying perfection. As my dad used to say, “Perfection is the enemy of good.” Or put another way, “Better something done imperfectly than nothing done perfectly.” All boiled down, southerners have it right. It’s living the spirit of, “C’mon over, y’all.”

The fact is, service and hospitality is never fully mastered, never perfect. It’s practiced. And its practitioners are people, not machines. Here’s what I observed when I worked in Guest Relations at Walt Disney World. Among the hundreds of guest comments we would get each day, more than 75 percent of them, both good and bad, were not about the attractions, food, or merchandise, but about Disney cast members, about the folks guests interact with at every point of their visit. The vast majority wanted to tell a story about how a cast member made their visit magical with a smile, a gesture, or some extra attention to detail.

Hospitality and service are choices, not accidents. Every day, putting the welfare of others before your own and going the extra mile on their behalf is a “you-before-me” mind-set. It can be taught and talked about in volumes of books and blogs, but ultimately it’s a choice. And that choice can become a mission and a passion and, ultimately, what defines you.


Beyond the CastleAdapted from Beyond the Castle: A Guide to Discovering Your Happily Ever After by Jody Jean Dreyer. Click here to learn more about this title.

Life isn’t always a fairy tale . . . or is it?

Beyond the Castle is written for anyone who yearns for their own Happily Ever After. Don’t we all want a fairy tale life? Our story, rich and alive with characters. Our adventure, even with its stops and starts, significant and purposeful. A life of fairy godmothers, fantasy, and fireworks. Can there be such a thing? Because all too often we feel stuck in routines devoid of pixie dust and magical moments.

Jody Jean Dreyer invites you to step inside the castles of Disney and beyond, unlocking the magic and mystery to illuminate life’s true treasure. Through her entertaining and enlightening stories from more than three decades and twenty-two positions in The Walt Disney Company, she will help bring that magic to life.

Jody experienced Walt Disney World for the first time on a family vacation. That trip inspired her first cast member role as a summer intern in a career that would lead her around the world and to The Walt Disney Company’s senior staff. She has collected one-of-a-kind tales and life lessons, each with their own playful and practical principles to guide you.

Join her on the ride of a lifetime as she takes you on a journey to the castle and beyond!

A 30-year Disney veteran, Jody Jean Dreyer was a member of Disney senior corporate staff. She led worldwide synergy, headed Disney’s global outreach initiatives, and held various marketing positions in both the theme park and motion picture units. Among many projects, she performed a major role in the grand opening of Disneyland Paris. In 1986, she traveled the world as the Walt Disney World Ambassador. She met her husband, John, former head of Disney’s Corporate Communications, at the Disney company Christmas party. They have been married 25 years and live in South Carolina. Follow Jody at

Filed under Books, Guest Post