How one of the world’s most famous restaurateurs is forging ahead in the restaurant winter.

Will B. Guidara has a lot on his hands. In addition to a new book due out in the fall of 2022, a growing hospitality consulting business, and his “Welcome Conference” returning to New York and landing on HBO Max – the restaurateur is on a roll. “If it wasn’t for the new crown, I’d have restaurants all over New York. I’d be doing pretty much the same thing I was doing before, I guess.” Will Guidara said as he was enjoying a one-sided omelette with chanterelles and black pepper sauce at Manhattan’s Corner Bar. “But it’s a very different season for me.” He smiled.

Before the epidemic, the forty-two-year-old Guidara was one of the world’s most famous restaurateurs, managing a team of more than a thousand people in restaurants spread across Los Angeles, London, Las Vegas, and New York, and his three-Michelin-starred flagship restaurant at Eleven Madison Park exemplified Guidara’s pioneering front-of-house style. But on this morning, Guidara has no pre-meal meetings to attend, no profit-and-loss statements to analyze, no guests’ fantasies to understand and fulfill, and no restaurant managers waiting for him to train. Guidara is nothing more than a guest dining at a restaurant he doesn’t own a stake in. “It feels great to be in a new place.” He said. Guidara, who has been in the restaurant business since he was thirteen and first worked at Baskin-Robbins, a Baskin-Robbins in Tarrytown, New York, is able to reap the insider’s pleasure from the details of a restaurant. He praised the graphic design of the menu, the way the toast was arranged on a silver pedestal tray, and the way the servers who served us were able to connect with us through eye contact.

“You’re very hospitable.” Guidara told her. His words are the sincerest of compliments after spending the last two years writing a book titled Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect, which book will be released on October 25 by Optimism Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Guidara’s book is an anecdotal account of his career, reflecting on deeper ideas about hospitality – the most ambitious part of the book is the articulation of how hospitality can be used throughout the restaurant world, and can be consciously used to strengthen business and relationships. Though the book is filled with personal content, Guidara says it “wasn’t intended to be a memoir at all.” With instructive chapter headings, bold print creedal phrases such as “It’s cool to care,” “Words are culture,” and “The way you do one thing is the way you do everything,” it’s more of a book about the business world and relationships. It’s more of a book about the business world and relationships and what it takes to elevate it all.
Hospitality, as Guidara puts it, can be understood as a behavioral trait to be embraced, a much-needed talent to be developed, and a practical philosophy to make others feel seen and supported. As a business tool, it is both fruitful and strategic. For example, under Guidara’s management, Eleven Madison Park employs four professional “dream makers,” whose teams customize dining experiences based on guests’ personal stories. A couple whose vacation has been canceled is sent to a private dining room, which is set up to look like a beach. The children of a Spanish family who had never seen snow before were driven to Central Park after dinner in a chauffeured SUV with a new sled to play on.

“I didn’t always understand this.” Guidara says, “But at some point in my work at Eleven Madison Park, it all became clear to me: I wasn’t working in the restaurant business, I was in the hospitality business. I just happened to be in the business by serving food.” Guidara had no intention of leaving out the restaurant element while recalling the tenets that had shaped his professional identity and building those principles into an operating manual. But the summer before the epidemic, he and his former business partner, chef Daniel Humm, decided to end their collaboration by selling Guidara all of his shares in Make It Nice, the restaurant group they founded in 2011. In Excessive Hospitality, Guidara’s first book as sole author (he had previously co-authored four books with Humm), he briefly mentions the highly publicized breakup in an afterword. “We are no longer in love.” Guidara writes.

The ensuing outbreak of the New Crown Epidemic destroys the restaurant industry and puts a temporary halt to Guidara’s plans to launch his own new restaurant group. In the meantime, Guidara turned to helping his industry survive. As a founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, he lobbied Congress and the president for relief funds to support independent restaurants. He organized a YouTube variety show, Weekly Specials, to share inspiring stories. He also adapted the video program into a podcast that chronicles episodes of collaboration, vulnerability, and courage.
A late 2020 episode chronicled the experiences of Will’s father, Frank Guidara, a former restaurant executive himself whose life motto informs Excessive Hospitality (“It’s a shame to waste adversity.”). Frank once admonished his son) and sets the tone for the entire book with wisdom passed down from generation to generation, and the values of a family dedicated to the service industry.
Guidara’s mother, Jane Knight, died in 2001, one day after Will graduated from Connell University. She was a flight attendant before she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and for much of Guidara’s childhood she had to rely on a wheelchair for mobility because of complications resulting from the disease. It was from her that Guidara learned her earliest few lessons about the broader meaning of hospitality. “Every day, my mom would ask the caregiver of the day to push herself to the end of the road to wait for me.” In her book, Guidara writes, “She couldn’t talk or stand up to hug me, but when I came home from school, she would be there waiting for me with a big smile. That smile was all I needed, and it taught me a priceless lesson-what it feels like to be truly welcomed.”
After the outbreak, Guidara and his wife, author and TV host Christina Tosi, founder of Milk Bar, a bakery and restaurant chain, moved from Manhattan to a quieter location, Kingston, N.Y., about 145 kilometers from the city. The couple’s daughter, Frankie, named after Will’s father, was born in March of 2021, and Tosi’s daughter was born in March of that year. It was at the end of 2020, during Tosi’s pregnancy, that Guidara finally decided to write Excessive Hospitality. His encouragement, born via YouTube and podcasting platforms, ran through the epidemic and thus ran its full course. His lobbying arrangements have stabilized. His breakup with Hume has been put more firmly behind him (the former partners no longer speak). Tosi describes her husband as a man with high-speed leadership skills, able to get excited and motivate others in the midst of chaos, but she also points out that Guidara has an ever-increasing need for quiet. “He spends a lot of time alone.” Tosi said, “I would go to him while he sat quietly outside on the hill.”
Guidara’s friend Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and bestselling author, first invited Guidara to consider writing this book, Excessive Hospitality, back in September 2019, and handing it over to his own new publishing company, an organization that, according to him, focuses on finding authors with new ideas for readers seeking excellence in the way of fulfillment. But Guidara had just announced his departure from his previous business a few weeks earlier and decided it wasn’t the right time to write a book about management. A year later he said he felt the pace of his life had slowed down enough. He contacted Sinek to confirm the plan. “I wasn’t interested in putting out a book on how to stay in the restaurant business, but as I learned more about Will’s methods, I realized I was applying those methods to my own life.” Sinek said, “I wanted Will to teach people how to treat each other.”
The book isn’t the first time Guidara has openly taught hospitality as a tool to the public; in 2014, he co-founded the Welcome Conference with Anthony Rudolf, the former general manager of Per Se, an upscale New York restaurant. The Welcome Conference, a seminar focused on continuing education, motivation, and community building, began as a one-day seminar. At the outset, the one-day seminar invited members of the restaurant industry to gather for a series of well-organized lectures by speakers such as Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, and Frank Bruni, restaurant critic for the New York Times.
In the second year of the Welcome Sessions, Guidara saw more and more people from other fields in the audience, and began inviting former Ford CEO and president Alan Mulally, comedians Michael Che and Seth Meyers to join him. Seth Meyers to join the speakers, as well as restaurant heavyweights such as Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Washington, D.C., Patrick O’Connell of Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel, and Patrick O’Connell, a former president of the U.S. Department of Transportation, who is also a member of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Mary Celeste Beall of Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel). Sinek and Frank Guidara also attended as speakers.
Through the conference, Guidara became more and more convinced that hospitality could be a mainstream affair. After a successful run from 2014 to 2019, when the conference was interrupted by the epidemic, the Welcome Conference returned to Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center on Sept. 19 to a sold-out crowd. To further emphasize the importance of ubiquitous hospitality, Guidara has opened a consulting firm called Thank You, which brings together former EMP general manager Billy Peelle, former creative director of Do It Right, and the former creative director of the New York Times. Natasha McIrvin, former creative director of Do It Right, and Maren Partrick, a veteran of Seattle’s Canlis. “While Thank You Consulting provides consulting services to improve hospitality in traditional sectors – hotels, restaurants and food service – it also helps startup clients in areas such as financial institutions, healthcare and other industries to improve their hospitality. healthcare, and other startup clients to treat their guests in a more focused manner. Guidara has big ideas for expanding Thank You Consulting. “I’d be happy to spend time developing a hospitality enhancement plan for an airline, and I’d be happy to service a theme park.” He said.
Ken Shubin Stein, a New York-based neurologist and co-founder and chief medical officer of Astria Health, a start-up medical company, has hired Thank You Consulting to address what he calls a hospitality deficit in his field. called a hospitality deficit. “We want to provide world-class health care, but how do we make people feel like they’re getting world-class care?” Shubin Stein asked. He looked to Guidara for answers. “A world-class hospitality guru like Will understands what it takes to systematize this, so we can be trained as an institution to learn how to listen better and respond to the needs of our patients.”
In 2021, Hollywood came seeking Guidara’s skills, too, when Dan Levy, co-creator and star of the drama Schitt’s Creek, asked Guidara to serve as a judge on his new cooking competition show, “The Big Brunch ),” which will premiere on HBO Max in November. “He always surprises you two steps ahead of time in a really thoughtful way, always full of attention. It’s really a very rare experience to have someone like him present who is so curious about other people and really wants to help them through what he knows. It was a master class for me.”
With a new book on the horizon, the return of the Welcome Conference, a growing consulting business, an upcoming TV show, and a baby on the way, Guidara is still eager to run a restaurant again. “During the epidemic, I realized that a restaurant was something that I would love to build,” he says. Even if “they don’t define all of who I am,” he says. Guidara has the place picked out in his head. He’s now lobbying the people of Millbrook, N.Y., not far from his home in Kingston, to agree to rezone the residential neighborhood to include commercial uses. Despite some local opposition, Guidara hopes to transform a 3.5-square-kilometer property into a luxury travel destination with hotels and restaurants. “Imagine spending three days with someone instead of just three hours!” Guidara said, “I’ve fallen in love with the Hudson Valley. But I can’t stay here with nothing to show for it. After all, at the end of the day, I’m a caterer.”

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