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West Federation


Matthew Stone
California State University, Chico

A Fire and True Hospitality

I woke up on November 8.  Half of the sky was blue.  Half was darker than a summer Midwest thunderstorm. Within an hour I learned that Paradise California, the town 9 miles away from our university (California State University, Chico) was on fire. The fire was burning at 2,000 acres per hour.  You know the story from here.  Over 20,000 people fled their homes with flames encroaching on both sides.  Thousands ended up in Chico.

It is in times like these I am reminded how important the hospitality industry is. Hotel workers provided comfort to displaced people.  They provided words of support and words of comfort. Lobbies became newsrooms as residents shared facebook updates from friends.  Restaurants refused to accept payment from Paradise residents who had fled the fire. Residents coordinated shelters, food service, donation centers, and volunteer centers from churches, community centers and parking lots. Nobody went without Thanksgiving dinner.  Sierra Nevada Brewing provided free meals and coordinated over 1,000 breweries to produce a beer, Resilience IPA, to benefit wildfire relief funds.

In our classes, we teach students how to run hotels. We teach them how to run restaurants and how to manage events. They learn about food costs and RevPAR and bona fide occupational qualifications.  We talk to them about service management.  But sometimes we forget to tell them how important hospitality is. We forget to tell them that every day they make a difference—and that every day they can make a difference.  

A person living alone may receive their only smile of the day from a coffee shop worker. When a couple celebrates an anniversary or a first date, the warm welcome of a restaurateur sets the tone.  Hotel workers provide comfort to guests while their partners undergo cancer treatment in the hospital next door. Sometimes the guests even become part of the hotel family.  They celebrate together when the couple goes home. They cry together when they don’t. And when a city burns, other cities come together to create comfort. When we need each other, hospitality plays a major role in our recovery. I am reminded that hospitality is a grand calling.

We teach tomorrow’s hotel, event, food and beverage professionals.  Let us not forget they are also tomorrow’s providers of hospitality.  They have the ability, in fact the job description, to make people happy for a living. In a world of people living through text messages and angry news feeds, hospitality providers are a source of warmth in a world that is cold to many. We make a difference.Remind your students that they do too.


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