All web services are in the hospitality business

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Last year I had the pleasure to listen to Danny Meyer speak at the USV Portfolio Summit.  Oncer per year USV asks the CEO’s from portfolio companies and other executive management to come for a day of information exchange, reflection, updates, and introductions.

Over a great lunch Danny Meyer, author of Setting The Table and owner of many fine restaurants around NYC gave a talk.

After a few minutes of speaking it was clear why it made sense to have a restaurant owner in to speak to 25+ web services CEO’s – hospitality.

There are so many strong ties between the two businesses, its amazing Danny hasn’t written a book entirely devoted to the subject.  The common thread is that the goal of any web service or restaurant is to get new people to come in and try things out, and hopefully come back again for repeat business. Since joining Foursquare in the spring, this has been even more apparent as I speak to many many Merchants who deal with this problem in the real world too.

When a user first comes to a site, your goal is to get them to hang around and of course come back later. If they do come back later, you have a repeat customer and hopefully they are coming back to get more of the great service you offer. This could be for purchase behavior, content consumption, community participation, or a stepping stone to another place (search engine).

Whether its comparing visits to patrons or pageviews to loyal customers startups are clearly in the hospitality business.

The job of a restaurant owner is to make the best impression possible. How many times have you seen a storefront change? Better yet, a layout adjustment in a dining room at a restaurant or people bringing in a new chef to an established place. Menu changes happen often and inserts are sometimes used to highlight Specials.

The same is true for startups in the technology space. Websites change their homepage design – A/B test their landing pages. Startups serve customer surveys and other interstitials hoping to give people all the information they need and more.  The goal of course is repeat business, word of mouth conversations with friends, and building a relationship.

I try to keep this in mind when thinking about building products for Businesses whether they have a web presence or not.  Thinking about being in the hospitality business means making people happy both online and offline.

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