Dissecting Hospitality — the guest always sits with a drink at hand

In 1988 I visited the magnificent city of Vienna for the very first time. For the following twelve years I sat in about ten of their traditional Coffeehouses, most of which have been in operation at least 80 years, some over a century.

Café Hawelka was my most frequent choice. It was opened in 1939 by Josefine and Leopold Hawelka. She led me to a table each time I walked in, as she did with every single guest. But it was he who consistently brought me a small silver tablet with two small glasses of water, as soon as he noticed that my cup had no more coffee left.

Today I visited a friendly and professional coffee shop on a busy Manhattan street, and had to think of Leopold Hawelka, and the hospitality understanding in the old world. Once the owner noticed that I was finished with the coffee, although I was making no motion to leave, he cleared my table. Most tables had no guests, and nobody was waiting to be seated.

It remains my deep conviction that no guest ought to sit dry at a table. Never. Even in New York, New York, the guest is royalty, until it has left the premises.

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