This holiday season, Stumptown is taking some time to celebrate hospitality. We've asked a small group of our wholesale partners to give us some insights into what hospitality means to them, and how they go about creating a warm, welcoming environment in their unique spaces. Our first hospitality story comes from Flora Restaurant Group.
Nat Stratton-Clarke is the owner of the Flora Restaurant Group in Seattle, WA, comprised of Cafe Flora, their flagship vegetarian restaurant in Madison Valley; Floret, a sit down restaurant and coffee counter in SeaTac airport; and The Flora Bakehouse, their bakery and cafe at Beacon Hill. Nat has fostered a haven for vegetarians and vegans alike for almost 20 years with local, organic, and sustainable goods with an eye on being eco-conscious and producing food that is simply delicious. As a transgender business owner, he strives to cultivate a safe, respectful and diverse environment for guests and his 100+ employees as well as contributing to organizations such as Trans Justice Funding Project, GSBA, and GLSEN to help support their ongoing missions.
What does “hospitality” mean to you?
"Hospitality means eating and drinking with good friends. It's welcoming someone into your home. We treat each location like it's our home and we are warmly welcoming guests into it. It is creating a space of calm, inclusion, and welcome; if even just for a moment."
What is a memorable experience of hospitality that has shaped you?
"The pandemic is still so fresh. I cannot tell you how many memories I have of being the only person someone had seen in a day when they came to get their take away order at Cafe Flora or came to Bakehouse to get a latte and scone. That interaction was so special and so meaningful, even if it was just for a few moments. Something about being seen by another person and not just on a zoom screen, you could see the difference it made.
"We were the first meal back in a restaurant for so many folks and it literally brought tears to my eyes and theirs. Recognizing the power of hospitality and how much we all missed it. It’s an honor to be able to transport someone through what they are eating and drinking and something that is incredibly moving to witness. I cried the first time we put food on a plate again and not in a takeout box. The pandemic was a rollercoaster on an entirely different level which we have never experienced before, so, to finally get back to what we do best was incredibly cathartic to me and to our entire team."
How do you think about moving “alongside” our increasingly fast-paced and convenience-focused culture, while maintaining quality and service?
"No matter if you have two minutes or twenty with a guest, there is time to make a significant impact. At the airport, a place that can be incredibly stressful and the most fast-paced of all of our locations, we double down on quality and service. It is what makes us stand out from the rest. Guests are consistently shocked by the delicious scratch food and gorgeous coffee we serve at Floret because it's in an airport. There is a preconceived notion that you have to sacrifice service and quality to exist in this kind of environment, which is primed for our increasingly fast paced and convenience-focused culture. But we love turning that notion on its head and providing exceptionally high-quality food/coffee and impeccable care in our service."
What are some of the specific things you’ve added (or let go of) over the years, in order to balance customer experience and business needs?
"At The Flora Bakehouse, we are just over a year and a half old. In that time, I think that we have really figured out our morning program but in the afternoon sitting on our roof deck, maybe you don’t always want an almond croissant. To that end, we launched a soft serve program as well as a savory menu a few months ago and it is wild how much guests love it. We see some people twice a day now; once in the morning for a pastry and a coffee and again in the afternoon/early evening for soft serve in our croissant cone and a cheese plate."
What do you see as the “future of hospitality” for you, your business, and/or the industry?
"Everyone in this industry has learned to pivot and pivot again through the pandemic. I could talk about all the fears with the rising costs of supplies, rents, etc... which are of course there each and every day. The “does this all still make sense?” questions you have to ask yourself when you are trying to make it all work. But at the same time I know this is what I was meant to do. I love my job, I love that I get to bring people together to enjoy amazing food and drinks in a beautiful space. Honestly, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
"Cafe Flora has been here for 31 years; it's been here longer than a good amount of our staff has been alive. We are a part of people’s lives and stories here in Seattle and I hope we are able to remain for another 30 years."
Learn more about the Flora Restaurant Group by visiting their website, or drop in to one of their three locations in the Seattle, WA area:
2901 E Madison St.
Seattle, WA 98112
SeaTac Airport, Concourse A
Seattle, WA 98158
The Flora Bakehouse
1511 S. Lucile St.
Seattle, WA 98108
Interested in serving Stumptown coffee at your restaurant? Learn more about becoming a Wholesale partner here.