What Cannabis Dispensaries Can Learn from the Hospitality Industry

Let’s face it – when you walk into a cannabis dispensary, it can be a real mixed bag in terms of the guest experience and customer service. In order for successful cannabis dispensaries to remain successful, they would be wise to borrow from the playbook of the world’s best hospitality companies. Look at the following as the Golden Rules of the Guest Experience.

Customers Are Guests, Not Customers

This may seem trivial, but it’s not just semantics. Hoteliers and restaurateurs think guest, guest, guest. This guest has traveled to their “homes” and are there to spend time amongst their “families.” The effect is that staff take pride in the establishment as if it were their own home (keep it clean, make it look nice) and they naturally treat customers as guests (big welcomes, smiles, going above and beyond to make the guest comfortable). Customers go to banks and grocery stores.

Fundamentally, when your staff begins to see the person walking in the door as their guest – and not just a customer – you are on your way to building a lasting culture.

You Only Get One Shot at a First Impression…

Many people are stepping foot into a dispensary for the very first time. They might be nervous, or excited, or a combination of both. These people are professionals, parents, patients seeking medical relief. It’s of the utmost importance to welcome them with the universal language of a smile and a genuine greeting to ensure their comfortability. This MUST happen within the first 30 seconds or you’ll be fighting an expensive, uphill battle to win loyalty.

…And a Last One

The lasting impression a guest has of your brand is even more important than the first one.

The Golden Rules for a Hospitable Farewell:

  1. Meaningful thanks and gratitude for patronage
  2. Invitation to return
  3. Personalizing the goodbye with name usage

Collaborate, Build Trust

Many clients say that their most affluent and profitable guests have never tried edibles before, but are enticed because it’s healthier. This guest has immense potential, but they need to trust you. Start by assuming nothing. Use that awesome welcome to disarm them, then start with a few ‘what and why’ questions to get them – not you – talking. Phenomenal concierges and servers do not start recommending things until they have some valuable insight.

Your most profitable cannabis guests are likely to be overwhelmed by the newness of the experience, and maybe even a little bit embarrassed by their lack of knowledge. They may not know or be able to articulate what they want. Win their trust and, at a minimum, they become referral machines.

Cannabis market research shows guests want a discrete experience. This means they want to feel secure and in control of the experience; they are your guides.


The best hospitality companies are always training. Why? If you expect to modify, enhance and perfect your staff’s behavior, concepts need to be taught and reinforced for them to stick.

The best hotels hold a “Daily Arrivals” meeting every morning. They discuss staffing, events, online reviews and then go through the list of guests arriving at the hotel that day. This meeting laser-focuses staff on the day ahead of them, and it gives the team a chance to collaborate, share stories and learn. Similarly, the best restaurants have a daily “Pre-Meal” meeting where the objective is the same: get ready for the show!

It truly is a golden age for cannabis dispensaries, and those that truly understand and perfect the guest experience will survive the early struggle to emerge – and then leverage – the experience to create and protect healthy profit margins.

Craving more information? Would you like us to speak at your next management meeting or conference? Contact Erica Bethe Levin at 1.646.470.0276 or elevin@coylehospitality.com.

© 2023 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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