In Pursuit of Hospitality

Kindness is key in the restaurant and hotel business.
Photo: Alex Michl

Scott Math lives in a Romans 12 mindset where working hard and showing hospitality means just another day at the office.

Scott, of Walnut Creek Johnston, has spent the majority of his career working for the Heart of America Group. Heart of America owns and operates 32 restaurants and hotels in the Midwest, including Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, Wildwood Lodge, and The Machine Shed, as well as franchising hotels such as Holiday Inn and DoubleTree. 

From a high school summer job as a busboy in his hometown restaurant, to serving as general manager, to now transitioning into his role as Director of Intercontinental Hotel Group Brand Operations, Scott has dedicated his life to having both an earthly and heavenly attitude of hospitality.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know the Lord—it doesn’t take my business to figure that out, but you see it in action,” Scott said. “We all want to be recognized. We all want to know our lives matter.”

Hotels and restaurants are businesses people from all walks of life use, providing an opportunity for Scott to serve and love many. From the guests he serves and the people he works alongside to the owner he is employed by, Scott says his responsibility to affect people’s intrinsic value is at the core of his job description. 

“We’re in the business of sharing the power of love, not the love of power. As soon as we get that backwards, we’re going to fail,” Scott said. “Everybody has to be looked after and needs to be shown the power of love, and the power of love is ultimately Christ’s love. We all matter to Him. Some know it, and some will come to know it.”

The hotel Scott manages serves as the training ground for incoming executives who will operate other brands. Scott is directly involved in the development of teams as they prepare for new projects. Leadership in the workplace resembles discipleship in Scott’s eyes. 

“Leadership isn’t top-down; leadership is side-by-side,” Scott said. “Jesus walked with His disciples. He went where nobody else would go. You have that ability in the work world to be alongside your coworkers. They learn from you firsthand. A consistent leadership role is always led by example. You’re learning from someone that does, not just knows.”

"Jesus walked with His disciples. He went where nobody else would go. You have that ability in the work world to be alongside your coworkers."

In his business, Scott tries to adhere to a biblical mindset of money, viewing profits as a “report card” of how effectively people are being cared for, not the end goal in itself. “We’re getting paid to be nice to people! We talk in our industry about 'killing ‘em with kindness,’ but it comes down to showing them love,” Scott said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. I want [employees] to realize that their paycheck is just a byproduct of how they deliver."


Sharing Christ in the workplace can look different from day to day, whether it means verbally sharing the Gospel, imitating Christ in his actions, or implementing principles from the Bible by quoting scripture to his staff. “I’ve prayed for that wisdom of when that timing should be right. My staff knows I believe,” Scott said. “I’ll still say Merry Christmas to people. I’ve had one guest correct me and say, ‘No, it’s Happy Holidays,’ and I’ll apologize. I understand it. My purpose is not to offend but to share.”

Scott trusts God has him serving exactly where he should be. His advice to young professionals, his two daughters, and those who are choosing a career path comes down to passion.

“Do what you love. It shouldn’t feel like work. When I interview for people to join our teams, I’m looking for that personality that wants to serve. I like finding out, is this just a job? Is it a career where you’re just trying to climb that corporate ladder, or was it a calling?” Scott said. “To take it to that next level is to ask, have you been chosen? I’m looking above as to who chose me to do this, otherwise I probably would not have done this as long as I have. Find what you’ve been chosen to do.” 

Since that summer of 1986 as a busboy, Scott has been working to serve the best that he can. He knows serving well is valuable and will always be important. 

“To have a servant-minded attitude is Christ-like. That role exists for a reason. That’s one of the things I remind people, that they can be world-class whatever they do. It takes a nanosecond to make that decision, to be the best server, but it takes a lifetime to master,” Scott said. “Self-improvement is where it’s at, whether it’s how you’re going to study the Word, live like Christ, or volunteer."

Regardless of career path or role, Scott says that working for the Lord means building others up instead of building yourself up and making a decision to work hard longterm. “What you do matters. You’ve been created to do something,” Scott said. “One way or another, you’re serving, so serve with all your heart.”