Why is a Pineapple the Symbol of Hospitality?

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

An alternate version of this article originally appeared on the blog home of the private club consulting firm, RCS Hospitality Group.

As many in our industry know, the pineapple is the universal symbol of hospitality--but hospitality is, of course, more than just an industry.

In the simplest of terms, it's the way you make people feel.

Welcome. Invited. Appreciated. Important. Understood. Valued.

So how did a single fruit come to symbolize such a complex idea?

It starts with Christopher Columbus in 1493, really, who "discovered" the pineapple during his exploration of the Caribbean. The fruit itself had been brought there by the fierce Carib Indians themselves, from raids to the areas now known as Brazil and Paraguay. They too held the pineapple, which they called "anana" meaning "excellent fruit," in high regard and it played an important role in tribal functions and celebrations.

Columbus wrote that the fruit appeared to look like a pinecone but had the sweet flavor and firmness of an apple--hence, his imaginative name for it. The sailors loved the sweet taste and beautiful color of the appealing fruit, and brought its popularity back to Europe with them.

The royal courts were continually on the hunt for new sweet flavors, sugar being costly to import from Asia or the Middle East. Pineapple fit the bill perfectly, but importers were dismayed to learn that it didn't grow well in the European climate. Shipping in fresh pineapple was a challenge due to the high rate of spoilage brought on by long trips and humid storage conditions. Instead, it was often brought from the Americas in sugared or candied form, or preserved in syrup.

So cherished was the elusive fresh pineapple that King Charles II had a portrait painted of himself receiving one, and it quickly became the fashionable gift to bestow upon honored guests.

In the 1600s and 1700s when whole pineapples were able to be obtained, they usually went to the bakeshops and purveyors of the English colonies along the eastern coast of America. Here a pineapple could be rented out (seriously!) to party hosts who would display it amongst their edible desserts, to be admired for the rare jewel that it was.

The genuinely wealthy purchased the entire pineapple to carve and serve to their guests. Any attendee to a dinner party where a pineapple was served knew immediately that no expense had been spared in pursuit of the guests' pleasure.

That's still how we aim to make our guests feel: special, valued, and important. Now pineapples can be seen everywhere from hotel logos to door knockers, carved into wooden bed posts, or displayed with pride on a flag outside the front door. And if you happen to be attending the CMAA World Conference in February 2017, make sure to come by our booth to pick up a little symbol of hospitality for yourself.


Grace Everitt is a published writer & editor with nearly ten years of experience in both digital and print media. She is also the president of Grace Marketing Group, and spends her time bouncing between Florida and California.