Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

The Beauty of Hospitality in Business

­A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Danny Meyer, the founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group based in New York. During the Builders + Innovators Summit, Danny gave a talk to a small group of entrepreneurs who had been named “Top 100 Intriguing Entrepreneurs” by Goldman Sachs. I was honored to be in that select group, and the treasure of hearing Danny speak on a topic so near to my heart left a lasting impression on me.

Union Square is known as much for its hospitality as it is for its cuisine. In his book, Setting the Table, Danny shares his experiences that lead him to create perhaps the perfect blend of product excellence and genuine hospitality. Here is his definition of hospitality and how it relates to traditional service:

“Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes the recipient feel. Service is a monologue – we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on the guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.”

After Danny’s talk I shook his hand vigorously in hopes that some of his experience and success in hospitality would rub off on me. He probably thought I was strange, like a schoolgirl grasping at a pop singer, but he was singing the music that has always made me dance in business.  What a sweet sound! Please pardon my obvious blushing but a huge helping of the pure, honest, genuine, desire to take care of people as they enjoy your product and service just makes me smile.

If you cherish hospitality, stop by one of their restaurants or grab a copy of his book, and if you want to justify setting the table of hospitality in your business, here is a great quote from his book “Over the course of the past twenty-one years I’ve opened and operated five white-tablecloth restaurants; and urban barbecue joint; a feel-good jazz club; a neo-roadside stand selling frozen custard, burgers, and hot-dogs; three modern museum cafes; and an off-premises, restaurant quality catering company. So far, I haven’t had the experience of closing any of them, and I pray I never will.” That was written in 2006. Since then he has taken his burger chain, Shake Shack, public and it is one of the fastest growing companies of any kind.

Meyer’s focus on great hospitality and service resonates with me because it echoes the first core value of Benefitfocus “Provide Anticipatory Service.” Meyer’s success, much like our own, proves that providing exceptional service is not only great for customers, but for a company’s bottom line too.

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