Why would a man pursuing a career in law and politics suddenly give it all up and gamble his future on a restaurant? Just ask St. Louis native Danny Meyer, who turned that one restaurant into a hospitality empire and eventually founded Shake Shack, the beloved burger spot with over 250 locations around the world.
Aside from the countless awards Danny Meyer has earned as a restaurateur, he also penned Setting the Table, which distills his philosophy on hospitality and leadership. But in his earlier years, he wouldn’t have predicted this future for himself.
After the success of his first restaurant, he wanted to prove to himself that it wasn’t a fluke. That challenge brought him face to face with a harsh reality: he was a horrible manager. If he was going to make both restaurants work, he had to sharpen his leadership skills and instill the values of enlightened hospitality into his team so they could carry on in his absence. This self-improvement mission would be the spark for Danny’s restaurant empire: Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard, Shake Shack, The Modern, and many more.
Today, with his philosophy of enlightened hospitality and belief in the importance of building community wealth, Danny Meyer continually prods the restaurant industry to level up and create better career opportunities for its workers, while challenging himself to share his insights with new industries through his investment fund.
Introducing Danny. [00:42] Why Danny wrote Setting The Table in secret. [01:51] Missing out on genuine interactions in a highly transactional society [03:08] Danny’s philosophy on hospitality as an organizational principle. [04:12] The turning point of Danny’s professional life. [06:53] Developing a unique leadership style by managing volunteers. [10:04] Having a growth mentality towards employees. [11:42] Early lessons from Rich Melman. [12:42] Finding and hiring for the 51%. [14:16] Why Danny was so hesitant about opening a second restaurant. [16:45] Being forced to become a better manager. [18:14] Managing difficult family dynamics. [19:41] Why you shouldn’t spend too much money on your first venture. [20:31] Learning what it means to be responsible to your investors. [22:28] Early inspiration for Shake Shack. [25:25] Restoring Madison Square Park. [25:51] Testing Danny’s theory of enlightened hospitality with a hot dog cart. [27:17] Building community wealth. [30:06] The role Shake Shack plays in the Madison Square Park community. [30:51] The downside of the tipping system. [32:45] Taking the restaurant industry to the next level. [37:25] Managing with constant gentle pressure. [41:32] Investing in enlightened hospitality. [43:11]
Mentioned in this Episode:
Danny Meyer’s Book | Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Businesshttps://www.amazon.com/Setting-Table-Transforming-Hospitality-Business/dp/0060742755
Rich Melman, Founder and Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterpriseshttps://www.leye.com/about/partners/?richard-melman Bill Shore’s Book | The Cathedral Within: Transforming Your Life by Giving Something Backhttps://amazon.com/Cathedral-Within-Transforming-Giving-Something/dp/0375758291 Share Our Strength https://www.shareourstrength.org/ Enlightened Hospitality Investments https://ehi.fund/ Resy https://resy.com/ Goldbelly https://www.goldbelly.com/ Salt & Straw https://saltandstraw.com/ Dig https://www.diginn.com/ Madison Reed https://www.madison-reed.com/ Thanks for listening!
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