Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer

This photo is borrowed from this source.

This photo is borrowed from this source.

This photo is borrowed from this source.

This photo is borrowed from this source.

Imagine that there is a new restaurant in your town.  You make a reservation. You look at the menu online. The dining room is impeccably decorated. There is a great view from your table, and your food is amazing, well that is, after it arrives forty-five minutes later than you expected.  Now you’re rushing through your dinner to make your movie on time.

Maybe your food isn’t late, but your waitress is rude.  You’re waiting twenty minutes for someone to take your drink order or waiting on the check.  Situations like these happen frequently in the majority of restaurants.  Small, but important details are overlooked. Service and hospitality can make or break a business in the food industry.  These seemingly small mistakes and gestures can add up to the guests overall experience. If guests leave a restaurant unhappy because their experience was negative, they are very unlikely to be returning customers.


This photo is borrowed from this source.

Danny Meyer  the CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group exposes his successful business model, which is centralized around good service and hospitality, in his book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. Danny Meyer has opened some of the most “beloved and celebrated restaurants” in New York City: The Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, and The Modern to name a few.

His restaurants have earned over twenty-five James Beard Awards and have occupied the top of Zagat’s Most Popular list.  Not only does he strive for sustainability and success in his community of restaurants, but he also supports the greater community by supporting hunger relief programs in the New York area.

What sets his restaurants apart from the millions of other restaurants in the city is his ongoing effort to provide consistent, exceptional service to his guest.  Meyer’s hope is that when guests dine at one of the Union Square Hospitality restaurants they will remember not only the food and atmosphere but also the impeccable service.

He attempts to make every guest’s experience unforgettable by going above and beyond.  When a customer was in a panic because she left her keys, phone and wallet in a cab Meyer’s team did everything possible to rescue her dining experience.  They cover her bill and they also sent a waiter uptown to locate the cab.  By the end of her meal, they surprised her by returning her to-go bag with her keys, phone and wallet sitting on top.

While some people may criticize his business plan for being excessive, Meyer will argue that a gesture such as locating someone’s belongings in a cab or helping to plan the perfect proposal can make a business more successful in the long run.  His loyal following of customers allows him to run a successful business centralized around hospitality.  Their faithfulness to his restaurants allows him to make a diner’s experience profound.

After hostessing at a local restaurant in my area last summer, I could really appreciate his advice in this book. I never considered how simple word choices could impact a guest’s experience. “No problem” versus “your welcome” for example.  By saying no problem when helping a guest implies that they were a problem in the first place.  It should never be a problem to help a guest, therefore saying “your welcome” is more appropriate. He changed the way I value good service when I am out to dinner and also how I interact with customers when I am working in a restaurant.

His book offers business advice that is applicable to businesses across the food industry.  He will offer solutions to positively change the way you communicate with others. If we take a minute to re-phrase what we are going to say or adjust our body language to appear more welcoming we can make someone’s experience positive, rather than negative.  If more businesses used Meyer’s method we would “[leave] the world a little better than how we found it [and improve] someone’s day with good humor and thoughtful hospitality” (Union Square Hospitality Group).

If you interested in learning more about Danny Meyer or The Union Square Hosptiality click here.

"Union Square Hospitality Group." Union Square Hospitality Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2013.