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5 Things Every Small Business Owner Can Learn from Danny Meyer, King of Hospitality

Does Danny Meyer’s name ring a bell? He is the CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group and one of the country’s top restaurateurs – Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, Blue Smoke, and Shake Shack are all his concepts.

Danny is also the undeniable king of hospitality, and his fabulous book, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, must be added to your reading list, stat. No time to read a book? That’s OK – here are 5 things every small business owner can learn from him:

1. “Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel.”

This is one of Danny’s most famous quotes, and it beautifully conveys the importance of hospitality’s effects on customers/clients – and how it’s so very different from service.

Hospitality sans feelings is just service. Outstanding hospitality can keep a hole-in-the-wall restaurant open for decades, while hospitality delivered in rote fashion can doom even the most-anticipated, high-end restaurant to failure.

Takeaway: When you’re interacting with clients, focus on making them feel appreciated and taken care of.

2. “The customer is not always right ... but he/she must always feel heard. You must make customers feel that you’re on their side.”

We are told that the customer is always right – but we all know that isn’t true. Far from it! However, if you keep in mind that people just want to be heard, you’re light years ahead of your competitors.

A corollary to that is:

3. “People will generally forgive an honest mistake when someone takes responsibility for it with genuine concern.”

Takeaway: If someone is complaining, let them – it is probably all they want from you. Try to be sympathetic. Apologize. Repeat back to them what they told you to show you’re listening. When all else fails, treat them as you would your mother (assuming you love your mother!).

4. Hire people with high emotional intelligence (EQ)

At Union Square Hospitality Group, hiring managers look for potential employees with a high hospitality quotient, or HQ. HQ encompasses five emotional skills:

  • Optimism and kindness
  • Curiosity about learning
  • An exceptional work ethic
  • A high degree of empathy
  • Self-awareness and integrity

Takeaway: You can teach skills, but you can’t teach EQ. Hire for EQ, teach the rest.

5. “Put your employees first.”

This is actually Danny Meyer’s #1 rule: “By putting your employees first, you have happier employees, which then leads to a higher HQ. A higher HQ leads to happy customers, which benefits all the stakeholders.”

He prioritizes stakeholders in this order:

  1. Employees
  2. Customers
  3. Community
  4. Suppliers
  5. Investors

Takeaway: Treat your employees like gold; the rest will fall into place.

What do you think? Do you agree with Danny’s lessons? What do you do to make your clients and employees “feel?”


Image courtesy of USHG.