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The bestselling business book from award-winning restauranteur Danny Meyer, of Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Shake Shack Seventy-five percent of all new restaurant ventures fail, and of those that do stick around, only a few become icons. Danny Meyer started Union Square Cafe when he was 27, with a good idea and hopeful investors. He is now the co-owner of a resta The bestselling business book from award-winning restauranteur Danny Meyer, of Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Shake Shack Seventy-five percent of all new restaurant ventures fail, and of those that do stick around, only a few become icons. Danny Meyer started Union Square Cafe when he was 27, with a good idea and hopeful investors. He is now the co-owner of a restaurant empire. How did he do it? How did he beat the odds in one of the toughest trades around? In this landmark book, Danny shares the lessons he learned developing the dynamic philosophy he calls Enlightened Hospitality. The tenets of that philosophy, which emphasize strong in-house relationships as well as customer satisfaction, are applicable to anyone who works in any business. Whether you are a manager, an executive, or a waiter, Danny’s story and philosophy will help you become more effective and productive, while deepening your understanding and appreciation of a job well done.  Setting the Table is landmark a motivational work from one of our era’s most gifted and insightful business leaders.


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The bestselling business book from award-winning restauranteur Danny Meyer, of Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Shake Shack Seventy-five percent of all new restaurant ventures fail, and of those that do stick around, only a few become icons. Danny Meyer started Union Square Cafe when he was 27, with a good idea and hopeful investors. He is now the co-owner of a resta The bestselling business book from award-winning restauranteur Danny Meyer, of Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Shake Shack Seventy-five percent of all new restaurant ventures fail, and of those that do stick around, only a few become icons. Danny Meyer started Union Square Cafe when he was 27, with a good idea and hopeful investors. He is now the co-owner of a restaurant empire. How did he do it? How did he beat the odds in one of the toughest trades around? In this landmark book, Danny shares the lessons he learned developing the dynamic philosophy he calls Enlightened Hospitality. The tenets of that philosophy, which emphasize strong in-house relationships as well as customer satisfaction, are applicable to anyone who works in any business. Whether you are a manager, an executive, or a waiter, Danny’s story and philosophy will help you become more effective and productive, while deepening your understanding and appreciation of a job well done.  Setting the Table is landmark a motivational work from one of our era’s most gifted and insightful business leaders.

30 review for Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Evin Ashley

    The state of mind at which I finish this book is awash in two dichotomous realities: utter relief, in what has been a persistent journey to finish something so tepid and platitudinous in delivery; and a misplaced sense of pompous accomplishment in doing so. Thus defines the broad crux of my review. My main aim was to glean some unique insight into management and professional success. I think the restaurant place is an astute metaphor for all business; stress, pressure and human relationships defi The state of mind at which I finish this book is awash in two dichotomous realities: utter relief, in what has been a persistent journey to finish something so tepid and platitudinous in delivery; and a misplaced sense of pompous accomplishment in doing so. Thus defines the broad crux of my review. My main aim was to glean some unique insight into management and professional success. I think the restaurant place is an astute metaphor for all business; stress, pressure and human relationships define them. Meyer also published this book years ago, at which time some of his insights would have been less mainstream or common-sensical, with the right amount of experience. But overall, I felt his book was filled with a variety of very political "glittering generalizations" - statements that everyone can agree with, and make him look good. His attempts to make the book more colorful or personal made the first half of the book almost comical. It was not altogether sensual; he seemed to list off his gastronomical experiences, or lay out personal stories in almost a rosy-colored, Hollywood-fairytale kind of way, rather than emphasize the grit and the grime. Maybe I want to have my cake and eat it too, but I felt he overcompensated for this watered-down, neatly packaged storytelling by extending the personal narrative pages beyond what it should have lasted. I did not feel that Meyer assessed much of substance until the second half of the book, or more specifically page 139, when he actually put a number in print: "The 51 Percent Solution". That's when he began to apply his vast experience to something useful and formulaic, to be passed on to the eager reading audience. Overall, this book was a useful reminder, not a novel discovery. It made me hungry for French quiche and schnapps, even if I were imagining Meyer's incredibly white teeth across the table from me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    not poorly written at all, and in fact pretty engaging. i just cant stand danny meyer. basically, if you have a cool 500k of daddy's $$$ and know some shady real estate agents in nyc, you can own a restaurant too!!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mindy

    I don't think I will ever find a business book that is as great as "Good to Great" but this book is definitely up there in my top two or three. This is an easy to read, and if you love food, gripping book about how to open, develop, grow, evolve, design, run and have fun in a restaurant. Bu it goes way beyond restaurants. In his introduction Danny says, “In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, I don't think I will ever find a business book that is as great as "Good to Great" but this book is definitely up there in my top two or three. This is an easy to read, and if you love food, gripping book about how to open, develop, grow, evolve, design, run and have fun in a restaurant. Bu it goes way beyond restaurants. In his introduction Danny says, “In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple and it’s that hard.” The rest of the book is all about how he does/did that. There are many lessons in this book that are 100% applicable to libraries. It is full of gems, those things that you know that you know but you can’t quite nail them down. You can tell that he has spent a lot of time (years) thinking about his philosophies and methods and because of this he has been able to put them into the book in an understandable and interesting way. By the end of this book I not only wanted to (and will) eat at every one of his restaurants, but you want to be his friend. Here is a man who loves life, people, and food. His heart is in the right place and his actions speak as loud, if not louder than his words. Shira and I actually ate at his first restaurant, The Union Square Café, a few years ago on a visit to New York. Shira still talks about the melt in your mouth Ahi Tuna and Wasabi mashed potatoes. I still remember being amazed that we walked in without a reservation and were seated at a wonderful table. It has remained one of our favorite experiences in New York and now I know why!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    I am a huge fan of Danny Meyer and I like most of the book, but then began to get very bored very quickly. I am not sure I even finished it. It does give you good insight into his hospitality philosophy which I admire.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Normalene

    Danny Meyer’s New York restaurants survived through 9/11, the downturn of 2008 and not only survived but thrived. How he does it is something every person who deals with customer service should read. He talks about training, hiring the best fit, not necessarily the best qualified, how to maintain your vision when the whole world is telling you you’re wrong and what is important to him in maintaining the high quality he is known for. It takes a while to get into the meat of the book, but once you Danny Meyer’s New York restaurants survived through 9/11, the downturn of 2008 and not only survived but thrived. How he does it is something every person who deals with customer service should read. He talks about training, hiring the best fit, not necessarily the best qualified, how to maintain your vision when the whole world is telling you you’re wrong and what is important to him in maintaining the high quality he is known for. It takes a while to get into the meat of the book, but once you do you’ll want your own copy so you can make margin notes and put sticky notes everywhere you find a gem. He calls what he does “enlightened hospitality” but it is actually awesome customer-focused quality service which he implements in a way that might not be what you think would work, but it does. Even the blurb at the front gives a few hints about the wisdom you’ll find inside: “Hospitality is when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. These two concepts – for and to – express it all.” “Shared ownership develops when guests talk about a restaurant as if it’s theirs. That sense of affiliation builds trust and invariably leads to repeat business.” “ Err on the side of generosity: You get more by first giving more.” “Wherever your center lies, know it, name it, believe in it. When you cede your core values to someone else, it’s time to quit.” One of my favorite quotes from inside the book is: “Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Service is a monologue – we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards of service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue… It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.” I loved this book. For all human resource managers and customer service representatives this should be a must read for you.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hank

    I don’t know how it took 5 years from my first USHG visit to get and read this book. I also can’t remember the last time I read a book where almost every chapter elicited some visceral emotion, let alone a “business” book. I have so many fond memories of USHG, both solo and group dining. (I really appreciated Danny Meyer’s acknowledgment and treatment of solo diners early in the book!) And it was amazing to relive those memories through the origins of the group’s principles — the principles that I don’t know how it took 5 years from my first USHG visit to get and read this book. I also can’t remember the last time I read a book where almost every chapter elicited some visceral emotion, let alone a “business” book. I have so many fond memories of USHG, both solo and group dining. (I really appreciated Danny Meyer’s acknowledgment and treatment of solo diners early in the book!) And it was amazing to relive those memories through the origins of the group’s principles — the principles that would turn into the generous and graceful hospitality that every patron never fails to receive there. The last line hit home as it echoes what my friend Kartik and I said once at the Modern bar: “when people choose to become regulars at Union Square Cafe or Gramercy Tavern or Eleven Madison Park or Tabla or Blue Smoke or Jazz Standard or The Modern, or our museum cafes, or at Shake Shack, or Hudson Yards Catering, they’re telling us, ‘This is the place that makes me feel I’ve come home.’” Of course, at this point, I am superbly biased! I’m so lucky to have stumbled into USHG and the friend group that led me to it. Really makes me wish I had done math/hotel haha

  7. 4 out of 5

    DuskyHued LadySatan

    i was given this book by the business investor-partner of the restaurant where i currently work bc he and the other owner/investors hero worship this dude and his whole 'hospitality' approach to business. frankly, they can have it. this guy name-drops like a true Manhattan-ite to try to gain credibility, brags about meeting his first chef while in a fist-fight with a customer over their preferred table, and generally comports himself as though he reinvented the wheel when it comes to restaurants i was given this book by the business investor-partner of the restaurant where i currently work bc he and the other owner/investors hero worship this dude and his whole 'hospitality' approach to business. frankly, they can have it. this guy name-drops like a true Manhattan-ite to try to gain credibility, brags about meeting his first chef while in a fist-fight with a customer over their preferred table, and generally comports himself as though he reinvented the wheel when it comes to restaurants and their operation. it's neither charming or nostalgic, which is the tone he seems to be going for in the two chapters that i struggled to finish. what he really did was force Open Table on the majority of the restaurant business, which has been nothing but detrimental to small, privately owned restaurants outside of big cities (and inside them, too), underpay all of his back-of-house staff and then start the 'service included' nonsense to put the burden of giving that back-of-house staff a (much deserved) raise on the front-of house-staff instead of out of his own multi-million dollar pockets, which in turn cost him all his good front-of-house staff (he's since abandoned he practice bc DUH, it didn't work *newsflash*). and now he's heavily invested in the reservation system Resy (so clever) which doesn't cost the restaurant money to use bc Resy tracks the users internet habits (all of them) and sells that money to the highest bidder on the back end. this guy didn't invent hospitality in business - companies and businesses have been practicing good hospitality for eons because they really do care about their customers, instead of seeing them as an endless supply of profit and marketing data. so this guy and his dumb book can get bent. the people i work for and their idiotic business practices annoy me endlessly, just like this stupid book did, and i'm at a loss as to why i bothered to have this book under 'currently reading' for as long as i did. in conclusion, be nice to your customers bc it's just basic human decency, and for heaven's sake, pay your staff a respectable, deserved wage or don't go into business. thank you, i'll be here all week - try the veal, and don't forget to tip your waitress.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Cunha

    2.5/3 stars Normally, I enjoy biographies, especially when they're read by the author. If I didn't have to finish listening to this for work, it would've dropped into my abandoned pile faster than a hot potato. Meyer has some valuable points on hospitality and service, but they are drowned out by an intense amount of context and promoting his business-portfolio. It was like looking for gems in mud. 1) I would've preferred more specific case studies THAT GET TO THE POINT. This felt like reading He 2.5/3 stars Normally, I enjoy biographies, especially when they're read by the author. If I didn't have to finish listening to this for work, it would've dropped into my abandoned pile faster than a hot potato. Meyer has some valuable points on hospitality and service, but they are drowned out by an intense amount of context and promoting his business-portfolio. It was like looking for gems in mud. 1) I would've preferred more specific case studies THAT GET TO THE POINT. This felt like reading Henry James, where one sentence lasts for a paragraph. 2) This could've been summed up in an article or blog post 3) Where are your employees' stories? (The best parts were the examples that centered around the day-to-day.) What's more, the amount of white male privilege and classism was almost nauseating. (I say as a middle class, white enby librarian.) If he included more discussion of these topics, he'd be demonstrating his values more than talking about them. (In my opinion.) My opinions are informed by a profession where it is predominately white and female, with men in positions of power. In my workplace, I am fortunate to work with some amazing people every day, with women/femmes [ I'm not 100% of how they identify] in the director, assistant director and supervisor roles.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Toot Toot!! That's the sound of Danny Meyer tooting his own horn for 300 pages. Meyer clearly knows what he's doing and has done an impressive job creating his restaurant empire, but I had a hard time connecting with his "lows" and learning lessons of how he overcame them. The best lesson of the book is the importance of investing in the community you serve; I had no idea the impact he had on Madison Sq. Park and Union Square.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fud

    Although I got tired and a bit bored by the finish I gained a respect and admiration for the expertise and dedication of Danny Meyer. It bodes well for the success of Shake Shack.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura Vana

    One of the best business books I've read so far. Danny Meyer, a great restaurateur with a huge legacy of high-class restaurants shares his business and leadership mindset from a hospitality point of view. I think the same mindset applies to any kind of business. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in becoming a better leader and building great teams, not only to the ones in the hospitality industry.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mikedariano

    Unexpected to enjoy this as much as I did. Just the part on how to work with customers (the 5 A's) made the book worthwhile. Overall a great per-page book and as a non-New Yorker I probably underappreciate Meyer's work.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rohit Nallapeta

    I started reading this book based on a VC's recommendation and express admiration of Danny Meyer. I loved the storytelling and arc with which Danny leads. As I've seen with books from other entrepreneurs, this book mixes a personal story, beliefs, and best practices they followed in their business. Inevitably all leaders focus on management which even Danny does in this book. Some exceptional concepts that I took away from this book are finding the north star of a business, in Danny's case it wa I started reading this book based on a VC's recommendation and express admiration of Danny Meyer. I loved the storytelling and arc with which Danny leads. As I've seen with books from other entrepreneurs, this book mixes a personal story, beliefs, and best practices they followed in their business. Inevitably all leaders focus on management which even Danny does in this book. Some exceptional concepts that I took away from this book are finding the north star of a business, in Danny's case it was "Enlightened hospitality". Gems like "If you'd like to grow then learn to let go", the principle of "Whoever wrote the rule" and "Write the last chapter of the story" will remain etched in my mind forever. Needless to say, having dined in Gramercy Tavern, it was a thrill to read the story of its origin. A must-read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hardik Seth

    I took this book up to read something about the restaurant business. A good insight into the industry, specific to the US or rather NYC or more specifically Manhattan; with some business gyaan here and there. I am wondering if there's a similar story/book for the Indian context. One should read this book and make a list of restaurants to visit and the dishes to try on their next visit to NYC, the gastronomic capital of the world. In one of the earlier chapters, the author also accounts his visit I took this book up to read something about the restaurant business. A good insight into the industry, specific to the US or rather NYC or more specifically Manhattan; with some business gyaan here and there. I am wondering if there's a similar story/book for the Indian context. One should read this book and make a list of restaurants to visit and the dishes to try on their next visit to NYC, the gastronomic capital of the world. In one of the earlier chapters, the author also accounts his visit to countless hidden restaurants and brasseries in Europe in the 1980s; which I might try someday. A good read for someone who is intrigued by the restaurant business (this is a 20,000 ft view) and the power of hospitality (more anecdotal).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    3.5 stars I am not that interested in food or restaurants so was not sure I would like this book. I did end up enjoying the book as Meyer uses his experience in the restaurant business to bring to life his views on hospitality in any organization. Parts of the book were gems. These included: • Innate emotional skills for hospitality is as important- if not more important- than technical skills in hiring employees • A good strategy is to “always on the improve” (p. 190) • Nine things hiring manager s 3.5 stars I am not that interested in food or restaurants so was not sure I would like this book. I did end up enjoying the book as Meyer uses his experience in the restaurant business to bring to life his views on hospitality in any organization. Parts of the book were gems. These included: • Innate emotional skills for hospitality is as important- if not more important- than technical skills in hiring employees • A good strategy is to “always on the improve” (p. 190) • Nine things hiring manager should look for. I particularly liked the inclusion of infectious attitude and charitable assumptions about others. • A quote from Stanley Marcus noting that “The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Bunk

    His appeal for differentiation between service and hospitality should be embraced by anyone in a service industry. Reading this made me want to buy a ticket to NYC and eat at all of his restaurants immediately. The insights in the second half of the book about running his current empire made a greater lasting impression than the beginning which mostly focused on the history of how he built it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danny Bennett

    There's a lot of good nuggets in this book if you are in the hospitality industry. I work in food service at a Christian camp, so it's different from a restaurant environment, but a lot of things translated well across the different careers. I'm already changing and adjusting how I treat guests and employees from reading this book. I did feel Meyer got lost in the weeds a lot. He goes into to many details when telling his story of business that his points could get lost. I also thought he became There's a lot of good nuggets in this book if you are in the hospitality industry. I work in food service at a Christian camp, so it's different from a restaurant environment, but a lot of things translated well across the different careers. I'm already changing and adjusting how I treat guests and employees from reading this book. I did feel Meyer got lost in the weeds a lot. He goes into to many details when telling his story of business that his points could get lost. I also thought he became the very pretentiousness he abhors at times. It's a book that's worth reading if you are in hospitality and food, but you will also have to work through some weaknesses of the book. I'm looking forward to visiting Shake Shack the next time I'm in St. Louis to hopefully experience the "Enlightened Hospitality" firsthand.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bryanna Tebbetts

    Super insightful for anyone in the hospitality industry!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jim Beatty

    Strangest book I've ever read the first and last third are horrible. The restaurant parts. The middle 3rd on the other hand is awesome, with McGregor and Covey like wisdom. Baffling.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kartik

    Everything about this book is inspirational - how to treat people, how to build a community, how to build trust and through that, how to build a business

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    Six stars. I know I give a lot of six stars to some incredible books but this one ranks high up amongst them. I really got interested in Danny Meyer after finding out about the culture that he’s created in his restaurants (and very successful restaurants I should add) by focusing predominantly on the language and rhetoric that he uses and encourages his staff to use and therefore think according to, in his restaurants. Some of the phrases that you’ll see dotted in this review for the below have Six stars. I know I give a lot of six stars to some incredible books but this one ranks high up amongst them. I really got interested in Danny Meyer after finding out about the culture that he’s created in his restaurants (and very successful restaurants I should add) by focusing predominantly on the language and rhetoric that he uses and encourages his staff to use and therefore think according to, in his restaurants. Some of the phrases that you’ll see dotted in this review for the below have been architected or should I say “languitechted” by Danny Meyer in order for him to be able to change and influence the behaviours of his waiters and waitresses. In fact at one point Danny says in what was a truly penny dropping moment for me as a change manager: “That’s when I knew that I had to find a way to build a language, to teach behaviour. I could no longer model the behaviour and trust that other people would understand and do it … I had to start naming stuff”. I used to have an incredible friend that worked in a hotel who epitomised some of the very values, behaviours and traits that you will see Danny looks for in his star restaurant staff. Danny believes, like I do that fundamentally, that if you want to change the way a group of individuals think and behave you should try to impact and influence the language that they use on a daily basis. This reminded me enormously of Benjamin Lee Wharf’s theory that he espouses in his book “language thought and reality”. There’s not much more to say. If you are a manager in any way shape or form then this is a must read book for you. Here are my best bits: Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions, for and to, express it all. 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 its recipients 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. I was developing what I would call athletic hospitality. Sometimes playing offensive. Sometimes playing defensive. But always wanting to find a way to win. On offence, we figure out creative ways to enhance an already good experience (extra desserts with inscriptions, chocolate for birthdays, dessert wine for regulars). Playing defensive we got better and better at overcoming our frequent mistakes or at diffusing whatever situations the guests might be angry about. I gather as much information as I can about our guests. I called this collecting the dots. In fact I urge our managers to ABCD, “always be collecting dots”. The more information you collect the more frequently can make meaningful connections that can make other people feel good and give you an edge in business. Whenever I see the direction of someone’s eyes is not bisecting the centre of the table then a visit may be warranted. I’m not certain that something is wrong, but I am certain that there is an opportunity to make a connection without feeling like an intruder. It could be that the guest has been waiting too long for his or her food and is looking for a waiter. I feel the entrepreneurial spark and some instinct tells me that a certain dining context doesn’t currently exist but should exist. I then asked myself a series of questions that force me to examine and challenge the status quo, and then change it. Each question begins with these five words: whoever wrote the rule that … ? (ie who says that this cannot be done a different way?) Enlightened hospitality: nothing would ever matter more to me and how we expressed hospitality to our own employees (whoever wrote the role that the customer is always first?) And then in descending order our next core values would be to extend gracious hospitality to our guests our community our suppliers and finally our investors but our employees always came first. We encourage our young energetic staff to create +ones or legends of hospitality: offering those in line free samples and cookies, and spotting say a regular man on a park bench, making him as usual order and bring it to him just as he started to head for the line for our shop. The excellence reflex. People duck as a natural reflex when something is held at them. Similarly the excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right or to improve something that could be better. The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing and then constantly honed through awareness, caring and practice. To me a 51%er has 5 core emotional skills. I’ve learnt that we need to hire employees with these skills if we are to be champions at the team sport of hospitality. The five are: number one optimism, warmth, genuine kindness, thoughtfulness and a sense of the glass is always at least half full. Number two intelligence not just smarts but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning. Number three work ethic. A natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done. Number four. Empathy. And awareness of care for and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel. Number five: self-awareness and integrity. And understanding of what makes you tick and the natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgement. If a staff member is having personal trouble, and wakes up angry, nervous, depressed or anxious he or she needs to recognise and deal with the mood. It does not serve anyone’s purpose to project that mindset into the work environment put onto one’s colleagues. We call that Skunking. A skunk my spray a predator when it feels threatened but everyone else within 2 miles has to smell the spray and these others may assume that the skunk actually had it in for them. Michael Chiarello had given us a great gift by providing language that would allow us to share and teach business philosophy. It helped me understand that we needed all three words: constant, gentle, pressure, working at once to push our business forward. Communications: imagine a pond filled with a lily pads and a frog perched serenely on top of each one. For the fun of it, a little boy tosses a small pebble into the water which breaks the surface of the pond because it’s just a tiny ripple. The frogs barely notice and don’t budge. Enjoying himself the boy throws a large stone into the centre of the pond, sending stronger ripples that cause all of the lily pads to rock and tilt a little bit. Some frogs jump off the lily pads while others cling to avoid falling off. But the ripples affect them all. Not content the boy then throws a huge rock which causes a wave that knocks each and every frog into the water. Some frogs are frightened. All are angry. If only the frogs had some warning about the impending rock then each one of them could’ve timed its jump so that the wave would have had no serious impact. Grasping the lilly pad theory and training yourself and your managers to implement it prevents many if not all communications problems. I like to think of our staff members not as servers but as surfers. Surfing is an arduous sport and as every surfer knows there’s no point in wasting energy trying to tame the ocean of its waves. Waves are like mistakes. You can count on the fact that they will always be another wave so your choice is to get back on the surfboard and anticipate it. The degree to which you ride it with better form than the next guy is how you improve and distinguish yourself as a surfer. I got Tabla’s (an Indian restaurant in NYC) general manager Randy Garutti involved. Randy I said this woman is going to tell the whole world that she left her wallet in a taxi while she was on her way to Tabla. I know we can create a legend out of this somehow. When a client faces a difficult situation you should view it as an opportunity to create a legend out of the moment. This is another moment that matters. Like in this example when a lady left her wallet in a taxi on her way to one of Danny Myers restaurants. Context context context. For years I had heard the business mantra location location location. An ironclad principle that the key to success of any retail establishment was picking the right address to set up shop. My experience indicates that a far more significant contributor to success is context. A powerful example is Tiffany’s famous blue box. The box is the context that provides a strong indication of what you can expect to find inside. Whatever is in that box may not be the exact gift you are anticipating, but it must be entirely consistent with your expectations of something that belongs in a Tiffany box. The box enhances the value of the object inside: and conversely the object inside supports and further defines the meaning of the blue box. That’s not location. That’s context. Leave the campsite neater then I had found it. That concept remains for me one of the most significant measures of success in business and in life. It’s hard not to fall in love with a society that is confident about and content with its traditions, so that it doesn’t need to eat different kind of food every day at lunch and every evening at dinner. I came to love the ritual of dining each evening at the same time with the same people and eating the same foods. If I want our guests to take an interest in us I better take a genuine and equal interest in them. I also use this information to bring people together from similar professions or to connect to people who I know share some common ground whether it’s from the art world, financial services, politics, the culinary business,

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    I read this for work. It isn't something I'd ever pick up on my own. The audiobook is abridged and I feel like I might have missed something.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alan Teder

    Corporate glossy version of the restaurant trade This is pretty light on any of the blood and guts behind the scenes of the restaurant business but does have its points in terms of the psychology of customer interaction and the selection of employees for your business. Meyer's 51 percent rule of hiring people who bring a greater share of emotional skills vs a lower share of technical skills (which can in most cases be taught and learned) is something of wider use beyond the food business. For a g Corporate glossy version of the restaurant trade This is pretty light on any of the blood and guts behind the scenes of the restaurant business but does have its points in terms of the psychology of customer interaction and the selection of employees for your business. Meyer's 51 percent rule of hiring people who bring a greater share of emotional skills vs a lower share of technical skills (which can in most cases be taught and learned) is something of wider use beyond the food business. For a grittier, albeit fictionalized, view of the Union Square Café group see Stephanie Danler's Sweetbitter.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    A friend of mine turned me on to this wonderful business book by James Beard award-winning Restaurateur Danny Meyer (of Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Shake Shack, The Modern, and Hudson Yards Catering fame). My friend had mentioned to me that this was a book that his boss (an accomplished businessman and investor who I greatly admire) couldn't stop talking about. It wasn't far into this book that I too could see the reason behind the enthusiasm of my A friend of mine turned me on to this wonderful business book by James Beard award-winning Restaurateur Danny Meyer (of Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Shake Shack, The Modern, and Hudson Yards Catering fame). My friend had mentioned to me that this was a book that his boss (an accomplished businessman and investor who I greatly admire) couldn't stop talking about. It wasn't far into this book that I too could see the reason behind the enthusiasm of my friend's boss. This is not a book for only foodies, restaurant owners, and food writers. It is a book for all people that are serious about business, leadership, and management. Danny Meyer is a lucid thinker, whose business philosophies (of "enlightened hospitality") are proven, distilled, powerful, and timeless. Frankly, reading this book has heightened my antenna to businesses that get customer service right, and unfortunately to the large majority that get it painfully wrong. Whether it is teaching his people to be agents not gatekeepers, developing a new restaurant's real estate assets based on the concept of “context, context, context” instead of “location, location, location,” making customers feel like the have a shared ownership, by hiring "51 percenters", collecting and connecting dots, expanding his business empire in a concerted way that doesn't overextend the business’s resources- Danny Meyer demonstrates his prowess as not only a Restaurateur, but also an entrepreneur, writer, leader, manager, and visionary. The Kindle addition of this book does suffer from sloppy editing, which is ironic given the meticulous nature of Meyer when it comes to his restaurant empire. For example, the temperature feels like "twenty five degress", service is "ser vice"; Meyer was "champing" not chomping at the bit, etc. These editorial oversights have the taste of a lamb chop cooked dry and served cold in an otherwise brilliant restaurant. Despite these minor editorial shortcomings, Meyer in "Setting the Table" has written a lasting business book for not just food people. This is an important and well-written book that outlines an enlightened, customer-centric, at times counter-intuitive, but consistently effective approach to not only business, but also life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ties

    I think it is, or at least was, a novel take on business to look at it from the perspective of hospitality. In my experience, this way of thinking is lacking in many businesses today, especially in the Netherlands where people have difficulty seperating being hospitable and being subservient. But this book failed to inspire me or move me to do anything in a real sense. So I cannot recommend this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    James Wright

    "In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard." There is no question that Mr. Meyer is on to something. Although some of his more high-end concepts have collapsed under the heft of their lofty aspirations, Meyer has grown his single restaurant into a multi-million dollar empire. At the center of it all is the notion that how "In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard." There is no question that Mr. Meyer is on to something. Although some of his more high-end concepts have collapsed under the heft of their lofty aspirations, Meyer has grown his single restaurant into a multi-million dollar empire. At the center of it all is the notion that how you make people feel is more important than anything else, even the food. Sure the food has to be good, but exceptional service can erase even a major menu-malfunction. It is difficult to be truly impartial here because I believed Meyer's success to be closely tied to his obsession with hospitality from the first time I was introduced to his philosophy. Everything he said seemed so simple, so obvious and yet we see that, like many such things, it is far more difficult to actually do it. Meyer shares many extraordinary anecdotes that demonstrate how his approach has contributed to success which provide a pleasant narrative backdrop to the practical details. Actually, there is really only 1 principal: hire the right people. And it's corollary, hiring the right people is really hard. He lays out some helpful guidelines for identifying who NOT to hire but the key becomes creating a place people want to work so that you can attract and keep the best talent. It is the kind of book that I plan to re-read often in order to digest the multitude of bite-sized insights sprinkled throughout. A must read for any aspiring restaurateur.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lenny D

    Picture a Hillary Clinton TED talk about how to sell rich people expensive food. Not a bad way to pass the time. It’s a good, honest read as far as ghostwritten management consulting pamphlets go. Danny Meyer, king of New York City haute-casual dining, published this book with the clear intent to launch the management consulting venture today called Hospitality Quotient. After a career of uninterrupted success in the restaurant business, he felt his unique approach to hospitality could separate w Picture a Hillary Clinton TED talk about how to sell rich people expensive food. Not a bad way to pass the time. It’s a good, honest read as far as ghostwritten management consulting pamphlets go. Danny Meyer, king of New York City haute-casual dining, published this book with the clear intent to launch the management consulting venture today called Hospitality Quotient. After a career of uninterrupted success in the restaurant business, he felt his unique approach to hospitality could separate wealthy people from their money in other arenas as well. So while the first half of this book is an autobiography, it transitions briefly into professional memoir before ending as a straight-up business guide. The back half is a manicured attempt to offer non-specific business theory. The front half is much more interesting for being more personal, honest, and historical. Meyer obviously has a genius for the business, and to his credit, he comes as close as he can to sharing his secrets. I don’t think there’s some secret ingredient he’s left out: the guy is a food lover who understands great meals, great wine, and great restaurant experiences on a deep, personal level. Meyer understands the feel of a good restaurant intuitively. Even starting out, he was blessed with a clear vision of the kind of restaurant experience he wanted to create: one that was warm and human with elegant ingredients and perfect, attentive service. He describes it as “relaxed excellence.” I was convinced that I could blend the best of California, Paris, and Rome and have it all ways: refined technical service paired with caring, gracious hospitality, and soulful seasonal cooking. (61) This was a new concept in 1980s fine dining — as was Union Square itself, which meant that the now-generic name Union Square Cafe held, at the time, a pop of intrigue. The same was true of Eleven Madison Park, located next to Madison Square Park, which at the time was a shithole. (Until he opened up Shake Shack, which interestingly stemmed from an attempt to revitalize the park. 133) Meyer’s articulation of the theory of “enlightened hospitality” was by far the most gratifying aspect of the book. Yes, STT is a business text designed to launch a consulting business. Yes, it has a PR sheen that I found hard to take sometimes. (His unrelenting self-congratulation for hosting big-ticket charity events and his cheesy idea of how hospitality needs to feel like a “hug,” blegh.) And yes, this is always secretly a guide to hustling people out of $40 for pasta. But the philosophy of service he advocates is, honestly, a nice one. You get the sense that he serves food as expensive as he does so that he can offer the level of service he wants. A Danny Meyer restaurant is like a nice golf course: an ultra-groomed place with natural elements arranged strategically to put rich people at ease. To achieve this experience, he infuses his restaurants with warmth and bends over backwards to accommodate his guests. In the mid-90s, when he started to expand his empire, he realized the need to scale the people-pleasing instinct he naturally had. That process of figuring out how to articulate his approach led to this book. Some of the managerial concepts he lands on are valuable. The titular idea of setting the table refers to a parable on 189 about getting zen with the fact that everything in the world is an agent of entropy that will somehow disorder a perfectly set table; his job is to bring it back to perfect. I liked him likening managerial power to fire in cooking: used properly, it can be a catalyst, and improperly it can burn. But it must be used. “Catch employees doing something right,” he says on 214. I like that! In hospitality, he helps you think about whether you’re being an agent or a gatekeeper when having to help a customer. (245) Even more elegantly, he quasi-defines hospitality as the feeling of when you feel something is being done for you instead of to you. (11). And his lesson on always using a screw-up to “write a great last chapter” (222) — to see mistakes as opportunities to create more-memorable remedies — is great. It's just a really nice vision of hospitality. The beautiful choreography of service is, at its best, an art form, a ballet. I appreciate the grace with which a table can be properly cleared. I admire the elegance with which a bottle of wine can be appropriately opened, decanted, and poured. There’s aesthetic value in doing things the right way. But I respond best when the person doing those things realizes that the purpose of all this beauty at the table is to create pleasure for me. It’s about soul — and service without soul, no matter how elegant, is quickly forgotten by the guest. (65) I sneered at first that this was just a book about how to please wealthy people. Then I realized how ignorant it is to dismiss that talent. Creating memorable experiences for people who have everything is really hard. Props to Danny Meyer for realizing that they want a similar level of hospitality and human connection and comfort you can get for free & authentically in a real community. Other notes: His struggles with critics and his education in using the media are instructive. Meyer has always been a media darling (though he seems to have trouble with Frank Bruni) and the story where he learned he needed to comp reviewers was fun. (183) How to lay out a restaurant (187) is interesting. See it in terms of centers of gravity. I like it. Meyer’s childhood: look, the kid grew up rich. No two ways about it. His is a classic success story of starting off with one restaurant and expanding to many. But since this is a real story and since it happened in America, the reality is that he grew up a child of privilege, with family vacations to France, a wealthy philanthropist grandfather, and the familial resources to fund his first two restaurants. Still, it was clear from early in his life that he was a precocious, gifted salesman and had an imperial taste for conquest. Power to him. The saga of figuring out how to get the proper smokestack and pit in order to open Blue Smoke (120s) is a fascinating episode. (I liked his theory that BBQ is a food associated with having to go on an adventure to find it, which is something that would work against him on Park Ave.) The amount of space he devotes to the travails of Tabla and Blue Smoke — and to the latter’s deep place in his heart — compared to the more straightforward account of the much more renowned Eleven Madison Park, is a mark in Meyers’ favor. It comes through that he really cares about getting stuff right. He lives by a code that revolves around good food, and you have to respect a man who lives by a code.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Antoine Fouster

    This has been a very difficult book to get through but I struggled through it as it was recommended by a few people. Despite all his success, Danny Meyer just comes off as a massive tool...which you could probably gather off the cover of this book. This book is the opposite of inspiring, it's just a collection of his wins...like his partnership with AMEX (very impressive Danny we're proud of you) or the time he flexed on Evian and changed his supplier to FIJI water (slow clap). The riveting stor This has been a very difficult book to get through but I struggled through it as it was recommended by a few people. Despite all his success, Danny Meyer just comes off as a massive tool...which you could probably gather off the cover of this book. This book is the opposite of inspiring, it's just a collection of his wins...like his partnership with AMEX (very impressive Danny we're proud of you) or the time he flexed on Evian and changed his supplier to FIJI water (slow clap). The riveting story of how his restaurant only got two stars instead of three and then got that third star by being nice to the critic. Clearly this man is rich and successful and good at what he does but my goodness, it was painful to read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stacie

    Anythinkers are reading this book to learn a new perspective on hospitality, and there is much here that is applicable across many industries. I found the behind-the-scenes anecdotes about building a restaurant almost as thrilling as the insights into hospitality, management, and business. The philosophies Danny Meyer presents are timeless, and many are at the core of what we do at our libraries - make people feel comfortable, feel like they're home. Much of what he shares in this book will stic Anythinkers are reading this book to learn a new perspective on hospitality, and there is much here that is applicable across many industries. I found the behind-the-scenes anecdotes about building a restaurant almost as thrilling as the insights into hospitality, management, and business. The philosophies Danny Meyer presents are timeless, and many are at the core of what we do at our libraries - make people feel comfortable, feel like they're home. Much of what he shares in this book will stick with me for a long time - not just as an employee in a service industry, but also in the standards and expectations I have for the businesses I support.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Captivated Server This book has been an inspiration! I chose to rejoin the restaurant industry as I finished college because it was what I knew and was comfortable with. After giving the corporate world a chance, I took my business degree back to where my passion was.It was more than encouraging to hear praise for those who have love for hospitality! Working in a restaurant isn't what it used to be and I don't have! that hanging over my head any longer. A great read for anyone interested in hospi Captivated Server This book has been an inspiration! I chose to rejoin the restaurant industry as I finished college because it was what I knew and was comfortable with. After giving the corporate world a chance, I took my business degree back to where my passion was.It was more than encouraging to hear praise for those who have love for hospitality! Working in a restaurant isn't what it used to be and I don't have! that hanging over my head any longer. A great read for anyone interested in hospitality!

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