Danny Meyer Presents: Enlightened Hospitality

Last May, we had the pleasure of having Danny Meyer from Union Square Hospitality Group as the special guest speaker at the annual Maines Food Show, which our customers are still buzzing about. Now, almost a year later, Meyer and his Shake Shack mini-empire went public with their stock, and shares more than doubled in one day. The company is now worth an estimated $1.6 billion.

First of all, we want to sincerely congratulate Meyer on his incredible success! And second, we ask the question – what is your business doing a year later? What did you learn from Danny Meyer? How have you benefited from the successes and failures he shared with us during his “town hall” seminar last year? In the spirit of his recent accolades, we’d like to reiterate ten of Meyer’s lessons from that day and encourage you to continue to explore the phenomenon that he calls “Enlightened Hospitality.”

Lesson 1: Generosity
We’re all in an incredibly tough business where pennies count. There can be a tendency to cut back on portion size a little bit, or put one less piece of bread in the bread basket. Instead of doing that, base your changes on generosity… the second pass with the tray. If customers cleared their plates, they must want more, and there should always be someone there to offer more. When you fill up a person’s plate, you don’t have to worry if they’re going to come back.

Lesson 2: Create an Experience at the Table through Reverse Engineering
Plan according to the happy morning after. How do you want your customers to feel tomorrow? How do you want your staff to feel? Meyer said, “That’s how we planned Shake Shack. One night we all sat in a room and asked ourselves about our vision and how we make it happen.”

Lesson 3: Your Staff is the Raw Ingredient for Hospitality
The core of your performance is your staff. If they’re well handled, well treated and well respected you’re going to get a lot closer to your goal.

Lesson 4: Hospitality is Different than Service
The way you make someone feel is completely different than how well you do what you do. Service is a wonderful and critically important element in any experience but what service does and what it says is “did we do exactly what we said we were going to do?” Service is the technical side of what we do but it does not even begin to describe the emotional experience people want on the receiving end of the service.

Lesson 5: One Size Fits One
Hospitality only exists if the person on the receiving end truly feels like you’re on their side. Don’t ignore that every human being is different. Hospitality must be a custom experience.

Lesson 6: Hire for Hospitality
Hospitality is an art, not a science. Try to hire people with a high HQ or “hospitality-quotient.” Someone with a high HQ is someone whose greatest pleasure in life is providing pleasure for someone else. The six emotional skills that are always present for someone with a high HQ are optimistic kindness, curiosity, work ethic, empathy, self-awareness, and integrity.

Lesson 7: Before Opening a Second Restaurant Make Sure Both You and Your Team Are Passionate About It
If you know how you want things done, and what you want the culture of your business to be, then you can promote other people (your “culture carriers”) in a second project to help accomplish your goal. The recipe for success is that you and the people who surround you are passionate, it’s a good business deal that won’t jeopardize your culture, and it’s in an emerging neighborhood or community that will benefit from your business and vice versa.

Lesson 8: Look Outside of the Food Industry for Inspiration
Try to become today the company (if it existed) that might put you out of business tomorrow. Keep in mind that as soon as you do something innovative, fresh, new or unexpected, you’re going to get copied right away. We can’t rely upon just our own industry to inspire us. Meyer said, “If we all became just a big commodity then who needs us?” To constantly stay a step ahead, follow the golden rule: people want to be treated like you’re on their side.

Lesson 9: Use Social Media as a Listening Tool
Twitter gives you the ability to hear what people are saying about your restaurant the minute they leave it. You can act on these comments in real time. Many comments you hear might be positive and that gives you a chance to have a dialog with your customers about their experience. Twitter for business should not be combined with Twitter for your personal life. It’s a great place to be able to say thank you to your customers and learn more about your business through their eyes.

Lesson 10: Collect Dots and then Connect Them
Always collect more information. What if you knew one more thing about someone that would make them have a richer, heightened hospitality experience? Gathering information and using it thoughtfully shows customers you care. Try to make your customer’s visits special, whether it’s their 1st or 10th experience.