#EntrepreneursBookClub: Setting the Table

"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."

-Danny Meyer

This book came to me at an interesting inflection point, which I now look at as a moment of insanity. I was briefly considering opening and operating a restaurant. Not because I love food (I do), not because I’m an excellent home cook (I am), but because my husband (a commercial real-estate investor) was considering buying a building where the key tenant, a restaurant, was being thrown into the deal. For more reasons I can count I thank my lucky stars that the universe guided me away from that particular opportunity. But, during the time where I was seriously considering my potential future as a restauranteur, I picked up this book and the lessons extended so far beyond food and hospitality, they're now rooted in my business psyche.

On his road to building one of the most successful restaurant enterprises in the country, Danny Meyers teaches more about entrepreneurship, determination, management, and humanity than he does about which side of the plate the fork should go. He is a mastermind at creating spaces and operations that make people feel taken care of, seen, and especially well-fed.

4 Key Takeaways and Quotes

1. The Excellence Reflex

“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.”

2. The People Equation

“The only way a company can grow, stay true to its soul, and remain consistently successful is to attract, hire, and keep great people.” Notice how Meyer puts an equal weight on attracting, hiring, keeping. So often in chaotic entrepreneurial environments we focus on the first or second attribute, and then we throw perceived perks like a stocked fridge and beer on tap at the third attribute and believe we've got it all figured out.

3. "Communicating has as much to do with context as it does content."

"Understanding who needs to know what, when people need to know it, and why, and then presenting that information in an entirely comprehensible way is a sine qua non of great leadership. Clear, timely communication is the key to applying constant, gentle pressure."

4. “Make new mistakes every day. Don’t waste time repeating the old ones.”

About the Author

Excerpt from the Union Square Hospitality Group website

"Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Danny Meyer grew up in a family that relished great food and hospitality. Thanks to his father’s travel business, which designed custom European trips, Danny spent much of his childhood eating, visiting near and far-off places, and sowing the seeds for his future passion. In 1985, at the age of 27, Danny opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, launching what would become a lifelong career in hospitality. 

Thirty years later, Danny’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) comprises some of New York’s most beloved and acclaimed restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, Maialino, and more. Danny and USHG founded Shake Shack, the modern-day “roadside” burger restaurant, which became a public company in 2015. USHG also offers large-scale event services, foodservice solutions for public and private institutions, industry consulting, and educational programming."