Danny Meyer is the restaurateur behind such varied restaurants as Union Square Café and Shake Shack. This book is part memoir, part entrepreneurial journey, and part a treatise on the values that Meyer instilled in the company he founded.
Those values include:
- Understanding hospitality and how it differs from service (p. 65): service is the technical delivery, while hospitality is how it makes the guest feel.
- Shared ownership (p. 78): employees and guests should talk about a restaurant as if it were their own.
- Connect the dots (p. 81): be on the lookout for small details that make a difference, like someone who is dining alone or a couple celebrating a special occasion.
- Context is everything (p. 99): make the restaurant fit the neighborhood and the city it is in.
- Invest in your community (p. 114): help improve the neighborhood so that others benefit from your success.
- Know thyself (p. 121): you do not have to be all things to all people. Knowing who your business is not for is as important as knowing who you are trying to serve&em;otherwise you will disappoint both groups.
- Have a reflex for excellence (p. 141-3): Meyer talks throughout the book about qualities he looks for in his team, and this is perhaps the most important. Look for employees whose instinct is to go the extra mile, such as ensuring that a wineglass has no fingerprints or smudges.
- Set the center (p. 189): leaders should exercise constant, gentle pressue (p. 191-2) to define and demonstrate the values of their organization.
- Communicate ripples in advance (p. 193-4): people are not at their best when they are surprised.
- Give your team opportunities to feel heard (p. 204): you might not always like what you learn, but it helps to create a thriving culture.
- Address mistakes (p. 223): acknowledge the problem and apologize, but never make excuses.
Another strong point of the book is the way that Meyer talks about his own growth as a leader. He describes the process of becoming a first-time manager as feeling like their is a microphone stitched to your lips, and that everyone has their eyes on you. He argues that the right reaction to this is to accept it and see yourself as the servant of your team (bottoms-up leadership).
One minor weak point of the book is that it is unclear how some business decisions have followed from these values. For example, which of the values above explains Meyer’s decision to move away from tipping at his restaurants? (The decision was controversial and reportedly caused a 30-40 percent turnover in staff, which is normal for the restaurant industry but much higher than normal for Meyer’s company.)
For more lessons from the hospitality industry, see the review of Medium Raw.