Danny Meyer Quotes
“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.
The overarching concern to do the right thing well is something we can't train for. Either it's there or it isn't.”
“My appreciation of the power of hospitality and my desire to harness it have been the greatest contributors to whatever success my restaurants and businesses have had. I’ve learned how crucially important it is to put hospitality to work, first for the people who work for me and subsequently for all the other people and stakeholders who are in any way affected by our business—in descending order, our guests, community, suppliers, and investors. I call this way of setting priorities “enlightened hospitality.” It stands some more traditional business approaches on their head, but it’s the foundation of every business decision and every success we’ve had.”
“If people cannot ever develop into one of our top three cooks, servers, managers, or maître d’s, why would we hire them? How will they help us improve and become champions? It’s pretty easy to spot an overwhelmingly strong candidate or even an underwhelmingly weak candidate. It’s the “whelming” candidate you must avoid at all costs, because that’s the one who can and will do your organization the most long-lasting harm. Overwhelmers earn you raves. Underwhelmers either leave on their own or are terminated. Whelmers, sadly, are like a stubborn stain you can’t get out of the carpet. They infuse an organization and its staff with mediocrity; they’re comfortable, and so they never leave; and, frustratingly, they never do anything that rises to the level of getting them promoted or sinks to the level of getting them fired.”
“Finally, I ask our managers to weigh one other critical factor as they handicap the prospect. Do they believe the candidate has the capacity to become one of the top three performers on our team in his or her job category? If people cannot ever develop into one of our top three cooks, servers, managers, or maître d’s, why would we hire them? How will they help us improve and become champions? It’s pretty easy to spot an overwhelmingly strong candidate or even an underwhelmingly weak candidate. It’s the “whelming” candidate you must avoid at all costs, because that’s the one who can and will do your organization the most long-lasting harm. Overwhelmers earn you raves. Underwhelmers either leave on their own or are terminated. Whelmers, sadly, are like a stubborn stain you can’t get out of the carpet. They infuse an organization and its staff with mediocrity; they’re comfortable, and so they never leave; and, frustratingly, they never do anything that rises to the level of getting them promoted or sinks to the level of getting them fired. And”
“I’m a bottom-up manager who subscribes to the concept of “servant leadership,” as articulated by the late Robert Greenleaf. He believed that organizations are at their most effective when leaders encourage collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and empowerment. In any hierarchy, it’s clear that the ultimate boss (in my case, me) holds the most power. But a wonderful thing happens when you flip the traditional organizational chart upside down so that it looks like a V with the boss on the bottom. My job is to serve and support the next layer “above” me so that the people on that layer can then serve and support the next layer “above” them, and so on.”
“To me, a 51 percenter has five core emotional skills. I’ve learned that we need to hire employees with these skills if we’re to be champions at the team sport of hospitality. They are: Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full) Intelligence (not just “smarts” but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning) Work ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done) Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel) Self-awareness and integrity (an understanding of what makes you tick and a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgment)”
“A friend once told me a story about an athletic display by Governor Jeb Bush of Florida. My friend, who is a very successful businessman—and, I should note, a Democrat—opened an office in Florida with about forty employees. On the day the company was incorporated, out of the blue, he received a personal phone call from Governor Bush (whom he had never met) thanking him for doing business in Florida. “Here’s a special number,” the governor said, “that I want you to use if you ever need any roads moved or bridges built for your company.” My friend remains a Democrat, but he left that transaction very impressed with Governor Bush.”
“Communication is at the root of all business strengths—and weaknesses. When things go wrong and employees become upset, whether at a restaurant, a law firm, a hardware store, a university, or a major corporation, nine times out of ten the justifiable complaint is, “We need to communicate more effectively.” I admit that for many years, I didn’t really know what this meant. I had no problem standing up in front of a group to give a talk. I thought I was a pretty good communicator, but then it dawned on me: communicating has as much to do with context as it does content. That’s called setting the table. 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. To illustrate the point, I teach our managers about the “lily pad” theory. Imagine a pond filled with lily pads and a frog perched serenely atop each one. For the fun of it, a little boy tosses a small pebble into the water, which breaks the surface of the pond but causes just a tiny ripple. The frogs barely notice, and don’t budge. Enjoying himself, the boy next tosses a larger stone into the center of the pond, sending stronger ripples that cause all of the lily pads to rock and tilt. Some frogs jump off their lily pads, while others cling to avoid falling off. But the ripples affect them all. Not content, the boy then hurls a huge rock, which creates a wave that knocks each and every frog into the water. Some frogs are frightened. All are angry (assuming that frogs get angry). If only the frogs had had some warning about the impending rock toss, each one could have timed its jump so that the wave would have had no serious impact. Grasping the lily pad theory and training yourself and your managers to implement it prevents many, if not all, communication problems.”
- Born: The United States.
- Description: Considered by the New York Times to be "the greatest restaurateur Manhattan has ever seen," Danny Meyer is CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group. His restaurants have won an unprecedented twenty-one James Beard Awards. His book, Setting the Table, was a New York Times bestseller.