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Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business Paperback – January 29, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 317 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Book Description
In October 1985, at age 27, Danny Meyer, with a good idea and scant experience, opened what would become one of New York City's most revered restaurants--Union Square Cafe. Little more than twenty years later, Danny is the CEO of one of the world's most dynamic restaurant organizations, which includes 11 unique dining establishments, each at the top of its game. How has he done it? How has he consistently beaten the odds and set the competitive bar in one of the toughest trades around?

In this landmark book, Danny shares the lessons he's learned while developing the winning recipe for doing the business he calls "enlightened hospitality." This innovative philosophy emphasizes putting the power of hospitality to work in a new and counterintuitive way: The first and most important application of hospitality is to the people who work for you, and then, in descending order of priority, to the guests, the community, the suppliers, and the investors. This way of prioritizing stands the more traditional business models on their heads, but Danny considers it the foundation of every success that he and his restaurants have achieved.

Full of behind-the-scenes history on the creation of Danny's most famous restaurants and the anecdotes, advice, and lessons he has accumulated on his long and ecstatic journey to the top of the American restaurant scene, Setting the Table is a treasure trove of innovative insights that are applicable to any business or organization.

Service with a Smile: Dishing with Danny Meyer
Is the customer always right? According to Danny Meyer, one of America's leading restauranteurs, the answer is no--but "they must always feel heard." Named one of the most influential New Yorkers of 2006 by New York magazine, Meyer, the founder and co-owner of 11 of Manhattan's most influential restaurants, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Tabla, The Modern, Blue Smoke, and Shake Shack, has penned Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality, a business book that reads like food lit and equal part personal memoir. Amazon.com senior editor Brad Thomas Parsons took some time from his daily long-distance day-dreaming of Shake Shack and caught up with the ever-gracious Danny Meyer over e-mail to ask about his new book, the Food Network, his favorite cookbooks, insider tips on dining out, and much more.

Read our Amazon.com interview with Danny Meyer

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

With the same grace and generosity displayed in his dining rooms, Meyer's instructive how-we-did-it account shares lessons learned on his way to becoming CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. Meyer opened Union Square Cafe in 1985 when he was 27 years old. It hit its stride three years later when he hired chef Michael Romano, and Meyer charts its evolution from a neighborhood to international institution. Initially cautious about expansion, he opened Gramercy Tavern with chef Tom Colicchio three years later, eventually broadening his New York City restaurant empire to 11 establishments including Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Blue Smoke, Shake Shack and the Modern. Meyer makes a distinction between service ("the technical delivery of a product") and the "Enlightened Hospitality" at the core of his business strategy—both necessary for restaurant success. He notes that hospitality "is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel" and shares tips like hiring "51 percenters," or staff with "skills divided 51-49 between emotional hospitality and technical excellence," and the "Five As" for addressing mistakes: awareness, acknowledge, apologize, act, additional generosity. This honest, modest book will appeal most to foodies and aspiring restaurateurs but also offers insight for entrepreneurs in any industry.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060742763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060742768
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (317 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jesse Kornbluth on October 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The 2006 Zagat Survey lists Gramercy Tavern as New York's most popular restaurant. (It was also #1 last year.)

Union Square Café came in second. (As it did last year.)

Eleven Madison Park ranked fourteen. (Down one from 2005.)

Tabla was eighteen. (Up one from 2005.)

Blue Smoke --- unranked in 2005 --- was the 36th most popular restaurant.

These Manhattan restaurants were all conceived by one man: Danny Meyer, who has also created the restaurants at The Museum of Modern Art and an outdoor joint called Shake Shack. Most restaurants fail, and quickly; these restaurants have, most of them, been around long enough to qualify as "institutions." If you have ever had the good fortune to sample Danny Meyer's food, you know they are likely to remain so deep into the future.

Now Danny Meyer has written a book. It is nominally a memoir about his life in restaurants. But although there are mouth-watering descriptions of great meals, it will be a great tragedy if this book becomes "food porn," devoured by foodies and unknown to the general public. This is a bigger book, and a better book, than that. (Not that there's anything wrong with food porn.) For one thing, it is a business book that should be read --- like: today! --- by anyone whose livelihood involves face-to-face encounters with customers. For another, it is a hands-on, real-world book of practical philosophy that could knock a great deal of sense into those who believe that nice guys finish last and the only way to get to the top is to kick others off the ladder as you claw your way up.

This book obeys the form of memoir, especially in the young Meyer's culinary education --- his writing will remind some readers of A.J.
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Format: Hardcover
This book will be of great interest and even greater value if one or more of the following is relevant to you:

1. You have direct and frequent contact with customers.

2. You train and/or supervise those who do.

3. You need to improve your "people skills" in your business and personal relationships.

4. Your organization has problems attracting, hiring, and then keeping the people it needs to prosper.

5. Your organization has problems with others who, for whatever reasons, consistently under-perform.

It is no coincidence that many of those on Fortune magazine's annual list of most admired companies reappear on its annual list of most profitable companies. Moreover, both customers and employees rank "feeling appreciated" among the three most important attributes of satisfaction. Now consider the total cost of a mis-hire or the departure of a peak performer: Estimates vary from six to 18 times the annual salary, including hours and dollars required by the replacement process.

Until now, I have said nothing about Danny Meyer nor about the restaurant industry so as to reassure those who read this brief commentary that, although Setting the Table does indeed provide interesting information about him and his background, the book's greater value derives (in my opinion) from the lessons he has learned from his successes and failures thus far, both within and beyond the kitchen.

One of the most important concepts in this book is hospitality. Here's what Meyer has to say about it: "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.
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Setting the Table by Danny Meyer provides lots of value for business leaders. I ranked this book five stars based on the value alone. The reader should be apprised that the book is written as a memoir of Mr. Meyer's experience in the restaurant business.

As a business leader you should study excellence in your industry and outside of your industry and there are numerous take-aways in Setting the Table that can be applied to any business. Here are ten excellent points I took away from Mr. Meyer's book.

1. The Excellence Reflex - "A natural reaction to fix something that isn't right, or to improve something that could be better." The excellent reflex is a natural reaction that some people have and cannot be taught. Meyer trains his leaders how hire those that have it.

2. Employees can be categorized as Overwhelmers, Whelmers, and Underwhelmers. It is easy to identify Underwhelmers and get rid of them. The most dangerous employees are the Whelmers because "they infuse an organization and its staff with mediocrity...and send a dangerous message to your staff and guests that "average" is acceptable."

3. Coaching is correcting with dignity.

4. You obtain valuable leadership skills while managing volunteers. It requires you to consistently motivate employees beyond their earnings.

5. Create a sense of "shared ownership" with your customers by taking an interest in them and making them feel important. They will view you as a partner instead of a provider.

6. ABCD - Always Be Collecting Dots. You should aggressively collect lots of little information about your customer (dots) as they interact with your product or service.
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