Five Random Life Lessons From Danny Meyer

danny meyer salt shaker

As you know I’m a huge fan of Danny Meyer and everything he’s done in the hospitality business. If you’re familiar with the Salt Shaker Theory – then you will enjoy these life lessons from Danny. I love reading great books about business and entrepreneurship and Setting the Table is no exception. Here are a few of the great life lessons I took from Setting the Table.

Give First

“I would enter the restaurant business with a potent combination of my father’s entrepreneurial spirit and my grandfathers’ legacies of strong business leadership, social responsibility, and philanthropic activism. And I would have a chance to give others two things I craved: good food and warm hospitality. I had begun to understand that business and life have a lot in common with a hug. The best way to get a good one was first to give one.”

“If I want our guests to take an interest in us, I’d better take an equal interest in them.”

This is really one of the most important lessons in business and in life. Give to others first and help other people. That’s how you become a valuable resource and ultimately how you build strong relationships.

Have Fun Being Serious

“ ‘We have fun taking service seriously,’ he said. ‘And as for perfection, we just hide our mistakes better than anyone else!’ That was a refreshing insight for me as I continued to hone my own version of hospitality.”

I am a huge proponent of this. Work hard and play hard. You have to be able to have fun with what you’re doing but also be able to take it seriously. I think the way Danny phrases it is perfect – have FUN taking it seriously.

Be Respectful

“‘Leave the campsite neater than I had found it’ (That concept remains, for me, one of the most significant measures of success in business, and in life.)”

I take this quote to mean a lot of different things. Don’t be selfish, don’t be entitled, be respectful to others. It’s such a simple quote but the implications are far reaching for how you should behave in business and in life.

Make People Feel Special

“Everyone goes through life with an invisible sign hanging around his or her neck reading, “make me feel important.” Giorgio and Mary Kay had it right. The most successful people in any business that depends on human relationships are the ones who know about that invisible sign and have the vision to see how brightly it is flashing. And the true champions know best how to embrace the human being wearing the sign.”

“Ideas at their best happen for people. At their worst they happen to people.”

“Feeling seen and acknowledged is a powerful human need.”

“For most people it’s far more important to feel heard than to be agreed with.”

Not only is this absolutely one of the most important lessons in social media, but it rings so true when talking about management, leadership and really the entire hospitality industry. Many businesses have been built on this idea alone.

Know Your Identity

“It was that they had no clear idea what Eleven Madison Park represented as a dining experience. Was it a bistro or a grand restaurant? Was it inexpensive or for special occasions? Was it French? Was it a place for sandwiches, potato chips, and cookies? Until we had answered those questions for ourselves, we couldn’t avoid confusing our potential customers. Know Thyself: Before you go to market, know what you are selling and to whom. It’s a very rare business that can (or should) be all things to all people. Be the best you can be within a reasonably tight product focus. That will help you to improve yourself and help your customers to know how and when to buy your product.”

Restaurant’s live and die by their identity. The storied past of restaurant failures is often a tale of restaurants failing to ever define what they truly want to be and relentlessly defending their values.

Which quote is your favorite? Join in the convo in the comments or hit me up on Twitter

Matt Bodnar

Matt loves to focus on making deals and big picture strategy. He sets out each day to give more than he takes from every interaction and produce as much value as possible for his partners and the people he works with. As a partner at Fresh Hospitality Matt invests in and operates businesses across the restaurant value chain including agriculture, production, retail distribution, real estate, technology and restaurant operations. Matt previously worked as an import/export consultant in Nanjing, China and spent several years on the Interest Rates Desk at Goldman Sachs before returning to his family roots in Nashville.

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