Last month the reference librarians at the Library were assigned to read Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer. Since I sit in on the meetings of this group, I also read it. My expectations were similar to other books on customer service: good ideas, but pretty dry reading.
Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised that Setting the Table was also an entertaining read for the most part. The last pages pertaining to criteria use to determine whether or not to invest time, money and effort into new business ventures only tangentially applies to my work in selecting new programs to conduct.
But the observations on customer service are valuable to all businesses and services that provide customer service. Meyer discusses how he has learned that “it’s all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”
Meyer describes his early life growing up in St. Louis although he traveled around the world with his parents who were in the hotel business. In doing so he tasted many different cuisines. Food actually interested him more than the other cultural experience he had, so much so that his journals describe his dining experience rather than any other experiences. Eventually he figures out that what he really wants to do is open a restaurant in New York City.
At his first restaurant, Union Square Café, he learns much about service and hospitality. “Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes the recipient feel.”
As his career as restaurateur continues and he opens more restaurants, he develops a long term philosophy of success by prioritizing the five stakeholders in his business: 1) employees, 2) guests, 3) community, 4) suppliers, 5) investors. By putting his employees first, he can count on them taking care of the customer.
Meyer also learns a few things about leadership which have helped him become a better leader in his company. All of these are important for any leader in any circumstance.
1) To motivate people you must trust them.
2) Employees need to be seen and acknowledged.
3) Set high standards and hold people accountable.
4) Own up to your mistakes.
5) A leader must be emotionally intelligent to understand and work with people.
6) The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.
Setting the Table is an engaging compendium of innovative and valuable insights that can be helpful to any business. Meyer’s restaurants and chefs have perennially earned awards and high rankings in the New York Zagat surveys, a testament that his business practices work.