Image Courtesy of Hearst
At last night’s Q&A at Hearst Tower, President of Hearst Magazines David Carey sat down with restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group Danny Meyer. Part of Hearst’s Masterclass series, Meyer defines ‘enlightened hospitality,’ what he looks for when hiring employees, and how the restaurant industry can learn a thing or two from the tech industry.
When asked to define enlightened hospitality, a term Meyer uses often in his book and seminars, Meyer says “It’s a way of naming for the people who work in our company, the way we intend to prioritize our stakeholders,” naming these stakeholders as employees, customers, the communities surrounding his businesses, suppliers, and investors. Meyer continues, “What enlightened hospitality basically tries to do… is to say that we think that the most powerful thing we can do for each of those stakeholders is to make them know we are on their side, which is how I define hospitality.”
In prioritizing stakeholders, Meyer puts his employees first, explaining, “If you come to any of our restaurants and you love it, I guarantee you it’s connected to the degree in which the team that day was actually having fun coming into work, [because] they can’t fake it.”
Carey asks Meyer what he looks for when hiring employees, to which Meyer says, “You’re looking for two things… I’m a big baseball fan so if you think about a dugout of a championship baseball team, you’ve not only got really high performers, but you’ve got people who are actually really fun to hang out with, and when something good happens for someone on the team everybody else is right there celebrating, and when something bad happens like a strikeout everyone’s there encouraging. And so you’re looking for both the technical skills of a champion and the emotional skills of a hospitality champion.”
Meyer was asked what he would do as President of Hearst Magazine for the day, and simply stated that he would sit down with the team to listen and learn. Meyer says, “I’ve learned both as a parent and as a boss that trying to have the right answer is completely overrated — if not impossible — and I think that if I’ve learned any one lesson over all these years it’s that it is so much more important for people to feel heard than to be agreed with.”
On where he gets inspiration for his business, Meyer points to the tech industry, stating, “I think the tech industry is brilliant in saying, what’s the reason that I have to keep experiencing this problem?” then coming up with a solution and scaling it to improve the lives of others.