She's interviewed dozens of celebrity guests, but no one has made Gayle's heart pound more than Danny Meyer! A restaurateur and owner of several highly acclaimed Manhattan restaurants, Danny knows the way to Gayle's heart—he's brought her chocolate cupcakes and carrot cake with coconut icing! Gayle talks with Danny about his restaurants and his new book, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business.
One of the most famous restaurateurs in New York City, Danny owns seven restaurants, a catering company and a jazz club. Danny says he attributes his success not just to the quality of the food, but to the attention he places on hospitality. It was growing up in St. Louis where he first discovered his love of food. While it wasn't a food capital, "it was, however, a real hospitality capital," Danny says. "I think the memories I have of restaurants are many, but few are the memories I have for the actual food—it was mostly how good people made you feel. And when I came to New York, many, many years after that, I was determined to try to bring that same kind of openhanded, St. Louis hospitality to the world of great food."
In his new book, Danny emphasizes the importance of hospitality in all aspects of business. "Hospitality is everything," Danny says. In writing the book, Danny says he looked at his own successes. "Something's working really well. We're in a business that's got a huge mortality rate. There are 18,000 restaurants in [New York] City and five of the top 18 in the Zagat Survey belong to us. So what was working? And it was hospitality."
Why is hospitality so key? "When we are first born, literally within moments of being born, we get four gifts that I think we spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture: eye contact, a smile, a hug and some pretty good food," Danny says. "Think about that—that is the purest hospitality transaction. What it means is from that point on in our lives we crave feeling seen, that someone is happy to see us, a hug—which I think is one of the most reflexive acts of hospitality because we can't give one without getting one—and food.
Danny says everyone wants great service, whether it's at a restaurant, the grocery store, the dry cleaner or the car shop. However, there is a difference between service—someone doing what they're supposed to do—versus hospitality. "Service doesn't say anything about how someone made you feel," Danny says. "Hospitality does. And the way people want to feel is that you're on their side."