Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table (founder of Shake Shack)

These are some of my favorite quotes from his book. I am inspired by his innovation, entrepreneurial mindset, and his ability to disrupt the status quo.

“In the early 1990s, I was doing a lot of thinking about how much I enjoyed luxury dining. I was inspired by Michelin- starred restaurants in France and Italy, especially the two-star restaurants, which seemed able to combine refinement with genuine warmth. I was also increasingly impressed by the improved quality of cooking here in the United States. I loved the food and wine served at these great restaurants, but was less moved by their customary pomp and circumstance.” (p.103)

“Union Square Cafe had become known as an excellent version of a neighborhood restaurant, so it occurred to me that Gramercy Tavern might succeed as a neighboorhood version of an elegant restaurant. In one case the goal was to take some element of dining that was already accessible and make it better; in the other, it was to take an element of excellent dining that was rarefied and make it more accessible. Some people expect a stuffy ambiance at Gramercy Tavern but when they walk in they find an animated community hall- with excellent food and drink. This setting immediately puts guests at ease and makes it somewhat easier for the restaurant to exceed expectations.” (p.104)

“Invest in your community. A business that understands how powerful it is to create wealth for the community stands a much higher chance of creating wealth for its own investors. I have yet to see a house lose any of its value when a garden is planted in its front yard. And each time one householder plants a garden, chances are the neighbors will follow suit.” (p.114)

“The city’s social elite and a concentration of capital had long ago converged on the park to bring it early iconic skyscrapers like Madison Square Garden (1890), the Flatiron Building(1903), and the MetLife clock tower(1906). But ever since the Great Depression of the 1930s, Madison Square Park had been in decline.” (p.115) 

“But then I asked myself: Whoever wrote the rule that just because you’re having all of the fun, you can’t simultaneously have exquisite food and an extensive list of fine French wines. ” (p.116)

“How could we combine a brasserie’s winsome atmosphere and French culinary accent with an urbane New York point of view to create something unexpected. I wasn’t entirely sure of the answer; but whatever it was, that would be restaurant number one.” (p.117)

“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 improve yourself and help your customers to know how and when to buy your product.” (p.121)

“Mary had been born into a Mississippi sharecropping family, and though she was barely literate, in matters of life and love she was one of the wisest human beings I’ve ever met.” (p.129)

“Mary died in early 2000, so she never got to know about Blue Smoke, which was the closest I could come to paying homage to her- and to the love I felt for her and my native home, St. Louis.” (p.130)

“Shake shack is a useful example of a for-profit entity whose success contributes monetarily and programmatically to the community. It shows you can do well by doing good. Perhaps most important, it serves as a human-magnet, attracting all kinds of people of all ages and from all walks of life to the park. That makes them stakeholders in the park, and it increases the odds that the park will remain beautiful, safe, and enjoyed.” (p.138)

 

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