Danny Meyer’s Hiring Formula For Building a Brand

It’s onerous to consider Danny Meyer, CEO of the Union Sq. Hospitality Group (USHG) and founding father of Shake Shack, as something however a restaurant mogul. However in 1985, Meyer’s sole concern was to open just one restaurant and run it in addition to he probably may.

Meyer knew the meals could be good however wanted one thing extra to make his restaurant shine within the aggressive New York Metropolis market. He targeted on creating the perfect buyer expertise potential and constructing a robust employees that shared his philosophies, which finally propelled him and his enterprise to monumental success and endurance.

Preserve studying to study:

2021 World State of the Hospitality Business Report

Over 2,000 restaurant operators and company share their views on restaurant know-how, managing the labor scarcity and the way they envision the way forward for the hospitality trade.


Overcoming a lifelong concern

Meyer opened his first restaurant, Union Sq. Café, in December of 1985. He was within the restaurant each night time, placing in face time with company and employees alike, creating an environment the place everybody felt welcome, comfy and nicely taken care of. One month after they opened, a two-star New York Instances assessment from critic Bryan Miller turned the restaurant from a comparatively unknown newcomer to a eating vacation spot in a single day.

Whereas the assessment targeted primarily on the meals and environment, a point out of the wine choice gave readers a glimpse into what would turn into Danny Meyer’s declare to fame, his hospitality ethos.

Miller wrote: “Danny Meyer, the 27-year-old proprietor, is obsessed with his wines, and his extremely personalised checklist gives many good choices[…] The younger service employees is earnest and nicely knowledgeable, though sudden waves of shoppers can often throw the place off stride.”

With development and reward for a brand new restaurant, it appears as if the subsequent logical step could be to broaden and develop the enterprise to an extra location or new idea. Nevertheless, that may not be the case for Meyer—no less than not for an additional decade.

Meyer’s father was a serial entrepreneur who owned a journey enterprise, eating places and lodges. At 42, the senior Meyer needed to file for chapter after which once more when he was 50 years previous. Having a front-row seat to his father’s failures planted the thought in his thoughts that enlargement equaled chapter. Nevertheless, after the demise of his father and an opportunity assembly with chef Tom Colicchio he was in a position to transfer previous his fears and opened his second location, Gramercy Tavern, in 1994.

Since then, Meyer has opened one restaurant each three to 4 years, on common, beneath the Union Sq. Hospitality Group. The key to his success goes again to what got here naturally to him when Union Sq. Café first opened in 1985: offering the best stage of hospitality potential.


Making a legacy of loyalty and hospitality

Shortly after his third restaurant, Tabla, opened Meyer was making his rounds within the eating room when a visitor named Susan Reilly Salgado, a enterprise doctoral candidate at New York College, launched herself. She had been spending time on the bar in Union Sq. Café, speaking to employees and company, and observing the optimistic tradition of hospitality and neighborhood that Meyer had constructed. When Salgado advised him she needed to do her dissertation on his eating places he agreed, beneath the situation that she would work as a bunch for six months.

After her analysis was full, Salgado got here to Meyer with a wake-up name: “There’s no system for opening eating places with out you,” she mentioned, “and the extra you open, the extra diluted your affect turns into.”

The 2 labored collectively to create a curriculum based mostly on Meyer’s philosophies of hospitality, employees morals and neighborhood involvement. Moreover, they got here up with a technique for hiring workers who shared Meyer’s values that they named the Hospitality Quotient, or “HQ.” From there, Meyer may open eating places in several cities and finally go on to franchise Shake Shack with out worrying that his core beliefs would get misplaced within the course of.


Writing a system for profitable enlargement

The Hospitality Quotient that Meyer and Salgado got here up with consists of a listing of six “smooth abilities”—issues that may’t be taught—that each USHG worker should have.

Taking these abilities into consideration, Salgado and Meyer carried out a 49/51 hiring technique. Each individual employed into the corporate ought to have the technical abilities to do their job, the 49%, however their Hospitality Quotient makes up the opposite 51%. Hiring workers with a excessive HQ rating is what actually ideas the scales when it comes to firm tradition, and a contented employees will all the time present a greater expertise for purchasers.

“You distinguish your self firstly by choosing your group even higher than the opposite man. And I all the time felt that may be our benefit” – Danny Meyer

Kindness and optimism

“We work lengthy hours, and I need to be surrounded by pleasant, hopeful folks. Skeptics hardly ever work out nicely on our group.” Danny Meyer

When a frontrunner—whether or not or not it’s a shift supervisor or a GM—is variety, upbeat and optimistic, that trickles right down to the remainder of the employees. When your employees feels cared for as an individual and never only a employee, they’re happier of their roles and have a private funding within the firm, which ends up in a greater expertise for company.

Study extra about how variety and optimistic somebody is by asking interviewees a couple of time they’ve needed to navigate a troublesome state of affairs, both personally or professionally, and what their thought course of was behind the actions they took.

Mental curiosity

“You take a look at day by day as a possibility to study one thing new. If we’re going to be on that street to excellence, we higher have folks that truly care about studying.”  Danny Meyer

Somebody who thinks they already know all the things will stagnate and maintain the remainder of the group again as you’re making an attempt to propel your corporation ahead. You may decide a candidate’s stage of curiosity and keenness for studying by asking them to explain one thing they’ve not too long ago discovered. As a bonus, ask them to show you the fundamentals to assist gauge their stage of pleasure relating to sharing information.

Work ethic

“It’s not sufficient simply to have the ability to educate you the best way to do one thing. You’ve received to care about doing that job in addition to it may be executed.” Danny Meyer

In HQ phrases, work ethic isn’t simply how onerous somebody works, however extra so how a lot they care about their work and doing a very good job. Discover out extra a couple of candidate’s work ethic by asking them what they love most concerning the trade and what they anticipate their profession path to be. If hospitality is greater than only a job to them, they’re liable to place their all into the place and the remainder of the group.


“I outline empathy in the way in which {that a} boat has a wake in its path. Somebody who’s extremely empathetic just isn’t solely conscious of the wake that [they’re] leaving in [their] path, however cares. How do you make folks really feel as you undergo life?” Danny Meyer

Teamwork is essential in any enterprise, however particularly essential in a restaurant. Having a frontrunner who can establish how their actions have an effect on the group is vital to retaining the restaurant ecosystem in steadiness. Their stage of empathy will even have an effect on how they work together with prospects, so you may gauge this high quality in somebody by asking them to explain a very troublesome interplay with a previous visitor and the way they dealt with it.


“Self-awareness is understanding what your individual private climate report is on any given day. All of us get up, some days feeling sunny and 72[…] Some days it’s scorching and humid, some days it’s stormy. You’re not a nasty individual on these stormy days, however you must realize it and you must do one thing about it.” Danny Meyer

As Danny says, nobody is a nasty individual for having a nasty day, however being conscious of it and never letting a bitter temper seep into the remainder of the group is what issues. A query to assist find out about somebody’s stage of self-awareness could be so simple as, “Inform me one thing about your self that nobody is aware of?” If their reply appears to be extra of a floor high quality (for instance, their favourite meals) their self-awareness might lower than HQ requirements.


“Having the judgment to do the proper factor even when it’s not in your individual self-interest and even when nobody else is wanting.” – Danny Meyer

Integrity is usually a troublesome ability to search for. In any case, somebody with no integrity wouldn’t have an issue with mendacity to you about it with a purpose to get the job, would they? A easy query to ask right here is that if they’d ever be prepared to interrupt the principles with a purpose to profit your corporation. Somebody with a excessive stage of integrity ought to say no, whereas others might say sure in an try and show their dedication to you and the restaurant.

“You may have the perfect merchandise, but when the folks delivering these merchandise aren’t obsessed with what they do, it comes throughout.”  – Susan Salgado

As there is no such thing as a formal manner to have the ability to rank these emotional abilities, in search of them within the interview course of is a powerful begin however it doesn’t give the whole image of how good somebody shall be as an worker. Since these will not be teachable abilities, Meyer notes that managers want to offer new employees members time to disclose these abilities on the job, a course of he in comparison with studying the best way to drive a handbook automotive in an interview with Forbes:

“I had completely no concept what I used to be doing. And till I had discovered to be proficient at doing that, I wasn’t having any enjoyable whereas I used to be driving. I wasn’t switching the stations on the radio dial. I wasn’t telling jokes to my mates. I wasn’t stating the gorgeous timber on the aspect of the street.

At that newbie’s stage, I used to be ‘all methods on a regular basis.’ However as soon as I discovered these methods, the best way to shift gears, discover a sticking level once I was on a hill, all these sorts of issues which are actually taught. As soon as I cleared all that out, that’s once I may get again to being myself and decide the perfect music for whoever was within the automotive, inform jokes with folks, you understand, benefit from the surroundings.

So although the emotional abilities that result in hospitality will not be actually teachable, however they’re additionally not revealable till first, you’ve discovered the methods.”

Discover out how one can add methods to your restaurant with Small Biz Sense. Speak to considered one of our consultants at the moment. 

Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.