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At a glance:Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and the founder of Shake Shack. Danny, his restaurants and chefs have earned an unprecedented 28 James Beard Awards, and in 2015, Danny was named to the TIME 100 list of the Most Influential People in the World.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Danny Meyer grew up in a family that relished great food and hospitality. Thanks to his father’s travel business, which designed custom European trips, Danny spent much of his childhood eating, visiting near and far-off places, and sowing the seeds for his future passion. In 1985, at the age of 27, Danny opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, launching what would become a lifelong career in hospitality.
Thirty years later, Danny’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) comprises some of New York’s most beloved and acclaimed restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, Maialino, and more. Danny and USHG founded Shake Shack, the modern-day “roadside” burger restaurant, which became a public company in 2015. USHG also offers large-scale event services, foodservice solutions for public and private institutions, industry consulting, and educational programming.
Under Danny’s leadership, USHG is renowned not only for its acclaimed restaurants but also for its distinctive and celebrated culture of Enlightened Hospitality. This guiding principle of prioritizing employees first and foremost has driven and shaped USHG’s ongoing evolution from a small group of restaurants into a multi-faceted hospitality organization.
Danny and USHG’s diverse ventures have added to the hospitality dialogue in many contexts including dining options in museums, sports arenas, and cultural institutions, as well as prescient investments in burgeoning neighborhoods. In 2016, USHG launched a pioneering initiative to eliminate tipping throughout its New York restaurants. This new way of business, called Hospitality Included, is designed to compensate the restaurant team more equitably and professionally, while providing clear paths for professional advancement.
Danny’s groundbreaking business book, Setting the Table (HarperCollins, 2006), a New York Times Bestseller, articulates a set of signature business and life principles that translate to a wide range of industries. A celebrated speaker and educator, Danny has set industry standards in areas such as hiring practices, innovative leadership, and corporate responsibility and addresses a wide range of audiences on such topics around the country.
Danny has been generously recognized for his leadership, business achievements, and humanitarianism, including the 2017 Julia Child Award, the 2015 TIME 100 “Most Influential People” list, the 2012 Aspen Institute Preston Robert Tisch Award in Civic Leadership, the 2011 NYU Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City, and the 2000 IFMA Gold Plate Award. Together, Danny and USHG’s restaurants and individuals have won an unprecedented 28 James Beard Awards, including Outstanding Restaurateur (2005) and Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America (1996).
Danny and his wife, Audrey, live in New York City and have four children.
Setting The Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in BusinessDanny is an energetic and versatile speaker, known for his insights in innovative leadership, workplace culture, and hospitality as a competitive advantage in business. He tailors his engagements and is delighted to answer questions. He looks forward to speaking with sponsors in advance of each event.
Enlightened HospitalityThe belief that putting employees first is the key to running a meaningful and sustainable business. Businesses that prioritize their employee experience see greater returns for all of their stakeholders, from customer experience to community enrichment and beyond.
Service vs. HospitalityDanny addresses the critical difference between service (the technical delivery of a product) and hospitality (the way the interaction makes you feel), drawing on examples from the restaurant industry to illustrate the powerful impact that hospitality can have on employee engagement, customer loyalty, and sales. Danny shares his philosophy of the 51%er, a framework for hiring employees who lead with the emotional intelligence that underlies great hospitality.
Innovation and Leadership- the Hospitality Included Case StudyCentral to Danny's business philosophy is the question: "Whoever wrote the rule?" Union Square Hospitality Group's innovative spirit has taken the company to new frontiers that transcend the restaurant industry. Danny shares stories from his entrepreneurial roots and case studies from throughout his career to illuminate the power of risk-taking and the value of a mistake well handled.