Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns and runs some of New York City’s most beloved restaurants. Meyer has achieved great success with his endeavors and has done so by creating a culture which he calls “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. To invest in his employees and a positive corporate culture, was to invest in his organization’s future.
Meyer believes that businesses and their people need to be motivated by a higher purpose of serving others. He knows this from having opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, at the age of 27 and having learned and grown since then. During an interview on his own lessons about hospitality, Meyer has said that he wants employees to act out of being “kind and optimistic, or having hope; having an intellectual curiosity; a strong work ethic; having empathy; having self-awareness; and most importantly, having integrity.”
Recently, in an effort to professionalize restaurant careers and mitigate the pay gap between service and kitchen staff, Meyer made the forward-thinking, if difficult, the decision to eliminate tipping in a policy called “Hospitality Included.” The idea would be to ensure his workers had a steady and predictable income determined by skill and merit, rather than by guest-given gratuity.
Furthermore, Meyer supports local community nonprofits and organizations that combat hunger in New York City and beyond. He explained that this is a part of his philosophy of business and hospitality- that one must be conscious about creating value for all stakeholders. The Union Square Hospitality Group website states: “Ever since we built our first home in Union Square, we’ve prioritized doing our part to contribute to the neighborhoods that support us, and helping make the world a better place. We encourage our employees to become involved in their communities and support their philanthropic initiatives. In addition to efforts by our employees and businesses, Union Square Hospitality Group as a whole has dedicated time and resources to supporting hunger relief initiatives and beautifying our urban environments, among many other causes. We are proud to partner with Share Our Strength, City Harvest, Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, and local schools and educational programs.”
Meyer is a true conscious capitalist and has been recognized through many awards, including the 2017 Julia Child Award, TIME’s 2015 100 Most Influential People, and the 2011 NYU Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City.