Book review: Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer.

As usual, this book review is more for myself to make sure at least something sticks. I have now written a checklist of how to do these reviews and I am stopping the time to write each one to see if this is worthwhile. 

I read Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer on kindle. I learned about the book on twitter. I believe from somebody at Union Square Ventures, the VC firm. Like most people I am interested in food and the restaurant business - if you have not read stuff like “kitchen confidential” and are interested in food, that is a good starting point. 

This book is an autobiography by and about Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack and a major restaurant group. I am aware that “by and about” is redundant because I already said it is an autobiography but I am not sure how to do the sentence otherwise. 

Recommended or not and why?

Highly recommended because it is an easy and entertaining read but still highly informative.

What was interesting on a technical/science/business level?

Another example of somebody starting in business early and just slugging it out until eventual success. Danny Meyer was fat and average in school. Studied politics and organised a senator campaign, while his parents divorced and his father succeeded and failed in businesses. So, this is all pretty average. 

Than, at age 26, he quits his sales manager job where he had saved money to do a cooking course and starts working in low positions in a restaurants. He drops a 125k annual salary to 12k salary to do what we wants. 

From this point onwards he just consistently works on making the first restaurant successful. What is interesting here is that according to his figures, lunch should be about 40% regulars and dinner 25% - higher than I would have expected. 

Note also that finding the space for the first restaurant was done the following way: he walked around to places that he liked and asked the owners to take his card whenever they thought about selling. Simple as.

Noteworthy is his focus on mistakes and slip-ups: essentially the argument is that all good stuff is long term. Therefore, in the short term after a mistake you can spend as much as you’d like because you are building an asset. So, drastic focus on making everything good for the guests - removing food that was not eaten from the bill.

A lot about hiring - attitude is given a 51% importance over technical skill. Interesting. 

What was interesting on a personal level?

The most interesting and sad part is the short but intense description of early birth and shortly following death of two twin babies. It especially impressive as Danny is clearly points out that this challenged their lives and marriages and that both would most certainly have fallen apart - had he not “resolved to use every form of therapy available - and in my case additional intense work with a men’s group. 

Time taken to write this: 40 minutes.