Danny Meyer, one of essentially the most influential restaurateurs in trendy eating, is stepping down as CEO of Union Sq. Hospitality Group (USHG). It’s an enormous deal: Meyer based the New York-based firm almost 40 years in the past, and in that point the success of his companies, comparable to Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack, has formed quite a bit of the norms within the hospitality business. His “workers first” and “enlightened hospitality” mantras influenced how a technology of restaurateurs talked to (and about) their employees, whereas his ebook, Setting the Desk, turned a bible for a lot of within the business. Since then, critics have known as into query how a lot affect he ought to have had all alongside—however the truth stays that for years, Meyer and USHG had been thought-about a gold normal for run eating places. By many, they nonetheless are.
Present president and chief working officer Chip Wade will take over on September 6. Earlier than becoming a member of USHG in 2019, he was the manager vp of operations at Crimson Lobster and the senior vp at its former mum or dad firm, Darden Eating places. This doesn’t mark the tip of Meyer’s affect within the meals world although: The restaurateur will stay concerned at USHG to assist craft new eating places. He’s additionally nonetheless the board chairman of Shake Shack, which is a separate firm, and a associate at Enlightened Hospitality Investments, which backs companies comparable to Salt & Straw and Goldbelly.
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Because the chef steps away from the each day of operating his group of 13 distinct USHG restaurant ideas, right here’s a glance again at some of essentially the most notable elements of Meyer’s profession as CEO of USHG, and a few predictions for what he could do subsequent.
Union Sq. Cafe performed a notable function in New York eating places’ use of seasonal components.
In 1985, a then-27-year-old Meyer opened Union Sq. Cafe in New York Metropolis, and the restaurant finally turned a eating establishment. Its American- and Italian-influenced menu was formed by the supply of produce from the close by Union Sq. Greenmarket, which has since turn into foundational to New York’s eating scene. Its service was additionally congenial, a trademark of Meyer’s type that’s been copied by restaurateurs throughout the nation.
Union Sq. Cafe’s recognition paved the way in which for the entire Meyer empire. In normal New York vogue, the unique location closed because of a lease hike. It reopened a couple of blocks away in 2016, and by then, the corporate had different favorites like Gramercy Tavern, Marta, Maialino, and The Fashionable.
Meyer prioritized working circumstances at USHG eating places, and influenced others to comply with swimsuit.
All through his lengthy profession, Meyer strived to make USHG a haven for workers in an business recognized for its lengthy hours, low wages, and at occasions abusive dynamics. He famously operated from the angle that should you put your workers first, the shoppers will comply with.
In 2015, Meyer launched a “Hospitality Included” coverage, which eradicated tipping from all USHG eating places. The transfer was meant to create extra wage fairness between servers, who obtained gratuity, and the kitchen staffers, who didn’t. (In New York and Washington DC, the place USHG operates, labor legal guidelines dictate that ideas are restricted to staff who spend the bulk of their time interacting with clients.) To make sure the coverage was viable, Meyer elevated menu costs, wages, and launched worker advantages—like household and parental go away insurance policies, ESL courses, and a 401k matching program. Although he wasn’t the primary to nix restaurant ideas, the USHG information precipitated tidal waves within the business and sparked a nationwide anti-gratuity motion, with David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Andrew Tarlow, and others following swimsuit. The considering, it appeared, was that if somebody with as many workers as Meyer may efficiently make the shift, certainly anybody may.