Danny Meyer Interview

Danny Meyer, New York Restaurateur and  a man for whom I have great respect (his book, Setting the Table, changed the way I think about service), was on Charlie Rose. Here’s the interview:

Danny Meyer on Charlie Rose

If you work in hospitality, this is worth your time. If you want to start at the good stuff, it begins around 6:00. He talks about restaurants, but much of it applies to coffee and coffee houses as well. It’s not exactly hard-hitting journalism, but I enjoyed it. Some thoughts:

~8:10: “A restaurant is like a baseball glove … the people who work in our restaurants, and the people who dine in our restaurants, and the communities that surround our restaurants, are what give the glove its shape. All I do is do the stitching.”
 …  A coffee shop, a cafe, an espresso bar – if it is empty, it isn’t anything yet. Our places of business are defined by their function and their population. It is the employees and the customers that shape a place. You can choose your buildout to exacting specifications, but all you can do is provide a canvas upon which your employees paint. It’s so difficult for me to see these absolutely beautiful spaces with expensive and lovely equipment manned by folks who either don’t care or haven’t been taught to utilize their care into an excellent product. Don’t forget to invest in your staff!

~9:40: “Hospitality is a completely different thing from service. Hospitality is how we make you feel, service is what we do, to deliver the product.”
… I’ve touched on this a little in the past. ‘Service’ has become such a buzzword that we don’t even know what we’re talking about most of the time. This idea of hospitality is really appealing to me; we can be hospitable before we even speak to someone, even before their order is placed. A clean space, a friendly staff, a sensible noise level – these things are hospitality, and they are just as important as the service. I am starting to lean toward the idea that context and hospitality are even more important than the interaction itself. This is something I need to think on, but I would suggest that without a good foundation of context and hospitality, good service is very, very difficult, if not impossible. Anyone who has cared about coffee but worked at a place where the ownership did not care about coffee can commiserate here.

~16:53: “A great burger depends on what kind of mood you’re in.”
… This I really appreciate! It rings true with coffee, and is something we could be better about providing our customers. I know that sometimes even with all of the brewing devices in my kitchen, I still just want to hit a drive-thru on my way out of town. I think that Colin Harmon and 3FE do a great job with this, with the Tasting v. Drinking menus. Even coffee pros just want a hot cup of coffee they don’t have to think about – at least sometimes!

(also, not for nothing, I cracked up when Danny Meyer mentions that he prefers his burgers medium rare, and Charlie Rose murmurs kind of quietly, “Me too.”)

~20:00: “We’re trying to make it a restaurant for its neighbors.”
 I like the idea of a shop being for its community. It’s another, larger layer of this idea of context; does your shop fit? Are you forcing it to fit? Or is it natural, an obvious part of the where-ness of the place?  

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