Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
available from Amazon if you have to, but please use a local bookstore if you can.
Few books really keep me turning, turning the pages and I guess for some of you, it’s a shock to hear that I can read, a book. Even one with just words. Still, this is one helluvabook. If you’re in the hospitality industry, stop now, go buy this book!
This is the book that I wish I had read when I was 16, wandering into the realms of the hospitality industry; Paris, Geneva and Milan. Once I had finished the book, some 320 pages of small print, with out any pictures… I was enthused, pleased and in awe of someone who could articulate what it means to be engaged within hospitality.
Some I have read that it was “rather daring” for a restaurateur to write a book titled Setting The Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business? Pah, I for one, given time served (see 10,000 hours), can see genuine resource within the chapters, written with enthusiasm and I hope heartfelt honesty. I loved the idea of the 51/49 split, which is perfect reference to someone who is more emotionally in tune with their surroundings and the interactions they are engaged with.
From a restauranteur’s stand point, you try and establish an ideal for the establishment, set some goals (even targets!) and then the crunch, the realisation of how much it depends on chefs and servers to communicate these ideals to the guests. Not only must the restaurateur walk the talk, the staff must willingly do so as well.
If you’ve never heard of Danny Meyer, he has been in business over 20 years, growing his original Union Square Café into a brand (Union Square Hospitality Group) now including the celebrated Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, Gramercy Park, and many others. In this book, Meyer attempts to chronicle his not-quite rags to riches story of how he succeeded in the restaurant business by listening to people and putting the customer first. If you’re into beer, he’s been including top class craft beer on his menu, before it was even called Craft beer. Gramercy Tavern and Brooklyn Brewery events Garret Oliver – featured here (resplendent with Goat and Sailors hat)
If you do some research about Danny Meyer, you’ll read stories of how the little things matter. There are time worn anecdotal’s out how Meyer’s service-obsessed waiters jumped cabs to airports to return a forgotten purse to a diner, or scrambled to retrieve a chilling bottle of signature champagne from a patron’s refrigerator when he (isn’t it almost always a ‘he?’) forgot to bring it to the restaurant for an anniversary dinner. These feature in the book; of course a great peice of meat needs fat and muscle to balance, just as an semi-educational text needs a story to flesh up and present picture.
I’ve had the privilege of being in NYC and visiting both Union Square and the Gramercy, the staff always sincerely friendly, well-trained, and even enlightened when it comes to beer and food pairings. I for one can’t wait to get back to New York and check out Shake Shack, Blue Smoke and Tabla. Burgers, BBQ and Indian… oh hell yes.
So, there you go; I read a book, loved it and reviewed it.