Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Model: Why You Should Care

What is Danny Meyer’s enlightened hospitality model anyway? And why should you care about hospitality at all in your social impact business? Hospitality is more than just good customer service; it’s the heart of your brand if done right.

Danny Meyer: A Customer Service Guru

Danny Meyer has some amazing views on hospitality and customer service. I recently watched an interview with him where he talked about the virtuous cycle of enlightened hospitality, and therein he discussed taking care of the team first and the investors fifth. In so doing, he contradicted the traditional views of capitalism and created a company culture that seeks to make an impact before making an income.

His team philosophy stresses hiring those who can challenge themselves and others to be their best, and take their experience to the table, thus providing a dining experience that is beyond satisfying. It is remarkable. In fact, his restaurants have won 28 awards for customer service, all of which he attributes to the virtuous cycle of enlightened hospitality.


Enlighted Hospitality — A Driving Force

This virtuous cycle is as it sounds, with the idea of enlightened hospitality as the driving force. Not just taking care of the customer, but doing so in such a way that you create an experience in the customer’s life. Hospitality is making sure you provide that service in a way that makes the customer feel great about doing business with you.

Danny Meyer picked out 17 companies that embody that philosophy. Companies that don’t just provide a service, but motivate and challenge their teams to provide that service in more imaginative and gracious ways than the next guy. To provide that service in such a way that makes the customer feel warm, fulfilled, and genuinely better than before they walked through their doors. Seventeen companies that outperform the S&P by leaps and bounds.

These companies embody the team-centric mindset that creates hospitality. These companies treat their respective teams as people. People who are capable of creating change. People who are empowered to be on their customers’ sides. People who lead and challenge and grow.

We can learn a lot as entrepreneurs from Danny Meyer. Here are my top key takeaways:

1. Follow your passion.

Simon Sinek said it best. The market leaders know why they do what they do. One trait of great leaders is the ability to inspire others. When you know why you’re in business, and that why is something you are passionate about, your team will buy into your vision.

Danny Meyer is passionate about bringing people together around the table and making that experience the kind his guests talk about. It’s his love story – watching his family enjoy their meal. The smell from the kitchen, the closeness of family, the conversation, the laughs, and the food. The recipes handed down from generation to generation, all creating the kind of experience you remember fondly.

Every business decision he made was done so with one end goal in mind – would this outcome produce the kind of restaurant that I would love to visit.

Be passionate. Make an impact.

2. Take care of your team first.

What? Shouldn’t that read investors? Or customers?


By taking care of the team first, Meyer created businesses where employees are treated like people. People who have hopes and dreams and goals and talents and knowledge. People who are empowered to take care of the customer, and thus create a greater return for the investors.

His team philosophy could be well encapsulated in this “I can’t expect someone to care about anyone else unless they feel cared for.”

This is quite possibly the most critical factor in the success of a business. He hires people who can both perform at consistently high levels and have the emotional skill set to make people feel good about being around them.

His impact model works because it fosters growth. The team is one where they can learn from each other, have fun with, be a champion with and grow with. Success becomes a byproduct, instead of the goal. His customers return so often because they feel cared for.

“They’re happy, they’re fulfilled, they’re warm, and it is genuine.”

3.Hospitality over service.

Service is simple. It’s what we do as business owners. Service is how well you do what you advertise. Hospitality, however, is how the customer feels about doing business with you. That’s the fifth star.

Is your team delivering your service in a way that keeps customers coming back? Are your customers understood, and do they know that? By this I mean, are you answering customer needs in a way that leaves customers feeling loved and fulfilled?

Love? Fulfillment? Is this a relationship?

Yes. Yes, it absolutely is. Remember, your customers feed the business. Impact model businesses take amazing care of their customers, and their customers know it. Creating a relationship with your customers will ensure they know your business takes amazing care of them. It ensures loyalty. And brand recognition. And the single greatest method of advertising in the history of ever – word of mouth.

Hospitality is more than what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s your impact.

4. Give back to your community.

It’s where we are. It’s the neighborhoods our customers live in.

It’s where we give back. Danny Meyer has a company ethos – engaging team members in volunteer opportunities. He provides channels for the team to build a bond with customers outside of the restaurant. It gives his team a place to lead, help and share, and it gives the community an opportunity to see the team truly cares.

It’s the law of reciprocity in action. The business that gives back to the community creates customers. The influence is felt – and seen.

5. Be a mentor.

This is the takeaway that resonates with me more so than others. Impact models have mentors in the organization. Maybe this should be a subheading under takeaway number two, but the process of mentoring and challenging the team creates innovation. It eliminates stagnancy. It produces growth.

And growth plus passion plus hospitality plus giving back equals success.

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