Danny Meyer is an esteemed restaurateur and business leader who has been at the forefront of the hospitality industry for over thirty years. As the founder and Executive Chairman of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), Meyer has become one of the most influential figures in the industry, earning a reputation for his visionary leadership and commitment to creating exceptional dining experiences.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Danny developed a love for great food and hospitality from a young age, thanks to his father’s travel business that designed custom European trips.
In 1985, at the age of 27, Danny opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in New York City. Thanks to its welcoming atmosphere, impeccable service, and delicious food, it quickly became a hit. This success led to the opening of several other acclaimed restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, and Maialino. Danny’s ventures have also expanded to include Shake Shack, a modern-day ‘roadside’ burger restaurant that went public in 2015.
Under Danny’s leadership, USHG has become known not only for its exceptional restaurants but also for its distinctive culture of Enlightened Hospitality. This principle, which prioritizes employees first and foremost, has been the driving force behind the organization’s evolution from a small group of restaurants into a multi-faceted hospitality organization. He explains, “My appreciation of the power of hospitality and my desire to harness it has been the greatest contributors to whatever success my restaurants and businesses have had. I’ve learned how crucially important it is to put hospitality to work, first for the people who work for me and subsequently for all the other people and stakeholders who are in any way affected by our business—in descending order, our guests, community, suppliers, and investors. I call this way of setting priorities’ enlightened hospitality.’ It stands some more traditional business approaches on their head, but it’s the foundation of every business decision and every success we’ve had.”
Danny’s influence has also extended beyond the world of restaurants. He has invested in numerous ventures, including food service solutions for public and private institutions and large-scale event services. He has also set industry standards in hiring practices, innovative leadership, and corporate responsibility and has addressed a wide range of audiences nationwide.
Danny has taken a leadership role in several organizations, including the New York Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Madison Square Park Conservancy, among others. He has also been recognized for his leadership, business achievements, and humanitarianism, receiving the Julia Child Award in 2017, the TIME 100 ‘Most Influential People’ list in 2015, and the IFMA Gold Plate Award in 2000.
He has also published a groundbreaking business book, Setting the Table, which instantly became a New York Times Bestseller and articulates a set of signature business and life principles that translate to various industries.
With a career spanning over thirty years, Danny has transformed the hospitality industry and continues to be an icon. As he reflects on his journey, he says, “In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”
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