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Shake Shacks Danny Meyer: What the restaurant industry needs to do to survive




Danny Meyer, founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, does not see profit as the ultimate goal of his business. "It's the fuel without which we can not get to the destination," he says, "but the real destination must be our purpose."

To be sure, Meyer knows how to make money: Since opening his first restaurant, New York City's Union Square Cafe, when he was only 27, he grew USHG to include more than a dozen restaurants, a jazz club and more. He also founded the popular burger chain Shake Shack, which went public in 201

5, and an investment fund, Enlightened Hospitality Investments. He will discuss his entrepreneurial journey and the state of the restaurant industry on Friday 23. October at the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference, a week-long virtual event celebrating entrepreneurship and this year's Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest growing companies.

Meyer states that the purpose of the company – what he calls "enlightened hospitality" – is inseparable from its culture. Fulfilling this purpose depends on hiring the right people for the right jobs and training them properly. He compares the process of building a strong culture with winemaking: To produce good wine, you need to choose the right grapes for the soil, train them in the right direction and prune unhealthy fruits so that they do not sap energy from the healthy ones.

This means looking for employees who are not only able to perform their special roles, but who also have some important emotional skills that add up to a person's "hospitality quotient" or "HQ". Some people with high HQ, Meyer says, "are happier even when they make others feel better." Meyer also points out that asking someone to work for you asks them to take a risk, which is why it is important to put employees first. When your employees are happy and on board with your purpose, he says, it's good for customers, society and ultimately the company's investors.

In addition to sharing advice to hire the best employees and help them thrive, Meyer will offer lessons he has learned over the course of his long career and explain how he handles challenges – from negative reviews to the current pandemic and the economic crisis. And he will describe the steps he believes are necessary to help the restaurant industry recover.

For more from Danny Meyer and other famous business speakers, claim your free Main Stage pass to the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference here.


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