Danny Meyer's real product isn’t food; it’s how his restaurants make you feel. And this is what he has scaled.
Even before opening his first restaurant, Danny’s vast experience eating out led him to believe that one thing ranked above all else in restaurants; he knew how it felt to not be treated well in a restaurant and was picking up lessons about what not to do as much as what to do.
His first restaurant became a big grab bag of all the elements that Danny wanted in his favorite restaurant. Danny made feeling, not food, his guiding principle. Other restaurants may focus on the menu, the ingredients, the wine list or the ambiance. Danny knows these things are essential. But he also believes food and wine are nothing compared to how the experience makes his guests feel. This belief in how to treat people guided all his decisions in the early days.
Hospitality, as Danny define it, is very simple. It all comes down to one proposition: "If you feel like the other guy did something for you, that's hospitality. If you think about every single transaction you go through in life, you don't necessarily feel like they did something for you. In fact, sometimes you feel like they did something to you."
E.g., if you ask for your salmon rare and I bring it to you rare, that's not hospitality. That's what you expected. Hospitality might be that your server remember and don't have to ask you.
Danny started developing a language where he could teach this to people, saying things like “You're responsible for doing extraordinary, unexpected things for each other and showing off for each other what it's like to be great at what you do".
Lastly, Danny doesn't believe that culture wants to be maintained; he looks at culture like a shark. It's moving forward, or it dies. It's changing, or it dies. You don't want to maintain a culture. You always want to be growing it.