The Right People Make the Right Decisions

The Right People Make the Right Decisions

“Hospitality is almost impossible to teach. It's all about hiring the right people.”
- Danny Meyer

Danny Meyer is the hospitality industry’s spiritual leader. Through his restaurants, including Shake Shack and Gramercy Tavern, books, and philanthropy, he has achieved incredible financial success and admiration. But Meyer’s contribution transcends hospitality. Since opening Union Square Cafe in 1985, he has been transformed into an evangelist of sorts. He preaches and teaches “enlightened hospitality,” the understanding and application of how the delivery of a product makes its recipient feel. Meyer understands that “good service,” the technical delivery of a product, has become an expectation; therefore culture and experience have become the true differentiators. As he puts it, “It’s all about how you make the customer feel.”

The most important step in creating a hospitable culture is hiring the right people. Meyer calls these people “fifty-one percenters”—team members with a high hospitality quotient whose skills are 49 percent technical and 51 percent emotional. You can teach someone a technical skill, but it’s much more difficult to teach them emotional skills. The core skills Meyer looks for are optimism and kindness, curiosity about learning, an exceptional work ethic, a high degree of empathy, and self-awareness and integrity. As Meyer explains it, “By putting your employees first, you have happier employees, which then leads to a higher HQ. A higher HQ leads to happy customers, which benefits all the stakeholders. The cycle is virtuous, not linear, because the stakeholders all impact each other.”

All businesses, not just restaurants, are dependent on people. That’s because great experiences only occur when one person emotionally connects with another. When the person on the receiving end of the product or service leaves happier and more fulfilled, the transaction was a success. It’s precisely this emotional connection that increases positive sentiment and eventually grows into a successful brand or movement.

Doing this once is quite simple. Almost anyone, for example, can throw one really great dinner party. But when you multiply that one interaction by hundreds, thousands, or even millions, that’s where the problems begin. How can you possibly make all those connections magical? Meaningful? Memorable? But organizations like Meyer’s Shake Shack do it, so do Disneyland, the Apple Store, and most great companies.  Many believe this comes from training, but training is technical. Recruitment, the action of finding new people to join an organization or support a cause, is truly the most important step in the process. When you empower the right people, they will make the right decisions, or, as Danny Meyer says, “The overarching concern to do the right thing well is something we can’t train for. Either it’s there or it isn’t.”

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