October 12, 2006

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects: Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

By: Jack @ 9:06 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer, HarperCollins Publishers, 300 Pages, $25.95 Hardcover, October 2006, ISBN 0060742755
I love looking at publishers catalogs of forthcoming books. The size of the space given to a book is often predictive of the publishers plans for the success of the book. When I saw Setting the Table splashed out in the HarperCollins catalog, my cynical self thought, Now theres a New York-centric book thats not going to do much west of the Hudson River, though the editor and staff are going to get some fine meals. Well, as happens on more than one occasion, I was wrong. Sure, this book is about a famous New York restaurateur who has created eleven great restaurants, but even more it is a look into the life of a very successful businessman.
In the early 80s, he was a success as a salesperson, but the day before taking the LSAT, he was having dinner with his family and he realized he didnt want to be a lawyer. His love was food. He spent time learning the food business and searching for his first restaurant, the Union Square Caf. In an industry with a high failure rate, Meyer has created places that have not only survived, but thrived.
This book lays out some of his unorthodox business ideas. For example, he believes in putting the staff first. The customer isnt always right. You can only earn repeat business if employees feel jazzed about coming to work.
The book is loaded with management ideas that apply anywhere, even to your situation.
We aim to people who possess an emotional skill that chef Michael Romano calls the Excellence Reflex. People duck as a natural reflex when something is hurled at them. Similarly, the excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix something that isnt right, or to improve something that could be better. The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring and practice. The overarching concern to do the right thing well is something we cant train for. Either its there or it isnt. so we need to train how to hire for it.
Any business that looks for repeat customers can benefit from this enjoyable book. We all are looking for insights in customer retention, whether we are a three star restaurant or a bookseller.