October 3, 2006

Jack Covert Selects: Setting the Table

By: Jack @ 7:09 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Danny Meyer, the author of the new book Setting the Table, has been getting Gladwell-esque hype. For a change, he actually deserves it. I just finished the book and wrote a Jack Covert Selects review which, I think, is published this week. The book is superb. Page after page of information that is applicable to any and all businesses. For example,
In the fall of 2004 I was invited to appear on the Today Show with Terry Miller, a gourmet sausage specialist from Colorado, to do a segment on pairing hot dogs and wine. This was based on a popular seminar we had conducted together the previous summer at the Food and Wine Classic. The jovial Miller, a self-described redneck, was in New York to help us with our inaugural Shacktoberfest at Shake Shack. On the segment with Al Roker and Ann Curry, Terry mentioned some of the specialty bratwursts (jalapeno-elk, smoked buffalo, pheasant-and-mushroom) that wed be serving at Shake Shack throughout our Shacktoberfest festival. He got a whoop from the studio audience when he asked Ann Curry to kiss his colorful, life-size smiling hot dog he had tattooed on his calf.

I am not naturally inclined to send out a lot of emails whenever Im going to be on television. (To her chagrin, I usually dont even remember to tell my mother.) but by not forewarning anyone that day, I tossed a rock and failed to give my team adequate warning of some wave-like ripple effects. The seven-minute segment on Today caused the days lunch business at Shake Shack to soar, and our staff had no idea what had hit them, what caused it, or how to prepare for it. Their lily pads were pounded, turning what should have been a public relations triumph into a fiasco. The cooks couldnt keep up with the unanticipated demand for bratwurst, guests waited far too long for their orders, and we quickly ran out of food. Any company that thrives on a steady flow of creative ideas needs correspondingly strong communications. Ideas at their best happen for people. At their worst they happen to people. Had the staff members known in advance about the Today Show, they probably would have brought in an extra cook and additional product, and we would have had a lot more fun serving a lot more bratwursts.

More fun stuff about Danny Meyer
10-03-06 Wall Street Journal (sub. req) interview
10-09-09 BusinessWeek Working Out
08-02-06 Fortune interview