The absolute best book on the consulting business is about insects in restaurant salads

I’m serious. Let me back up a bit.

Ten years ago today Danny Meyer published a book called Setting The Table, a chronicle of his adventures in the restaurant business in New York City.

You might know Danny Meyer as the founder of Shake Shack, a delicious fast casual burger chain taking the world by storm. But before flipping burgers Danny started building a restaurant empire in New York City called the Union Square Hospitality Group with a string of successful restaurants including top spots Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, and, Marta.

I didn’t really understand services until I read this book about the restaurant business. Actually, that’s wrong. The book isn’t about the restaurant business, it was about hospitality. And it’s also the best book I’ve ever read about how to provide exceptional customer experiences at a digital agency.

That thing about bug salad

One of the valuable lessons Danny shares in the book is understanding the power of writing your own ending. While you should always try to reduce errors and improve, things are going to go wrong. When that happens you can’t go back in time and prevent the mistake but you can make it better by writing your own ending on the situation.

Danny shares a really cool story to demonstrate the power of this technique. One of his frequent customers came into one of Danny’s restaurants and got served a plate of food with a beetle in it. A few days later Danny was at another of his restaurants and ran into the customer who told him about what happened. Danny went to the kitchen, wrote something on an index card, and asked the Chef to make a big salad for the table and put the index card on top of the salad when he brought it out.

The index card had the word “Ringo” written on the front. When the customer picked up the card and flipped it over he read: “I didn’t want the other restaurant to be the only place where you can get a Beatle in your salad.”

Now every time the customer recounts the time he had an insect in his food at a Danny Meyer restaurant he will end what would have been a really bad story with a really funny punch line. Suddenly a bad situation is now an effective marketing tool for Danny Meyer.

Hospitality and services

At the heart of hospitality is a genuine desire to help people. Danny makes great food and my company Third & Grove makes great digital experiences, but in the end, it’s all about providing exceptional customer service.

The lessons from Danny and his book on hospitality are central to how we approach everything we do at Third & Grove and I believe a major contributor to why we have been so fortunate to work with some of the world’s best brands as a young agency.

This spring I will be heading to New York City to try and complete my quest of eating at every single one of his NYC restaurants at least once (two down so far!). This modest gesture is the best (and if I’m being honest the yummiest and easiest) thank you I can think of for an entrepreneur who has enriched my life and my business so much.