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Reimagining Your Organization: The Virtuous Cycle in Action


Last year, I had the great pleasure of meeting Danny Meyer, entrepreneur-restaurateur and author of Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. He spoke at the Service Excellence Symposium and was inspiring, at least. Though there were no restaurateurs in the audience, we were able to take so much from his message. I’m sharing some of most salient points from his book here; though I highly recommend you read it. (Note: Special thanks to my colleague Jenny Engstrom for highlighting these points.)

Key Themes from Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table:

Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. These two simple concepts—for and to—express it all.




Practice the Virtuous Cycle of Enlightened Hospitality. Nothing matters more than how we express hospitality to one another. And then, in descending order, our core values are to extend gracious hospitality to our guests, our community, our suppliers, and finally our investors.

Share Ownership. Hospitality can only exist where there is human dialogue. Shared ownership develops when guests talk about a restaurant as if it’s theirs. That sense of affiliation builds trust and invariably leads to repeat business.

Turn Over The Rocks. It’s human nature for people to take precisely as much interest in you as they believe you’re taking in them. There is no stronger way to build relationships than taking a genuine interest in other human beings and allowing them to share their stories.

Always be Collecting, and Connecting, Dots. Dots are information: the more you collect, the more frequently you can make meaningful connections that can make other people feel good.

Hire only 51 Percenters. The only way a company can grow, stay true to its soul, and remain consistently successful is to attract, hire, and keep great people.

Know Your Center. What is non-negotiable about how we do business? Wherever your center is, know it, name it, stick to it, and believe in it. When you cede your core values to someone else, it’s time to quit.

Apply Constant, Gentle Pressure. Communication has as much to do with context as it does content. Understanding who needs to know what, when people need to know it, and why, is the key to applying constant, gentle pressure.

Teaching is Hospitality: Address Mistakes. Business is problem solving. It’s critical for us to accept and embrace our ongoing mistakes as opportunities to learn, grow, and profit.

Be an Agent, Not a Gatekeeper. It’s incumbent upon all members of our team to be citizens of our company and to come to work looking for opportunities to be on one another’s side. An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out.

Where to Start? Here are Some Specific Questions You Should Be Asking:

Challenge the status quo. One of Danny’s favorite things to do is ask, “Whoever wrote the rule…?” What are some so-called rules you might challenge in your organization?

How to you solicit feedback from your customers? Do you have similar mechanisms in place to solicit feedback from your staff?

How are mistakes addressed in your organization? Does the staff know your what is non-negotiable about how you do business? Does your staff know how to identify when something is off-center and set it right?

What 10 things are your staff most passionate about? How do you as a manager/leader reinforce that passion? How do you tap into it?

DeEtta Jones

DeEtta Jones is an invited speaker, equity, diversity and inclusion strategy consultant and author with more than twenty years of experience working with people from around the world to on personal effectiveness and building workforce capacity.

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