Restaurateur Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack and CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group, is already famous for his employee-centered approach to restaurant management: By eliminating tipping in favor of higher wages and offering restaurant staff benefits like paid parental leave, he has broken the mold in an industry typically associated with high turnover, unpredictable incomes, and little in the way of job security or growth opportunities.
Meyer’s vision, which Aaron Hurst explored in an in-depth profile at Fast Company last week, is much bigger than simply abolishing tips. He’s looking to fundamentally transform the culture of his businesses, in large part by giving employees both a literal stake in the success of the restaurant and a greater sense of ownership toward the business and their careers:
When I asked Meyer how the change has turned out, he says when you make such a sweeping move across your business you have to make sure everyone is listened to, including your customers and your staff, “Our first priority was engaging and educating our own team in this conversation through a series of internal townhalls, so that they could be genuine ambassadors of the change. We started the conversation about “Hospitality Included” with our own people months before we made the news public or implemented it in any of our restaurants.” …
How do you persuade your waiters to forgo a 20% tip on each table they serve? Meyer says they never wanted to hire people who would only have been nice to you if they assessed it out of the four tables in their section, you were the richest or you were the most generous. “I would never want someone on our team who would go through that calculus. To say, “Who should I bring the food out for first?”
Now, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, Meyer is taking his campaign to change beyond his own restaurants and even beyond the restaurant industry, launching a $220 million private equity fund called Enlightened Hospitality Investments LP to back companies that share his values of pursuing growth by taking the best possible care of their employees. Restaurant industry observers say the fund will likely get favorable terms on many of its investments because businesses want to be associated with Meyer’s brand.