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Since opening Union Square Cafe in 1985, Danny Meyer and his team have redefined hospitality, combining warmth and professionalism in restaurants ranging from fine dining at Gramercy Tavern to better-burger chain Shake Shack, as well as jazz clubs, cocktail bars, museum cafes and barbecue restaurants. His book, “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business,” is required reading for operators across the country.
Known for: As CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group LLC, Meyer has been a leader on promoting positive work cultures in the restaurant industry.
In order to increase salaries of back-of-the-house workers, Meyer vowed to eliminate tipping at all of his restaurants in 2015, sending shockwaves across the industry. It’s still a work in progress as he implements his “Hospitality Included” system at his operations one restaurant at a time. USHG also offers strong benefits like parental leave, 401(k) matches and insurance.
Power move: Meyer continues to expand his reach. He invests in emerging concepts like Tender Greens, Joe Coffee and Salt & Straw, and last year launched Roman-style concepts in New York — Vini e Fritti, an aperitivi bar; Martina, a pizzeria; and Marchio, a coffee bar. He remains outspoken on the elimination of tipping, and most recently promoted it on 60 Minutes.
What’s next: Meyer is planning the opening of his first full-service restaurant outside of New York with a Union Square Cafe slated to debut at the Capitol Crossing mixed-use development project in Washington, D.C., where USHG will also curate other food-and-drink outlets.