While many restaurateurs tend to put their own needs first through the artistry and presentation involved in their creations, Danny Meyer has always been focused on his customers. This may be due in part that Danny is not like the other chefs on this list, because Danny Meyer is not a chef in the strictest sense of the word.
Danny got his start as an assistant manager at Pesca, an Italian restaurant in New York City’s Flatiron District. This would explain his fondness for the area; Danny’s Union Square Hospitality Group hosts the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in Madison Square Park, and one of his Shake Shack locations as well as Blue Smoke Jazz Standard are both located within that same district.
Danny recently made headlines for his decision to end tipping at his restaurants, and while it was painted as an irresponsible decision, it has actually shown a positive impact on the wage of his restaurants’ staff. As a result, many other restaurateurs have adopted the same model, including this list’s own David Chang (who reversed the model in June of this year).
Danny’s inclusion on this list shows that you don’t have to be in the kitchen to make a difference in your guests’ experience, and his continued success as a restaurateur (including a staggering 28 James Beard Foundation awards) makes him just as worthy of a place on this list as the chefs who continue to push culinary boundaries.
Specialties & Resources
Since Danny isn’t, strictly speaking, a chef, his approach to dining differs slightly from that of other chefs on this list. While he does work with a chef (his business partner, Chef Michael Romano) and has published a cookbook called “The Union Square Café Cookbook,” Danny’s influence can most strongly be felt in the overall dining experience shared across the many restaurants he owns and operates.
Four of Danny’s Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants have received three stars from The New York Times, including Eleven Madison Park (which was upgraded to four stars in 2009). In fact, three of the five restaurants listed as the “Most Popular” in New York City according to a 2011 Zagat survey are owned and operated by USHG. Eleven Madison Park held three Michelin stars and was named one of San Pellegrino’s “50 Best Restaurants” in 2010 and 2011.
It should come as no surprise that Danny Meyer is on this list, as his social score reflects his commitment to a memorable and positive dining experience for all his guests. And based on his reviews and continued success, it’s clear that he’s doing something right.