Danny Meyer Talks Tipping and the Economics of Shake Shack at Guild Hall

Refusing to call his many restaurants a vast empire, Danny Meyer in conversation with Florence Fabricant last Sunday at Guild Hall, referred to his Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Untitled at the Whitney, The Modern, Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard, Marta, Maialino, and the popular Shake Shacks, to name a few, as his collection. This talk was part of a series called "Stirring the Pot," featuring famous chefs, in a program curated by The New York Times food writer Florence Fabricant for Guild Hall.

As she has shown in prior years, Fabricant has a knack for eliciting the right mix of food savvy with controversies on trends and practices, like tipping, for example. Diners no longer tip at a Danny Meyer restaurant, paying a percentage more for a meal, or as he put it, the experience and hospitality of fine dining. As he explained this innovation, it's a win win with workers paid more, and diners essentially paying what they would have anyway. His Shake Shacks, as we all know, is his version of a fast food joint, applying the principles of good, healthy eating to the concept. Now others look to copy, offering non-GMO meals.

Meyer did not pick up his business acumen at school. On the way to taking the bar exam, Meyer caught the attention of his wise uncle who asked why the young man, looking sad about law, so passionate about restaurants and food, would want to spend his time working at something he did not like. His first restaurant investors were family members, who, said Meyer proudly, were all repaid.

This summer he is moving his Union Square Café. Florence Fabricant noted that she had not heard of anyone doing that, with the exception of Wolfgang Puck, who successfully relocated Spago. Puck will be the "Stirring the Pot" guest, seated beside Fabricant at the Ciuffo designed kitchen set on August 28. And Danny Meyer went off to Boston, for the opening of the 100th Shake Shack.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.