“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

1: Danny Meyer and his wife were having dinner at Eleven Madison Park.  At the table next to theirs was a young woman and her parents.  “It was very clear that the young woman had just moved to New York from somewhere in the Midwest,” Danny recalls in Carmine Gallo‘s terrific book The Storytellers Secret.  

It was also clear that the young woman’s parents did not approve of their daughter’s move to the Big Apple.  “She wanted to show her parents that New Yorkers were, in fact, very nice and it was a great place to live,” Danny remembers.  “Things are going pretty well until the dessert menu is being handed out.  The father looks at the menu and says, ‘Are you kidding? $42 for one glass of dessert wine?  That’s what I’m talking about here in New York.  Everything is so expensive!”

Five minutes later the waiter returns to the table with three glasses and a bottle of Chateau D’Yquem. “We are so grateful that you came tonight.  I heard you talking about the Chateau D’Yquem.  This is one of the rarest and best dessert wines in the entire world and we would love to offer you each a taste with our compliments.”  

“I’m high-fiving my wife because this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen!”  Danny recounts.  He is the founder of Eleven Madison Park as well as Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, and many other New York City restaurants, as well as Shake Shack.  

“The server sized up the situation and decided that giving the equivalent of a $42 gift… with love and generosity will probably return $4,200 in word of mouth.  The parents will feel great and the daughter will feel great about taking her parents here.”

2: Danny is a big proponent of building a strong workplace culture because it sets the foundation for success.

And how is a great culture built?

On stories.

Danny “tells stories, lots of them. He tells stories in television interviews. He tells stories in keynote speeches. And, most importantly, he tells stories to educate cooks, chefs, sommeliers, and servers in the art of customer service,” writes Carmine.

“Culture is a way to describe how we do things around here,” Danny says “If you can use stories to provide examples, you get closer to perpetuating and advancing the culture.”

Telling team members they are empowered to do what’s in the best interest of the customer is fine.  But sharing a story makes it 10x more powerful.  

Storytelling becomes a “force replicator: it takes that single act and turns it into a regular happening” at his restaurants.

3: One night a political convention was in town and 11 members of the press showed up for a late dinner at one of Danny’s restaurants.  One of the guests was then-NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw.  As Danny was getting ready to leave around 1 am, he remarked, “If you folks stay long enough we’ll have to serve you scrambled eggs for dessert.” One of the guests turned to Danny and said, “I bet you’ve never had ‘eggs daffodil,’ that’s the real thing.”

So, before leaving, Danny asked his chef to figure out what eggs daffodil are and serve it to the table.  

Which he did in a copper pot.  The guests were “blown away” by the delicious concoction and by the memorable experience.  Two years later, Danny ran into Tom Brokaw again who said he’d shared the late-night eggs daffodil story with more than 12 people.

That’s an example of the power of what Danny calls “ABCD,” or “Always Be Connecting Dots.”

Danny “encourages his staff to connect information that can turn a guest’s experience into a richer, more memorable event,” writes Carmine.  “It sounds good on paper, but it’s still an abstract concept. Meyer’s stories bring it to life.”

Stories help people understand the behaviors our company wants to model.

More tomorrow.


Reflection: What stories can I tell about our organization going the extra mile to dazzle our clients?

Action:  Create an on-going mechanism to capture and share compelling client success stories.

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