Book Reviews

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

setting the table


About the Book

I can’t tell you how long this book’s been on my list. I kept saying I’d get to it and that day finally came a couple of months ago.

How happy am I that it did! Setting the Table is chock full of sooooo many useful business insights and it’s certainly given me some very useful perspective tricks for me to use for my own business.

Without further ado, here are just some of its highlights…


Favourite Passages:

  • “I study the faces of our guests. If I see that the direction of their eyes intersects at the center of the table, I know that they are actively engaged with one another and I’m confident that everything is fine. This is an inopportune time to visit. Guests dine out primarily to be with one another, and their eyes tell me that they are doing precisely what they came to do.” Chapter 4: Turning Over the Rocks


  • “‘Who ever wrote the rule that…'” Chapter 6: No Turning Back


  • “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you’ll listen to.” Chapter 6: No Turning Back


  • “To me, a 51 percenter has five core emotional skills. I’ve learned that we need to hire employees with these skills if we’re to be champions at the team sport of hospitality. They are:
  1. Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full)
  2. Intelligence (not just ‘smarts’ but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning)
  3. Work ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done)
  4. Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions can make others feel)
  5. Self-awareness and integrity (an understanding of what makes you tick and a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgement)” Chapter 7: The 51 Percent Solution


  • “In a sense, [self awareness] is a personal weather report.” Chapter 7: The 51 Percent Solution


  • “People will say a lot of great things about your business, and a lot of nasty things as well. Just remember: you’re never as good as the best things they’ll say, and never as bad as the negative ones. Just keep centered, know what you stand for, strive for new goals, and always be decent.” Chapter 8: Broadcasting the Message, Tuning in the Feedback


  • “‘Your staff and your guests are always moving your saltshaker off center. That’s their job. It is the job of life… Until you understand that, you’re going to get pissed off every time someone moves the saltshaker off center. It is not your job to get upset. You just need to understand: that’s what they do. Your job is just to move the shaker back each time and let them know exactly what you stand for. Let them know what excellence looks like to you. And if you’re ever willing to let them decide where the center is, then I want you to give them the keys to the store.'” Chapter 9: Constant, Gentle Pressure


  • “Team members will generally go with the flow and be willing to hop over the ripples, so long as they know in advance that you are going to toss the rock, when you’ll be tossing it, how big it is, and – mostly – why you’re choosing to toss it in the first place. The key is to anticipate the ripple effects of any decision before you implement it, gauging who it will affect, and to what degree.” Chapter 9: Constant, Gentle Pressure


  • “‘Will this yield today dollars, tomorrow dollars, or never dollars?’ Only the third alternative – never dollars – is unattractive to me.” Chapter 9: Constant, Gentle Pressure


  • “Tough love is another term for frank, ‘I’m on your side’ honesty. It’s saying, ‘I care enough about you to tell you the truth, even if the truth is tough to hear.’ Patience with tough love sends a clear message to your staff that you’re on their side.” Chapter 9: Constant, Gentle Pressure


  • “‘Why would anyone want to be led by me?'” Chapter 9: Constant, Gentle Pressure


  • “In order to do a gut check on how much I really want to take a space or do a deal, I always ask myself whether I would do this deal if it were given to me for free.” Chapter 12: Context, Context, Context



Star Rating:


Can’t fault this book at all! One of the best I’ve read this year without a doubt.

Highly recommend!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s