Why Union Square Hospitality Group is the best in the business

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IMproved Shake Shack fries

(The new and improved Shake Shack fries)

March 11, 2014- By Steven E Greer, MD

The number of restaurant groups trying to copy Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) and create the “better burger” are in the dozens, but few are succeeding. The reason is that it is very difficult to truly provide high quality food and great hospitality.

Lip service is not enough. Most restaurants are doomed from the beginning because they view the cost of employees as the biggest problem in the industry and try to pay minimum wage. Then, they get what they pay for. With a bad staff, they usually hide the kitchen in a basement and keep the untrained cooks out of sight, creating perfect conditions for a “kitchen nightmare”.

Danny Meyer is famous for saying that the staff are his biggest asset, and he pays them accordingly. His restaurants do not employ different social classes. The senior waiters and managers also double as bar backs or bussers.

Even for the nicer restaurants that are willing to try to play in the Big Leagues, they often fail to compete with a USHG place because they cannot properly assimilate negative feedback and take corrective actions. Behind every failed restaurant that had plenty of financial backing at the opening is a management team that could not listen to criticism.

The three USHG restaurants in BPC have consistently demonstrated a unique ability to spot problems and fix them. When a customer complains, quite often Danny Meyer himself will reply.

Case in Point: Shake Shack’s new Fresh Fries, which are still a work in progress caused BatteryPark.TV to recently report in a very critical way that the new fries were overcooked and a major disappointment. A senior manager in the Shake Shack organization sent a thoughtful reply, which in many cases would have just been lip service (Even an Applebee’s knows how to appease unhappy diners).

A mere eight days later, however, the BPC Shake Shack has completely resolved the overcooking problem, and is now cranking out deliciously perfect Fresh Fries, that are indeed better then the original frozen versions. But they are not done. They are still striving for perfection, which they will achieve, no doubt.

At this same Shake Shack, they have fix other problems as well. The bacon was not being prepared to their standards, and they took care of that. The managers even have a social conscience, and are organizing weekly community physical fitness programs to combat obesity.

The service is always remarkable as well. Using certain tricks of the trade, which shall not be divulged, the management has built an esprit de corps on par with a Michelin-star restaurant. For example, the young staff, often in their teens, will remember the names of regular diners, despite serving thousand of people a day.

Another case study on USHG is around the corner at Blue Smoke. As we previously reported, they got off to a rocky start in BPC, but have now completely changed the menu and management staff. Once again, they spotted the problems and corrected them.

Shake Shack new fries(The early attempts which were overcooked)

New Executive Chef for Blue Smoke empire

The Blue Smoke fried chicken sandwich

Clarke’s Standard compared to Shake Shack, Bill’s Burger, and Blue Smoke

Blue Smoke kicks it up a notch


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