GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: What Danny Meyer Can Teach PR People (and many others as well)

The story of a failed restaurant reinforced some important business principles for me today. Crain’s New York Business, in its November 1 issue, ran an article on the extraordinary lengths to which legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer is going to provide a soft landing for the 90 employees and many customers of Tabla.  The high-end Indian eatery closes on December 31.

“The measure of our company should not just be about how we open restaurants,” he told Crain’s.  “We need to distinguish ourselves by how we close a place.”  This is not something in which Mr. Meyer has had a lot of experience.  Tabla is the first failure of his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) which also includes superstar restaurants such as Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and the Union Square Café.

What is he doing for his employees and customers?  His initiatives include:

  • A job fair for employees with a dozen Tablas management alumni now outside the company
  • Seeking jobs for them at their other USHG properties
  • Plenty of time to do all of the above – many restaurants close overnight
  • A cooking class and alumni chef dinner for customers

These good works (and, BTW, we have no connection to USHG) led me to think: do we always end our relationships in a manner that acquits us well?  Do we terminate people humanely, offer to write letters of recommendation and act as a reference?  Do we act graciously when we lose a pitch – congratulating the  winner and wishing the prospective client well?  And, when an ongoing client relationship ends – for whatever reason – do we act professionally in helping the client transition successfully to the new firm?

Happily, I think we do, because we have gotten return work from clients that left and we have been referred work by potential clients whose pitches we didn’t win.  But I also know we don’t do it 100% right every time.  Mr. Meyer is an excellent role model and gives us all a goal to shoot for.


Can you think of other examples of how to close a restaurant, a person or account gracefully?

To reach John:

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