PR lessons from a restaurant pioneer

by Jeremy Church, on Oct 23, 2017

The pioneering CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” might no longer be appointment viewing like it was during its first 25 years, when at least 20 million people tuned in each week.

But it’s still the gold standard in investigative reporting and the personality profiles are typically just as compelling.

Take, for instance, a segment on the Oct. 8 episode spotlighting Danny Meyer, a restaurant entrepreneur who has been the innovator behind many dining experiences we take for granted.

His company, Union Square Hospitality Group, oversees 15 different restaurants, including upscale eateries, casual bistros and a little burger chain you might have heard of called Shake Shack.

I was casually listening to Meyer speak while putting away dishes, but the parallels he started describing between the restaurant business and the world of strategic communications consulting made me pause, sit down and think.

In our experience, strong client relationships depend on identifying who we need to please within an organization’s hierarchy, doing whatever we can to make those people happy. This typically involves assisting them in driving forward initiatives they lack the internal resources to accomplish themselves. Because it’s often more than one person we need to portray as the hero, the strategies and tactics we employ vary, based in large part on the wide range of personalities we serve.

It’s no different in Meyer’s line of work and he had his own unique way of articulating the challenges associated with keeping his customers satisfied.AdobeStock_37865487.jpeg

“Everyone on Earth is walking around life wearing an invisible sign that says, ‘Make me feel important,’” Meyer said. “And your job is to understand the size of the font of this invisible sign and how brightly it's lit. So, make me feel important by leaving me alone. Make me feel important by letting me tell you everything I know about food. It's our job to read that sign and to deliver the experience that that person needs.”

These comments epitomize the significance of maintaining and growing existing client and customer relationships. In the world of business, everyone has an organizational or personal agenda. We’re naïve to believe otherwise.

In the restaurant world where profit margins are razor thin, diners expect the food to be good. If it’s not, they won’t come back. The same parallels hold true for the world of public relations and content creation. At WordWrite, if we can’t execute the organic social media, inbound marketing, paid search or media relations campaigns (among other services) we were hired to perform, then we’ll be out on the street quickly.

For us to be successful in the long term, for us to keep clients coming back and attract new clients, we must also constantly read and understand the audience – both internally in the organizations we serve and externally in the audiences we’re trying to reach. 

In Meyer’s world, it’s not just about the food. The expectation of good food gets diners in the door. He wants the experiences people have at his restaurants to create memories that keep them coming back.

Or as he puts it, you need to understand who the boss is at each table.

“There's no question in my mind that at every single table there's somebody who's got the biggest agenda,” Meyer said. “If it's two people doing business, there's someone who's trying to sell something to somebody else. And I think that if you can figure that out early on in the meal, and understand what is it going take for the boss to leave happy . . .  It could be making sure that someone else gets to pick the wine. You’ve just got to pick up on those cues.”

We’d like to know what you think in the comments section.

How does Meyer’s philosophy translate to your organization’s approach?

Feel free to click here to learn more about the way we prefer to engage with our clients.

Topics:client servicecontent creationstrategic communicationsconsulting
Jeremy Church-1
Jeremy Church
Partner, Vice President and Director of Results

Jeremy Church is a partner, vice president and director of results at WordWrite. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @churchjeremy.



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