Danny Meyer, BentoBox and the search for digital hospitality

I once had the pleasure of hearing Danny Meyer speak at Union Square Ventures portfolio summit. Danny addressed the CEOs, and talked about the power of hospitality. Danny’s speech made me immediately buy his bestselling book, called Setting the Table.

In this book, Danny, who is one of the most successful restauranteurs in the world, outlines his version of virtuous cycle, which he calls enlightened hospitality. Danny built a set of most iconic restaurants in NYC, and a hugely successful public company Shake Shack by applying the same set of principles. This is how Amazon review puts it:

The first and most important application of hospitality is to the people who work for you, and then, in descending order of priority, to the guests, the community, the suppliers, and the investors.

This way of prioritizing stands the more traditional business models on their heads, but Danny considers it the foundation of every success that he and his restaurants have achieved.

And if you ever been to one of Danny’s restaurants you would know that this hospitality, commitment to excellence, genuine care and kindness permeates the entire experience. Absolutely impeccable attention to details and quality is in every dish, in every gesture, and in every word.

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What Danny Meyer has created is one of the rare physical customer experiences that truly stands out in modern world. Apple stores and Disney are another two that come to mind.

But what Danny made possible in physical world – the feel of hospitality, hasn’t really been easy to replicate online. Sure, we feel good about scrolling on the phones, and we are addicted to the Internet, but it is not the same UX, not the same feel.

We first met Krystle, CEO of BentoBox, back in September of last year. She showed us her mobile-first, digital operations platform for restaurants and talked enthusiastically about the future of restaurants. But what caught my attention was that several Danny Meyer restaurants were using Bento Box every day.

After we met Krystle again, a light bulb went in my head. Krystle kept talking about how she really understood what restaurants needed, how she cared about them, and cared about quality of their digital marketing. Krystle was talking about her customers in the same way that Danny was talking about everyone – using enlightened hospitality.

Fast forward to now, BentoBox went through Techstars 2015 program in NYC, and now has over 100 restaurants on the platform, including 8 USHG ones. It is a beautiful, easy to use and highly customizable product that preserves restaurant’s identify and channels the that elusive feel of digital hospitality.

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Just like Danny is able to create profitable businesses with elegance and grace, BentoBox is able to make a difference on its customers bottom line. All the great UX leads to quantifiable lift in online reservations, and thats a pretty big deal.

It is pretty amazing to think that the same method of hospitality, commitment to quality and attention to details works for restaurants offline and online. Danny used the concept of hospitality to create some of the most iconic restaurants in world’s, and Krystle is using this concept to finally make digital UX for restaurants delightful.

Of course I am biased here, because I am an investor in Krystle’s business, but I really believe in this connection – enlightened hospitality. I look forward to seeing how Krystle grows her business and spreads the hospitality and digital love to more and more restaurants around the world.


To get a feel for the kind of person Danny Meyer is watch his recent TED talk: