David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, flexed his interviewing muscle during a Q&A with Danny Meyer, chief executive officer of Union Square Hospitality Group, at Hearst Tower in Midtown on Thursday.
The event, which was open to Hearst employees and the media, began with Carey asking Meyer about creating a corporate culture, and moved on to other topics such as the value of social media and what he would do if they swapped jobs for a day.
Carey asked how Meyer achieves the “harmonization” or a culture across his various restaurants, all of which serve a different clientele, to which the ceo drew a parallel.
Meyer said: “Everyone of your titles looks different and feels different and reads differently and serves a different purpose, and perhaps a different readership, the same way that our restaurants do… you want Hearst to mean something.”
The ceo explained that by instilling an “intentional culture,” he’s been able to communicate the company’s ethos, even though a restaurant like Marta couldn’t be more different from Gramercy Tavern, for instance.
The duo moved on to talk about talent and how Meyer’s group consults with a host of companies from law firms and hospitals to retailers and hair salons on how to maximize its “hospitality quotient.”
Carey said the same is true in media through conferences and live events, and then asked Meyer what he would do if they traded jobs.
“What strikes you about the media industry overall? If you were king for a day, what would you do?” Carey asked.
“Since it’s only a day, you gave me a real good out,” Meyer said, noting that he would spend the day listening to staffers. “If I’ve learned any one lesson over the years, it’s that it’s more important for people to feel heard than agreed with, and until you deposit a large amount of hearing things in your bank, you don’t have a right or ability to make withdrawals on that.”
The conversation turned to technology and how mobile and social media have impacted the restaurant business.
“We feel that social media is the postcard of our generation,” Meyer said, while also drawing the comparison to writing a review or a tweet or taking a food photo for Instagram to grabbing a book of matches from one of his restaurants.
“It’s almost as if a table for two has become a table for 2,000, if [the diner has enough followers],” Meyer said. “Everybody’s word has a bigger megaphone to it.”
Carey took it a step further and asked: “There are a lot more people photographing their food. Do you think about if it’s Instagram-ready?”
“No, That’s sad. We think about how yummy it is, which Instagram does not convey,” he replied.
Later, Carey asked what it’s like to be an executive at private company USHG and chairman of public company Shake Shack simultaneously.
“The great part about Shake Shack being a public company is that it created a currency with which we could reward employees in a way that we never could have as a private company,” Meyer noted. “All the managers were given stock options, which meant nothing to them until the company went public, but once it went public, they were paying off school loans that they thought were going to follow them for years and they still had stock leftover.”
“I spent my entire life working for private companies so thank you for reminding me of that fact,” Carey grumbled in response.