Jeannie Walters
Danny Meyer

New York City restaurateur and the Founder & Executive Chairman of the Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG). Owner of 19 restaurants and founder of one of the most successful fast food projects with a capitalization of $3 billion (the Shake Shack).

In 1985 Danny opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, launching what would become a lifelong career in hospitality.

Thirty years later, Danny’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) comprises some of New York’s most beloved and acclaimed restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, Maialino, and more. Danny and USHG founded Shake Shack, the modern-day “roadside” burger restaurant, which became a public company in 2015. USHG also offers large-scale event services, foodservice solutions for public and private institutions, industry consulting, and educational programming.

Under Danny’s leadership, USHG is renowned not only for its acclaimed restaurants but also for its distinctive and celebrated culture of Enlightened Hospitality. This guiding principle of prioritizing employees first and foremost has driven and shaped USHG’s ongoing evolution from a small group of restaurants into a multi-faceted hospitality organization.

Danny and USHG’s diverse ventures have added to the hospitality dialogue in many contexts including dining options in museums, sports arenas, and cultural institutions, as well as prescient investments in burgeoning neighborhoods. USHG launched a pioneering initiative to eliminate tipping throughout its New York restaurants. This new way of business, called Hospitality Included, is designed to compensate the restaurant team more equitably and professionally while providing clear paths for professional advancement.

Danny has been generously recognized for his leadership, business achievements, and humanitarianism, including the Julia Child Award, the TIME 100 “Most Influential People” list, the Aspen Institute Preston Robert Tisch Award in Civic Leadership, the NYU Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City, and the IFMA Gold Plate Award. Together, Danny and USHG’s restaurants and individuals have won an unprecedented 28 James Beard Awards, including Outstanding Restaurateur and Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.

Speaker Programs

  • How focusing on hospitality creates deep customer connections
  • The power and art of hospitality
  • Hospitality and humanity