Danny Meyer: BentoBox and the Search for Digital Hospitality


customer experience

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. His speech made me immediately buy his bestselling book, called Setting the Table.

In this book, Danny, one of the most successful restaurateurs in the world, outlines his version of a virtuous cycle that he calls enlightened hospitality. Danny built a set of 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 restaurantsyou 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.


Danny Meyer creates a rare customer experiences that truly stands out in modern world. Apple stores and Disney are two others that come to mind.

But what Danny made possible in the physical world – the feel of hospitality, hasn’t really been easy to replicate online. Sure, we feel good about scrolling on phones, 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 use BentoBox 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 the quality of their digital marketing. Krystle talks about her customers in the same way that Danny talks about everyone – using enlightened hospitality.

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


Just like Danny creates profitable businesses with elegance and grace, BentoBox makes a difference on its customers’ bottom line. All the great UX leads to quantifiable lift in online reservations, and that’s a pretty big deal.

It’s amazing to think that the same method of hospitality, commitment to quality and attention to details works for restaurants offline and online. Danny uses the concept of hospitality to create some of the most iconic restaurants in the world, and Krystle uses 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:


Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Kristoffer Trolle

About the author: Alex Iskold

Alex Iskold is the Managing Director of Techstars in New York City.

Previously Alex was Founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by i.tv),  founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM), and Chief Architect DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO).

Alex routinely writes about entrepreneurship and startups at Alex Iskold.

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