Danny Meyer, Restaurant Impresario

In the past year, restaurateur Danny Meyer and his team have opened two new restaurants in New York City and relocated another. That might sound like a lot to handle, but Mr. Meyer also managed a still bigger debut: the initial public offering of stock in Shake Shack, the international chain of eateries that he started 14 years ago as a hot dog cart. Shake Shack went public in January at $21 a share; the first day of trading ended with shares at almost $46, giving the company a market valuation of $1.6 billion. Shares have gone as high as $97, but the price has dropped lately, closing at around $55 on Thursday amid fears that they have become overvalued.

Another element that’s changed the industry is the smartphone. These days, everyone can serve as reviewer, promoter and customer through her phone. This fall, Mr. Meyer’s company will host a conference for the food industry called TechTable, to discuss how to use technology to enhance dining for customers and restaurateurs alike, such as through mobile payment systems and apps that aggregate customer feedback. One service, Venga, gives restaurants details on guests’ previous visits, preferences and spending habits.

One early online service was the restaurant-reservations site OpenTable, a company in which Mr. Meyer has invested and on whose board he sat. The site, he says, has allowed restaurateurs to more easily track tables and reservations—leaving them more time to manage their restaurants. Mr. Meyer has made a number of other personal investments in the food industry, such as in the salad chain Sweetgreen. His Union Square Hospitality Group just invested in an outside food company for the first time, a healthy fine-casual chain in California called Tender Greens.


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