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The King of Union Square Hospitality Relinquishes His Crown

Danny Meyer is stepping down from his post as CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group

A man stands and smiles at the camera in a suit and dark tie at a holiday party in NYC in 2018.
USHG founder and former CEO Danny Meyer.
Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer, a celebrated fixture in the NYC dining scene, is stepping down from his position after nearly four decades. USHG president and chief operating officer Chip Wade — who previously held operations and management roles for Red Lobster and Olive Garden parent company Darden — will be taking over as the company's new CEO, effective September 6.

During the pandemic, the executives "partnered together and navigated the business through an incredibly challenging period," and now, "this is the ideal time for me to hand Chip the baton," Meyer said in a statement. “When Chip joined us three years ago, our hope was that he’d one day be prepared to succeed me as USHG’s leader, and that day has unquestionably arrived."

The famed restaurateur will still have a presence at the company, however. Meyer is staying on as executive chairperson of USHG and will still be involved in creating new restaurants, consulting on company expansion ideas, and "remain an active advisor and mentor" to the team, according to a press release on the news. He will also continue his other roles as managing partner of USHG's investing arm Enlightened Hospitality Investments, and board chairperson of the popular burger chain Shake Shack.

Meyer founded Union Square Hospitality Group 37 years ago, in 1985, with the opening of Union Square Cafe in downtown Manhattan. In the following decades, he's opened a parade of mostly well-received restaurants in NYC under the USHG umbrella: There are Michelin-starred spots including Gramercy Tavern and the Modern, all-day cafe Daily Provisions, barbecue spot Blue Smoke, and the more recent critically acclaimed addition of Ci Siamo at Manhattan West.

The restaurateur is also well-known for his "enlightened hospitality" approach to restaurant service and management, which he bottled up and sold in the 2006 book Setting the Table. However, Meyer has come under fire for mishandled misconduct allegations, in the now closed Battery Park City spot North End Grill.

"As CEO, I’m looking forward to accelerating our growth through cultural, operational, and financial performance, in addition to driving new business priorities," Wade said in a statement.