New to the foodservice industry? About to launch your own business? Grab one of the books on this list, sit back with a cup of coffee, and learn the tips and tricks of opening a restaurant. opening-a-restaurant-open-a-book-first
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Opening a Restaurant? Open a Book First

You might have been to the best culinary school. You might have even graduated with flying colors from a top-notch hospitality management course. But nothing beats the experience of learning from the people who have already been there, done that. If you are starting out in the restaurant industry or planning to open a restaurant, it may not always be easy to gain access to people with rich experience in the business.

Here's a way you can do it. Simply pick up a book that documents the experiences, struggles, and journeys of those who have already trodden the path you want to take. Here's celebrated chef Anthony Bourdain writing about one of his initial restaurant stints in 'The Dreadnaught Kitchen', where he scrubbed pots and pans, peeled mountains of potatoes, cleaned shrimp, and took up many more odd jobs. "It did not sound or look attractive to me. But it was from these humble beginnings that I began my strange climb to chefdom. Taking that one job, as dishwasher at the Dreadnaught, essentially pushed me down the path I still walk to this day," he writes.

Scott Maitland of Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery talks evocatively about how everyone was reluctant to fund his business plan. And Dave Query of Big Red F is surprisingly honest when he says he doesn't know anything about wine and wouldn't try making a wine list. Instead, "I am going to hire somebody who is smarter and better and faster than I am (to do it)..."

That's the thing about books. They grab your attention, take you on exciting journeys, and reveal truths that are sometimes awe-inspiring, and sometimes plain awful. But there's always something to learn from them. Starting restaurants on the right foot may require a solid marketing plan, a grand opening, aggressive social media promotions, and much more. But to make sure you're on the right track, it's best to learn from the veterans.

Here are seven books that offer you an unmatched, ringside view into the restaurant industry.

1. Made From Scratch by Kent Taylor

Kent Taylor's book, 'Made From Scratch- The Legendary Success Story of Texas Roadhouse', recaps his experiences developing the Kentucky-based casual-dining company. Launched in 1993, it has grown to over 640 restaurants today. Published after Taylor's death in March 2021, the book includes details about the company's business strategies and growth, as well as its expansion into sports bars (Bubba's), fast casual dining (Jaggers), and other segments.

"Welcome to Texas Roadhouse, where crazy works. What they've cooked up is an island of misfits that's cool with being different," write Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton in the preface of 'Made From Scratch'. Even if you're only slightly familiar with the American restaurant industry, you'll know about the unconventional, people-facing growth strategies of Texas Roadhouse.

Kent was always particular about customer satisfaction and the wellbeing of his 'roadies'. In the wake of the pandemic, when most restaurants were downsizing and cutting costs, Kent was hiring. He even donated his entire annual salary to ensure the well-being of his people.

If you're looking for a book that traces the humble beginnings of a small business that goes on to script the success story of larger well-established restaurant businesses (in a short span of two decades no less), this is the title to pick up. What makes it even more timely is its account of the brand's successful response to the coronavirus pandemic.

2. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

No, I want to tell you about the dark recesses of the restaurant underbelly, a subculture whose centuries-old militaristic hierarchy and ethos of 'rum, buggery and the lash' make for a mix of unwavering order and nerve-shattering chaos because I find it all quite comfortable, like a nice warm bath," writes late chef Anthony Bourdain in a long, unwinding note at the beginning of his bestselling book published in 2000.

Sometimes, his words are a punch to the gut. At other times, it's a straight look at the life of the people working in hospitality. 'Kitchen Confidential- Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly' is a hilarious, shocking account of his life and experience in the culinary industry. The book, a biography of the author's two-decade run in the industry, is strewn with advice on cooking, anecdotes from a professional kitchen, the relationship between a chef and his sous chef, and the fast-paced life of the restaurant business. It takes the reader through Bourdain's childhood, his humble beginnings in the professional cooking industry as a dishwasher, prep drone, fry cook, grillardin, and saucier, then to the realization that "food is life" and his journey to culinary college. And then working his way up through all the positions a chef can take up, until eventually running a kitchen of his own.

The book is an adventure and if you haven't read it yet, now's the time!

3. Restaurant Owners Uncorked by Wil Brawley

If you're looking for a range of voices from the restaurant industry, 'Restaurant Owners Uncorked- Twenty Owners Share Their Recipes for Success' by Wil Brawley is the perfect choice. The book features 20 interviews with industry leaders like Dave Query of the Big Red F Restaurant Group (Zolo Southwestern Grill, LoLa Coastal Mexican, etc.), Phil Roberts, a legendary and colorful figure in the culinary industry who founded Buca di Beppo and The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Scott Leibfried, a high-energy, renowned figure in the culinary industry who starred in the TV show, 'Hell's Kitchen', and Chris Sommers, a former Silicon Valley technology executive who makes St. Louis-style deep dish pizza so well he was invited to cook it for President Obama at the White House.

The author Wil Brawley is the co-owner of Schedulefly, a restaurant software company. In the course of his long, in-depth interviews with stalwarts of the restaurant industry, owners recall their journeys, the business decisions they made, and the factors that keep them going.

Query, for instance, mentions how his stepmother steered him towards the Culinary Institute of America, which started him on his journey. Scott Maitland of the Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery developed a business plan and started his food service venture to stave off the dominance of a chain restaurant in Chapel Hill. After flailing around for a while, facing disappointments and rejections, he succeeded and created a business reflecting the quintessential Chapel Hill experience.

The interviews are full of telling details, from scouting for locations and raising funds, to eventually running a kitchen. No matter if you plan to open a full service or quick service restaurant, or even a food truck, this book is bound to steer you in the right direction.

4. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Gabrielle Hamilton's 'Blood, Bones & Butter- The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef' is a compelling memoir, taking readers on an unexpected journey. It follows the chef's culinary education, which began in a food-centric rural home in New Jersey in the United States, with a French mother and bohemian father, and continued through her first chicken kill and a great backpacking adventure around the world alone at nineteen. It goes on to cover her culinary journey into European restaurants, eventually ending at her own New York East Village establishment, Prune.

The chef and cookbook author offers an evocative and honest account of her career as both, an accomplished cook and creator of one of New York City's most innovative restaurants. Hamilton's writing grabs you as she recaps her life. Her account of her time in the restaurant business is honest and full of evocative experiencessomething that could help women trying to make it big in the cut-throat, male-dominated culinary world. 5-the-chipotle-effect-by-paul-barron
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5. The Chipotle Effect by Paul Barron

The Chipotle Effect- The Changing Landscape Of The American Social Consumer And How Fast Casual Is Impacting The Future Of Restaurants' is a deep dive into the world of the fast casual restaurant business and what it takes to succeed in a constantly changing landscape. Divided into two broad sections and 11 chapters, Barron takes readers through the evolution of the fast-casual concept, as he talks about the "Chipotle effect".

But Barron isn't just talking about the Mexican brand, Chipotle. The authora technologist from the restaurant industryuses the brand's remarkable success to dissect the restaurant landscape itself. He studies the changes in the fast-casual space over the yearsthe influence of technology, shifting consumer preferences, new media marketing, and economic upheavalsand combines his insights into a compelling study.

"Chipotle was simply in the right place at the right time with the right product. But this does not mean that their success has been due to pure luck. You can have the right place, time, and product going for you, but you have to know how to leverage them," he writes in the first chapter, A Mexican Revolution. In the next few chapters, he explains how everything in the restaurant industry is always unpredictable. "Just when we thought we had the keys to the consumer's wallet, it changed to an iPhone," he quips in Chapter Six.

Restaurant Owners should read this book to understand the nuances of the restaurant business and obtain insights into consumer behavior in a segment that is growing at a dizzying pace. Be ready for some hilarious wisecracks en route. 6-cork-dork-a-wine-fueled-adventure-by-bianca-bosker
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6. Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure by Bianca Bosker

Madeline Puckette (sommelier and blogger) has called this book by Bianca Bosker the 'Kitchen Confidential' of the wine world.

For Bosker, a tech reporter, wine was just a way to unwind and relax. But that was only until she stumbled into an alternate universe where she discovered groups of people with a taste for wine. She was intrigued by how people could identify the grape used to make their wine after only one sip. She sought out those who were wine experts and revelled in their Wine Collection. She discovered that the obsession of these wine enthusiasts with flavor led them down a path where taste reigned. She couldn't resist joining them.

'Cork Dork- A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste' is Bosker's humorous, quirky take on the world of wine. The book features the author's year-and-a-half-long adventure inside elite tasting groups, exclusive New York City restaurants, and even a California winery that manipulates the flavor of its bottles with ingredients like Mega Purple. Bosker plumbs the depths of this drink in order to unearth the answer to that classic question- What's the big deal about wine, anyway?

7. Out of line: A Life of Playing with Fire by Barbara V. Lynch

She takes us down memory lane. Filled with nostalgia, fraught with anxiety and hope for a better future. American restaurateur Barbara V. Lynch creates a narrative that's engaging, emotional, and often surprising and heartbreaking in her book, 'Out of line- A Life of Playing with Fire'.

It begins as a story of a dysfunctional family- a substance-abusing sister, a struggling single mother, and Lynch's own difficult childhood. But before you realize it, the book leads you into the world of fine dining. In a poignant section, there's a story of her mother feeding her the best food as a child in kindergarten. "Even that young, I had an interest in food, sparked by my mother's cooking," she writes.

The book gives you a glimpse into an industry known for its quirks, misogyny, constantly changing ecosystem. But over and above this, it captures the author's own journey to becoming one of the most influential voices in the American culinary world, who went on to win the James Beard Award. In 2017, Lynch was included in Time magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People of the Year for her pioneering contributions to the culinary world and her focus on local wealth-creation through agronomy.

If you're looking for a book that will acquaint you with the struggles of being a newcomer to the restaurant industry, without prior experience or connections, this is the one to read.