Wonder what the best books are to read to become a better restaurant operator? You’re in the right place!
Let’s start by looking at a simple success story – one centered around a cheeseburger and a hot dog cart. The story of the famous restaurateur Danny Meyer, who found critical acclaim with his Michelin starred restaurants all over New York City’s Manhattan neighborhood.
With some of the top restaurants in the city, acclaimed by the press, critics and foodies of NYC alike, followed by the accolades and financial success alike. Who would have thought that Mr. Meyer would find unmatched financial success with a hot dog cart, situated in a failing park by the iconic Flatiron building? A simple hot dog cart that would go on to be a $4 billion business (based on public market capitalization) with almost 200 locations and over 6,000 employees.
So what led to Danny Meyer’s success? Was it his previous accomplishments? A bit of luck? The NYC lift? Brilliant burger marketing? Location? Management? We may never know for sure, but we can read one of his critically acclaimed books in an attempt to get a glimpse into his mind.
It always amazes me how a restaurant can be run equally well by both the elite fancy degree holders and self-taught. What is it that really creates success in the restaurant industry? Let’s try to find some answers, by thumbing through the pages of the books highlighted in this article. The secrets to long term financial success are hidden away in the depth of the pages. We can start this evening with wine and books to gain some knowledge to be applied over the morning coffee tomorrow.
So, here is a list of “books every restaurant owner MUST read” to find financial and operational success. We make no promises that this is “the best one EVER”, but we do tell you the following:
- These books will make you make notes in the margin and put sticky notes throughout as you will relate many points to your business
- We spent a good time in our research to not be biased with our opinions, but rather, consider diverse book reviews from a suitable reader group
- And in any slight chance that you were wondering, none of the books are a sponsored post
Table of Contents
Setting The Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer
Get ‘Setting The Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer‘
Even though it’s like stating the obvious to include this industry bible, the guy who makes his expensive restaurants not just survive, but thrive, through both easy and tough times like the 2008 downturn must be heard (and read).
There is a high chance you have read one of his cookbooks already or have heard of one of his restaurant brands (Shake Shack), but Danny Meyer covers beyond the kitchen in this book. One would argue that this book was written years ago and probably not that relevant anymore in this already super dynamic space, but the lessons in the book are timeless.
A landmark, bestselling business book and a fascinating behind-the-scenes history of the creation of Danny's most famous eating establishments, Setting the Table is a treasure trove of valuable, innovative insights applicable to any business or organization.
Danny talks about his journey, the beatings he took in this tough industry, his story of erecting that hospitality empire, his trusted and go-to philosophy, and much more. He has something for every industry aspirant as he covers different elements ranging from forming human relations in the business to viewing service as a technical product in the lookouts for hiring managers – the guy has covered it all.
Further, look closely at that title again and you will see that it talks about the “power of hospitality in Business”. What we mean is even if you are not a restaurant owner, but a dreamer stuck in your job, for now, this book delivers ideas that can be translated into any organization with people-oriented services, because hospitality is imbedded throughout all business.
Danny in his book also often loses the reader’s focus as he narrates many stories, but be patient, work through the appetizer and the hors d’oeuvre and you will get to the meat of the book, the awe-inspiring entree.
Favorite book review: “Would have saved me a few mistakes and pitfalls many new business owners make”. This book as we mentioned might help you not fall over the same stones as the others did.
QuickBooks for Restaurants a Bookkeeping and Accounting Guide: A Must-Have QuickBooks Guide for Restaurant Owners and Operators by Zachary Weiner
There is a reason this book was coined “A Must-Have QuickBooks Guide’ by its writer. It is literally the handbook for restaurant owners and operators. Clearly we are a bit biased as the author of this blog authored the book, but based on the weekly emails I get thanking me for the detailed walkthroughs, I know this is the scenario where I should be a bit biased.
QuickBooks for Restaurants — A Bookkeeping and Accounting Guide shows restaurant owners and operators how QuickBooks software can be leveraged for restaurant success. I explain QuickBooks fundamentals, including sales tracking, purchasing, bill paying, invoicing, managing day-to-day liabilities, gift certificate tracking, cash management, detailed reporting, and more.
QuickBooks for Restaurants — A Bookkeeping and Accounting Guide shows restaurant owners and operators how QuickBooks software can be leveraged for restaurant success. I explain QuickBooks fundamentals, including sales tracking, purchasing, bill paying, invoicing, managing day-to-day liabilities, gift certificate tracking, cash management, detailed reporting, and more. I also guide owners and operators through the process of accounting for sales, payroll, inventory, and more.
I also guide owners and operators through the process of accounting for sales,
Zac has been on the front line with businesses like yours for years and understands the innate challenges of the hospitality industry. He dives in and uses real-world examples, tips, and tricks from the challenges he has overcome. Even if you aren’t a QuickBooks user, this book will educate you on the financial intricacies of the restaurant industry that you need to know.
Favorite Review: “The Author Zac Weiner; clearly explains concepts and terms most non-CPA’s restaurateurs have trouble understanding.” Isn’t it time you better understood those key concepts to operate your business at the next level.
Restaurant Success By the Numbers by Roger Fields
There is a reason to listen to Roger Fields – the guy is deep in the industry. He has been an industry part in different roles such as an owner, investor, consultant and so on. Basically, he knows what he is talking about.
The book highlights multiple restaurant start-up experiences and is able to really cover a broad range of topics that goes behind these start-ups. It is a less creative but rather technical book covering details down to the last cent, so it could feel like a part-time evening MBA session (without the good looking opposite gender in powerful suits around to help you through).
This one-stop guide to opening a restaurant from an accountant-turned-restaurateur shows aspiring proprietors how to succeed in the crucial first year and beyond.
What we especially love about the book is the different perspective it covers. For the total newbies out there (the book is recommended more for this group than the latter), let this be your starting framework. The book will introduce you to different points you need to ponder over and will give you all those sleepless nights people do not exaggerate about in the industry. For our already established restaurant owners out there, if you are still interested in the book – it does provide some hard-to-find nuggets and an always needed refresher.
Maybe it’s a trend, that good successful restaurant owners are not the best writers. Roger in his book could be found repeating some points. But then again, we stand by it and encourage you to finish it as those are points that definitely need reminders. Nothing wrong with driving a few points home!
Favorite book review: “Years into the restaurant business and being General Manager of a group of 5 restaurants I still come back for reference.” No time to waste – go get started.
Restaurant Financial Basics by Raymond S. Schmidgall
Opening a restaurant requires love, passion, talent (Strike it all)….MONEY. And if we had to recommend someone to explain the dollar side of the business, besides myself, it has to be someone who has proved his worth beyond the-maybe-first-time-lucky book. Author of many books – Schmidgall is well versed with the topic and is a trusted industry patron.
If you are like most students and just learned accounting 101 in college to get through the exams, this book helps you not panic. As you are not the only one to have forgotten the basics over the years. And if you are one of those lucky ones who never had to take an accounting class, this book helps you not regret it.
One of the keys to a successful restaurant business is strong financial management. This volume in the Wiley Restaurant Basics Series provides restaurateurs with the tools necessary to manage their food-based operation by explaining basic accounting principles such as pricing, budgeting, cost control, payroll, and cash flow.
The book starts with the basics, and most importantly, without being a jargon snob and walks you through all the concepts to start with. And if you are from the minority who loved accounting and know most concepts (the school weirdos..now is your time to shine) – this could be a fast read and a really good checklist (and a self-confidence booster).
As a point of caution, remember that although the concepts and core remains constant – state-wise/country-wise some rules and formats could differ
Favorite book review: Well, it is an accounting book and this guy said it all – “A good comprehensive overview for anyone without a financial background and a solid review text for anyone that hasn’t used their college accounting courses in a while.”
The Restaurant Manager’s Handbook: How to Set Up, Operate, and Manage a Financially Successful Food Service Operation 4th Edition by Douglas Robert Brown
Robert Brown is one of the industry exceptions by simply being a great writer. His writing is universal, in the sense that this book can be an asset not just for restaurant owners, but also for caterers and home business owners, and anyone close to those businesses.
We only recommend really lengthy books if they are actually worth it. And this is. This is one of those books that after reading, you must keep it in your restaurant for everyone else to read too.
The multiple award-winning Restaurant Manager s Handbook is the best-selling book on running a successful foodservice operation. The fifth completely revised edition of this book includes cutting-edge material that you need to run your restaurant in the modern age. Hundreds of fun facts are sprinkled throughout this book to ensure that even the most mundane of topics will interest and engage every reader.
It is a very easy read (they had to make up for writing such a lengthy book), and covers beyond the four restaurant walls by also including topics such as franchising, nutrition, information from foodservice manufacturers, and many more. It covers topics that could be useful for owners, marketers, operations, and anyone else who has some time.
It is one of those books that make you go back to it again and again and you discover something new each time as it goes deep into so many topics.
Favorite book review: “The most complete source of information”. Very few books are able to cover so many topics and do justice to it all.
Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Twenty Owners Share Their Recipes for Success by Will Brawley
It is as easy as the title suggests: an open candid conversation with some of the industry patrons. But the book gets interesting in many ways. The interviewees here are not all from elite New York restaurants, so there will be someone with whom any average restaurateur can relate to.
They are all successful owners now, but their start was humble, some without proper training or many without prior experiences. So the book is a nice affirmation that you can make it too. Further, the author ensures that the conversations are not masked with his opinions and are pretty honest and heartfelt.
We will warn you that it could get annoying when you read similar answers to the same questions by different guys. Further, the book could also feel like a promotion by the author and the company he works for (Schedulefly). But all that aside, sometimes certain points need to be driven home and this book will help do just that
Favorite book review: “The underlying theme of running a business, as distinct from cooking or serving customers is constant. It may be your passion but it is first and foremost a business.” Passion and business can converge if done correctly.
Final Thoughts On The 6 Best Books Every Restaurant Owner and Operator Must Read
So bring out those wine bottles (cheers to finding some answers and solving industry mysteries), switch on some binaural beats, and get started with the books. Let these books give you a thinking framework, and then continue by doing some research that is molded according to your needs and goals. And last, and most importantly, give us your success stories so we can plan our next lunch date at your restaurant.