Running a restaurant can be a thankless job. There are employees to manage, customers to entertain, and several operations to manage, big and small.
However, whether you’re a seasoned professional or a new restaurant owner, it’s important to remember that you are not alone.
At any point in time, someone has experienced the problem you’re facing. Some of those people have even written about it, with clear advice about what to do next.
It’s important to carve time into your busy schedule to learn from others’ successes. So curl up with a book about restaurant management to learn noteworthy techniques from restaurant owners, chefs, and managers who have been where you are right now.
However, if you're tight on funds, why not just subscribe to the Toast Restaurant Management Blog instead? We've got up-to-date restaurant industry information and news, and we send it right to your email inbox - for free - every day.
1. Making the Cut: What Separates the Best From the Rest by Chris Hill
Chris Hill is one of the freshest faces in the restaurant industry, renowned for his skill in management and entrepreneurship. His collection of stories from the best faces he's encountered in the kitchen serve as inspiration, direction, and advice for anyone who is serious about advancing their own status in the restaurant industry. Hill has the secrets from the most famous chefs alive on how they made the cut in the business and how you can, too.
Favorite Quote: "It’s not easy, and every day is a challenge, especially if you’re committed to doing your best work and being better than you were the day before. While my story is riddled with failures, disappointments, and not quite having my chef story pan out as I’d hoped thus far, the book isn’t about me – it’s about them and the lessons we can apply to our lives – every single day."
2. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Stephanie Danler's novel follows a young woman named Tess, who takes on a job as a backwaiter in the hustle of Manhattan. With wonderous prose, the story develops Tess from new restaurant worker to restaurant expert, resulting in what a writer from Vulture calls "lush and precise" food writing. Sweetbitter is almost like looking in the mirror for anyone who has been a chef, a server, a runner, or any other type of professional food handler. The book is even more impressive coming from first-time author Stephanie Danler, who gives the world her debut novel with Sweetbitter. This is not one to be missed.
Favorite Quote: "My life is full. I chose this life because it's a constant assault of color and taste and light and it's raw and ugly and fast and it's mine. And you'll never understand. Until you live it, you don't know."
3. Front of the House: Restaurant Manners, Misbehaviors & Secrets by Jeff Benjamin
Seasoned restaurant workers will know that the world of FOH and BOH are two completely different entities. As stressful as that kitchen can get on busy nights, it's unarguable that front of the house workers must deal with the most important asset of any restaurant - its customers. Working in a restaurant is practically a science - sit back and enjoy as Benjamin lays it all down in an enjoyable, open, and often humorous look at what it's like to be the one who interacts with the always-right customer. The skills he highlights in his writing are essential for any restaurant to succeess.
Favorite Quote: "The dynamic nature of the menu keeps it interesting not just for guests who visit frequently, but also for everyone in the kitchen. We all love food, but chefs and cooks have a more complex relationship with it. The more they get to experiment and create new dishes, the better."
4. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
CIA-trained Anthony Bourdain aims to “tell it like it is” in this shocking and hilarious confessional about what happens behind kitchen closed doors. With more than 20 years of experience as a chef, Bourdain’s memoir shares his experience as a student in culinary school, a restaurant owner in Tokyo, and a chef at many establishments. With blunt and brazen prose and stories that are not sugar-coated in the least, Kitchen Confidential shows a behind-the-scenes look at the myriad of struggles restaurant owners face every day.
Favorite Quote: “For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we've all had to become disappears, when we're confronted with something as simple as a plate of food.”
5. Restaurant Owners Uncorked by Will Brawley
Instead of reading about one person’s experience, why not read advice from over 20 different restaurant owners? Restaurant Owners Uncorked is a compilation of interviews with experienced chefs such as Phil Roberts of Buca di Beppo, Scott Leibfried of “Hell's Kitchen,” and more. They share how they got started, including what's worked for them, what hasn't, and the pros and cons of working in the restaurant business industry. One Amazon reviewer described this book as a “a bible for starting and running a successful business, restaurant or not.”
Favorite Quote: “It doesn’t matter if you have a trendy looking place, or a cool looking bar, or the greatest chef in the world. You have to engage the people that come into your place, day after night after day after night, and remember who they are, and why you’re here.” - Jim Parker, Red Hat on the River
6. Setting The Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer
Danny Meyer, CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group which includes 11 unique restaurant concepts in New York, shares his recipe for success in Setting the Table. He describes adopting his philosophy of “enlightened hospitality” at these restaurants, which emphasizes the importance of hospitality towards employees first. After that, hospitality is extended to your restaurant’s guests, community, suppliers, and investors. While this philosophy turns the traditional business model on its head, Meyer’s anecdotes, advice & lessons show that it was the foundation for success at the many restaurants he helped succeed.
Favorite Quote: “In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”
7. Restaurant Success By the Numbers by Roger Fields
For many restaurant owners, the road to success is defined by numbers: sales graphs, employee hours, product mix reports, etc. To make sense of these numbers that appear on your POS dashboard, pick up Restaurant Success by the Numbers. Accountant-turned-restaurauteur Fields focuses on hard decisions on funding, location, hiring, menu-making, number-crunching, and turning a profit, and even in includes sample sample sales forecasts and operating budgets. There is very much a science to opening a new restaurant, and instead of simply hoping for the best, arm yourself with the necessary statistics, reports, and numbers to keep track of.
Favorite Quote: “Setting practical goals will help you focus on the appropriate type and size of restaurant for you. With reasonable goals, you can prepare an objective financial feasibility study and a pro forma profit-and-loss statement; these documents will help you to gauge whether your restaurant will be lucrative enough to realize your dreams and your financial goals.”
8. Chasing the Heat by Leonard Gentieu
Chasing the Heat is the story of chef Leonard Gentieu and his more than 50 years as a restaurant owner in the foodservice industry. This book includes lessons Gentieu learned about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the restaurant industry. Chasing the Heat also has an interesting layout; it’s not all narrative. Interspersed through the prose are short excerpts called “A Day From Hell” that describe days when everything that could go wrong did, as well as recipes that correspond with the stories being told. A hodgepodge of hilarious anecdotes, clear-cut advice, and mouth-watering recipes, Chasing the Heat is storytelling at its best, making you wish you could sit down and get to know Gentieu in person.
Favorite Quote: “Choice is available to everyone, and one's place in life has everything to do with the choices he or she makes. Use your current situation as a stepping stone for improvement. It's not easy to initiate change...but change is what it takes.”
9. The Profit Recipe by Cesar Quintero
Cesar Quintero, who pioneered the Fit2Go healthy food delivery system, shares food industry trends that many restaurants are not observing as well as actionable steps to running a restaurant successfully in The Profit Recipe. What makes this book different from others is its focus on the information technology and how this tech revolution has affected restaurants in recent years. A quick read, the book presents a major paradigm shift in how restaurants can better target a wide customer base without a big investment.
Favorite Quote: “By confusing keeping busy with productivity, I was acting as a control freak and not moving [my restaurant] forward. After stepping back and focusing ON my business instead of IN my business, I was able to develop processes and systems that helped my employees and managers deliver a consistently excellent product and service every time.”
10. The Chipotle Effect by Paul Barron
Renowned restaurant entrepreneur, publisher, and founder of FastCasual.com Paul Barron wrote this book not only about Chipotle, but about the fast casual revolution as a whole. In a restaurant industry that is growing at a dizzying pace, new restaurants must tap into consumer psychology to attract them to their establishments. With key insight into growing popular restaurant trends, Paul discusses design, technology, and the future of the food service industry. The fast casual revolution, or "Chipotle effect," has taken the restaurant industry by storm and completely redefined what “dining out” is from the ground up.
Favorite Quote: “You can have the right place, time, and product going for you, but you have to know how to leverage them… [Chipotle] knew how to grab the gold when the opportunity came. Having watched the mistakes of their predecessors, they were able to develop an in-store and external brand that tapped into what their customers cared about: freshness, quality, sustainability, a sense of humor, and above all, a sense that they were breaking out of the ‘slightly more upscale fast food’ mold.”
Bonus! How to Manage a Restaurant in Today's Competitive Environment by Toast
At Toast, we’ve helped a number of restaurants stand out from the rest, and we’ve observed what’s worked (and what hasn’t worked) for these business owners and restaurant managers. We’re sharing our advice from these experiences in this comprehensive ebook, with advice from how to manage yourself, your staff, your finances, your technology, and everything else in between. Download it here or click the image above.
What are your favorite restaurant management books? Share them in the comments!