Friday, January 6, 2017

The Underground Culinary Tour

Title:  The Underground Culinary Tour: How the New Metrics of Today's Top Restaurants Are Transforming How America Eats
Author:  Damian Mogavero and Joseph D'Agnese
Publication Information:  Crown Business. 2017. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1101903309 / 978-1101903308

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Thirteen years ago, Jeffrey Frederick, a former chef, took a new job as vice president of food and beverage operations, in charge of managing every food and beverage outlet in a resort owned by Harrah's Entertainment, on of the big gaming companies in Las Vegas."

Favorite Quote:  "This is the message I want to drive home:  you don't have to create a huge menu to create a successful restaurant and satisfy today's foodies. You just have to give your guests something that they crave and want to come back to. They eat it once, and the next time they think of that one food ... they will think of your restaurant."

This book has quite the title. An underground tour implies something secret, exclusive, and mysterious. This book also has quite the subtitle too. Data and metrics imply concrete knowledge that is visible, measurable, and usable. What does one have to do with the other? The idea of this book is simple to understand. Appropriate use of appropriate data can help restaurateurs improve their performance and help demystify that "something" that keeps customers coming back. Implementing the idea may be something quite different. "I must confess that I have told you something of a white lie in saying that this book is about data. It's really about creativity ... Data and technology are only as good as the way they are used."

A disclaimer to begin with. I do not work in the food industry. I, however, enjoy cooking, collect cookbooks, and have an interest in books on food and cooking. Hence, my take on this book is that of an avid amateur. My interest in this book is not for the "how to" but for the story.

The story is exactly what this book delivers. The author Damian Mogavero is the founder and CEO of Avero, a company offering software solutions for restaurants. The software enables restaurateurs to gather the data to effectively run their business. Hence, the company has the lofty goal captured in the subtitle of the book - transforming how America eats.

I don't think the substance of the book quite lives up to its lofty title. The book is much more general and much more tailored to a broader audience. This book is not a how to of data gathering and analysis. It is not a look at the solutions the company offers or a detailed look at exactly how clients have used the tools to transform their business. Rather, it is a memoir like narrative of Damien Mogavero's work.

One main story of the book is an actual culinary tour of New York, an annual invitation only event for restauranteurs to provide them with a two day gastronomic look at innovative ideas they may bring back to their own businesses. The story is a literal description of the tour with a brief discussion on why each stop on the tour is included. This portion of the book is not data driven, but rather just one means by which restaurateurs may gather data. I doubt most of us would ever qualify for an invitation, but I can walk away from this book with a brand new list of New York restaurant adventures to experience.

Other case studies include applying the same data techniques to large Las Vegas establishments, nightlife venues, and other implementations of the hospitality industry. The metrics addressed in the case studies range from menu, server training, kitchen management, and even theft prevention. The focus of the book is not the specifics but rather an introduction to how data might be used. As a reader not in the industry, it has the right amount of detail and, couched in a narrative, is an entertaining and easy to read behind-the-scenes look at how the hospitality industry operates.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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