One Fast Route to Becoming an Authority for High-Motivation Owners

When working with restaurant owners, I like to recommend that they write and publish a cookbook of their best everyday recipes and their most well-received specials. Fast? Worked in around all the other jobs you do, it can take two to four months to complete. For a project that will continue to enhance the public’s Perception of your restaurant for years to come, that’s pretty quick.

Question One: How can I afford that?

Lulu.com has some great options, and there are other online options, as well as local printers who can do this for you. Do a small run, and reprint as needed. Make it look and feel as professional as you can afford (color, hardcover, well-written, beautiful food and site photography, professionally designed and laid out—just like a cookbook you’d buy ), because this is going to do some hard work for you.

Two: What do I do with a cookbook?

You can:

  • Write a press release about it
  • Display it prominently, and sell it at the restaurant (three bucks over cost)
  • Write a blog article about the writing and printing process (“How-to” for other restaurateurs)
  • Sell it on your website (and amazon.com)
  • Send free copies to the local and regional newspapers’ and magazines’ book reviewers, preferably delivered with a sample of one of the recipes
  • Sell it at local bookstores and gift shops, tourist shops, coffee shops, which carry locally made goods… preferably delivered with a sample of one of the recipes (We’re making new fans here… get it?)
  • Do a book signing for stores that carry the book
  • Write a blog article about the sales and promotion process
  • Send free copies to your ten best customers (your “Propheteers”)
  • Write a blog article about how well it’s being received

Price the book at six dollars over cost if purchased anywhere but in the restaurant, and tip-in a coupon for 10% off a meal if the book (and coupon) comes in with the diner. You are not trying to find a new income stream. You are trying to become know as The Source for [insert your specialty here]. You want to get this book into the hands of vocal, engaged customers and prospective customers. As the author, offer to sign the book when such a dedicated fan stops by!

Three: Why am I giving away my trade secrets?

If I can cook well, I can probably cook what you cook at my house anyway. I might have to search through my own cookbook library and epicurious to get three dishes that approximate what I get at your place, but I can do it. You aren’t giving anything away but the packaging. If I love the entire Experience of your restaurant, then I want your take on how to put it all together, in a book (like Red Sage, one of my favorite cookbooks from a restaurant). I may cook at home with it, or it may be just a memento of my night at your place; either way, it’s no tossaway business card or menu; I paid for you to sit on my shelf and stay top-of-the-mind. Perfect!

If I have not been to your restaurant, then seeing your book prominently placed at my local bookstore (etc.) may entice me to want to try out a restaurant whose food is good enough to have its own cookbook. At the least it raises your profile in the community. Meeting you at a book signing has the same effect, multiplied by the human interaction. Reading someone else’s rave review of the book multiplies the effect, because we respect disinterested third-party opinions much more than direct marketing efforts. Seeing the book on a friend’s table shelf is even better.

So, why is a cookbook like a blog?

The best blogs are giving away their authors’ knowledge for free. Business blog authors may be allowing others to advertise on their site, thus making the author some money, just as you will make a bit of money directly from the sale of your cookbook. For some, the blog is their business.

Others, like me, own (or work for) a business. If I give my knowledge to you, not only do you benefit short-term, as you put these ideas to work, but in the long-term you may wish for me to put all of our resources to work, customized for your needs, and my firm may gain a client. You (hopefully) see me as an expert in Experience Design. You may recommend friends read the Maximum Customer Experience Blog for stories, tips, and tricks; you bookmark a tip that particularly applies to you and come back to it again and again.

I see Lidia Bastianich as an expert in regional Italian cooking, Colette Peters as an expert in glorious cakes, and Mollie Katzen as an expert in simple vegetarian food. I’ve been to Moosewood, so one out of the three has already used this tool to convert me; I’ll get to Felidia one of these days, and a Colette Peters cake is something to aspire to. I’ve nearly worn out my copy of the Moosewood Cookbook, I’ve purchased it for friends and relatives, and I mention the restaurant whenever I hear of someone making the tedious trip across western New York. The cookbook allows me to be a Propheteer for the restaurant, 20 years after I purchased it. What other tool can work so hard for you?

Cookbooks, like blogs, allow authors to distribute their expertise to a much wider audience than just their current client base. They can convert prospects with a passing interest into paying customers. They keep you top-of-the-mind for your readers, as readers refer to your work and as they think of a place to recommend. They deepen the Perception that you, the restaurateur, are the authority on your cuisine.

Last question: What if my restaurant’s “cuisine” is not fancy enough for a cookbook?

Look at these results. You’re fancier than that, aren’t you? Nobody’s food tastes run to the extravagant every day. From fast to four-star, every cookbook can find a reader, if written and produced well. And remember: The object of the game is not to become a NY Times best-seller; it’s to expand the public’s Perception of your restaurant, to increase word-of-mouth, and to put more butts in seats. To make more money. ‘Nuff said.

Inspired to give it a try? What question is keeping you from reaching new customers with a cookbook from your restaurant? Share your thoughts here!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson