It was a cold (well relatively cold when you live in South California) December day and I was driving back with my future co-author from Pasadena and the Kitchen United Head Office to our homes in Orange County. "They just don't get it" I explained as we slowly trudged along on the freeway. "Restaurants are needing to change and even those that know they need to change, don't know how", I continued.
In those moments that followed, little did I know that I had set in situ the following 18 months of hard work and perseverance that would be required to undertake the research, writing and ultimately marketing of a book. A book that we hope will help the restaurant industry - especially the smaller independent parts of the industry, "get it" better than what I had experienced in my time at Kitchen United.
Today, the book sits at number one on Amazon’s New Release list, and in the best seller category in numerous categories including Small Business and Food & Restaurants. It is the first accolade that brings with it a sense of pride and relief after the undertaking of what can only be called ‘the marathon of book writing.’
A book such as ours was always something that both myself and the amazing Meredith Sandland would always take our time with. One of the phrases that we would often remind each other with is, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough” — a vitally important lesson in any start-up venture (book or otherwise). It wasn’t easy though. Having interviewed over 100 leading stars in the world of restaurants, food-tech and suppliers, we felt a responsibility to not just convey their story and motivations effectively but to also help the targeted recipients of our book — the independent restaurateur or those supporting him or her. This was most definitely a venture of altruism versus commercial or financial gain. The process of writing a book and successfully marketing it will have cost Meredith and I tens of thousands of dollars. But was it worth it?
The restaurant industry is close to our hearts. We have seen the very best restaurants struggle in recent years and we have seen some of them close forever in this most recent year of difficulty. Over 100,000 restaurants had shuttered their doors by September of last year according to the NRA and the industry became one of the most talked-about in the list of major commercial casualties from COVID-19. The rise of digitization was only accelerated by the pandemic but it was well underway before it. Now a visit to an Amazon Fresh store is more likely to feel like a visit to an Amazon fulfillment warehouse that doubles up as a grocery store. Generations older than millennials have discovered the value of their time in new ways through utilizing apps not previously downloaded and are becoming accustomed to their food being delivered throughout the week. While restaurants begrudgingly dislike marketplaces for their high fees, there’s no doubting the reality that many more casualties would have been realized without marketplaces providing a platform for off-premise. Certainly in that sense, thank goodness the pandemic occurred in 2020 and not twenty years earlier.
Our insights around the evolution and revolution affecting restaurants means that our book could not have been better timed. We have written a first-of-its-kind tale about an industry that we all love (for those that work in it and those that just enjoy what it offers). Who knows whether it will be as valuable as we had hoped when we set out on this adventure. Certainly restaurant operators have learned a lot the hard way in recent months but hopefully, our words will be something that lays out a framework to consider for how the restaurant business model will change and must change. With the marathon nearly completed, we hope it will be worth all the effort in helping restaurants understand that now is the moment to rethink the approach, to learn new ways of customer acquisition and retention, and to embrace technology in a way that is scary and exciting in equal measure.