From Anthony Bourdain’s behind-the-scenes look at America’s kitchens to Ray Kroc’s biography, here are 10 titles restaurateurs may want to add to their bookshelves.
1. 'Kitchen Confidential' by Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain’s behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant industry is considered a staple by many who work in it. While some of his assertions about the field have been walked back by Bourdain since this book was published in 2000—like his argument that customers shouldn’t order fish on Mondays—it’s still seen as a go-to text.
2. 'Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant' by Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler’s ninth novel follows a single mom and her three children’s dysfunctional relationship over a span of several decades. Operators will find common ground with the youngest child, Ezra, who struggles while running a neighborhood restaurant that aims to help locals find comfort through food.
3. 'Grinding It Out' by Ray Kroc
McDonald's magnate Ray Kroc offers a firsthand account of how he transformed a small quick-service concept in San Bernardino, Calif., to one of the most influential fast-food operations in the world. Many readers said Kroc’s writing left them feeling inspired and motivated.
4. 'Waiter Rant' by Steve Dublanica
Readers can get inside the heads of their waitstaff with this book, developed after the author’s website of the same name. "Waiter Rant" is a series of stories from Dublanica’s time as a waiter in New York.
5. 'Restaurant Owners Uncorked' by Wil Brawley
This collection of 20 interviews showcases restaurant owners from different segments—including Buca di Beppo founder Phil Roberts and Chris Sommers, owner of the Pi Pizzeria chain. Readers praised the differing perspectives it offers as well as the casual tone of the interviews.
6. 'Ten Restaurants That Changed America' by Paul Freedman
Freedman profiles 10 concepts that have influenced America’s restaurant scene, with the help of more than 100 restaurant photographs, as well as menus. Readers praised his explanation of how such societal elements as immigration patterns, race relations, and gender and family roles have shaped the industry to what it is today.
7. 'Let's Go Out Again' by Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann and Michelle Galindo
Operators can find design inspiration in this book, which highlights classic and unique concepts found throughout the world, from pubs to open-air markets.
8. 'Front of the House: Restaurant Manners, Misbehaviors & Secrets' by Jeff Benjamin
In this account, Vetri Family Restaurants co-owner Jeff Benjamin details the various front-of-house issues he's faced over the years. Readers praised Benjamin's solutions to situations forward-facing staff can find themselves in, such as handling online reservations and tipping.
9. 'Restaurant Success by the Numbers' by Roger Fields
Using real-world examples from himself and others, restaurant owner and consultant Roger Fields offers step-by-step advice on how to open a restaurant, from designing the concept to choosing the location. Reviewers praised the book’s easy-to-digest information, saying it’s helpful for those looking to break into the industry.
10. 'Good to Great' by James Collins
While not intended solely for the restaurant industry, "Good to Great" examines what several different companies did to succeed. Since it was published in 2001, some of the companies and references may seem outdated, reviewers say, but the lessons it presents are timeless.