Top 10 Books All Hospitality Merchants Should Read

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The results are in! We surveyed our team of industry experts to see what books are at the top of their must-read list — and should be on yours, too. While you might think of us as the experts for all things online ordering, our team from Marketplace to Bbot is proudly comprised of industry alums from sommeliers to servers to general managers.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, advice, or something to fill the void after binging all episodes of The Bear on Hulu in one sitting — this list has something for you.

Food and beverage industry deep-dives

The food and beverage industry can be a crazy, cutthroat world to work in — at least, according to these authors. This list contains some of the best books on leadership and management in the restaurant industry. They’re full of tips from top industry names on how to keep your venue operating at its best.

1. Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business - Danny Meyer

In Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, Danny Meyer shares his journey of beating the odds in the food and beverage industry — from opening his first cafe to founding the Union Square Hospitality Group. Discover the core philosophies he brings to every business, the lessons he’s learned, and how you can implement his methodology in your venue.

Why you should read it:

Surviving in the hospitality industry takes hard work, dedication, and a love of service — but you already knew that. Setting the Table has valuable lessons any business owner can benefit from, including how to strengthen your team’s relationships to better serve your customers.

2. Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food - Meredith Sandland & Carl Osbourne

Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food explores the innovations causing disruption and rapid change within the food and beverage industry. Full of data, insider accounts, and tips from industry veterans and entrepreneurs alike, Delivering the Digital Restaurant will leave you “better positioned to embrace the innovation that consumers are demanding.”

Why you should read it:

COVID-19 didn’t bring about the changes we’ve seen in the last few years — but it did accelerate their widespread adoption within the industry. From QR code ordering to robot servers and more, it’s difficult for business owners to keep up while staying competitive. Delivering the Digital Restaurant breaks down precisely what today’s consumers are looking for to give you a better understanding of the restaurant technologies you should adopt to stay in the game and thrive.

3. Your Restaurant Sucks!: Embrace The Suck. Unleash Your Restaurant. Become Outstanding - Donald Burns

Life throws curveballs when you least expect it — Your Restaurant Sucks!: Embrace the Suck. Unleash Your Restaurant. Become Outstanding says these curveballs don’t have to spell disaster for your restaurant. They can be a catalyst for leveling up your operations. Donald Burns shares his advice on “embracing the suck” by focusing on the things you can control.

Why you should read it:

From new tech to pandemics to shifting customer expectations, business owners have faced a slew of surprises in the last two years alone. With so many unexpected challenges and circumstances out of your control, it’s essential not to lose sight of what’s at the heart of the industry: serving your customers great food. Your Restaurant Sucks! serves as a good reminder that in a world of chaos, the only thing we can control is how we manage the chaos — and grow from it.

4. Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter - Steve Dublanica

Servers and staff are often the unsung heroes of the food and beverage industry. Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter shares the brutally-honest stories of what it’s like working in the front-of-house. In addition to the secret to getting good service, Waiter Rant provides a deeper appreciation for these industry heroes.

Why you should read it:

Many of us at DoorDash got our start in the industry as servers — we know and understand it isn’t the easiest job. From engaging with customers to developing new skills through waiter training to learning how to walk around a busy restaurant without spilling a tray full of drinks, servers have a lot on their plate. Waiter Rant shows that even the best restaurants won’t survive without a great team backing them up, from the servers to the GM.

Hotel industry insights

From international chains to local bed and breakfasts, hospitality venues use the same guiding principles to delight guests and keep the doors open. These books highlight the do’s and dont’s top hoteliers use to manage their businesses, and examples of how you can implement them in your hotel.

1. The Heart of Hospitality: Great Hotel and Restaurant Leaders Share Their Secrets - Micah Solomon

The Heart of Hospitality: Great Hotel and Restaurant Leaders Share Their Secrets is the hotelier’s holy grail. Published in 2019 by customer service expert Micah Solomon, The Heart of Hospitality includes hospitality management tips from some of the top names in the hotel industry, including the Four Season Chairman and the Ritz-Carlton President and COO. It’s a must-read service industry book.

Why you should read it:

Looking to improve your company culture? Think your onboarding and training could go a little smoother? Wondering how to stay on top of the trends sweeping the industry? The Heart of Hospitality dives deep into all actionable industry tips and trends, and much more. Managing a hotel can be tricky with so many different departments. But you're sure to win awards with a great team backing you up.

2. Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality - Jacob Tomsky

Whether or not Jacob Tomsky “intended” to go into the hotel business, Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality is proof of the time he spent there and the lessons he learned along the way. Full of first-hand accounts of “the highs and lows of hotel life,” Heads in Beds is an eye-opening account of what it takes to survive in the hotel industry.

Why you should read it:

In the same vein as Waiter Rant, it’s enlightening to see the industry from the perspective of those who interact with guests daily. Operators at the top can often focus on the big picture, like driving sales and increasing customer loyalty, and lose sight of the importance of the little details. These specific details and the employees' hard work keep a hotel running smoothly and successfully — Heads in Beds explains why.

Tips from the top: industry insiders share their stories

Ever wondered how Anthony Bourdain became a household name? What does Julia Child have to say about her life in France? These memoirs from famous names in hospitality share their experiences within the industry.

1. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly - Anthony Bourdain

From arguably one of the most famous names in hospitality, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly is Anthony Bourdain’s eye-opening look at how he got to the top and “what happens behind the kitchen door.”

Why you should read it:

Half memoir, half food and beverage industry exposé, Bourdain lays everything out on the table in Kitchen Confidential. From his love of food to the intense environment of the professional kitchen to the toils of his personal life, you’ll walk away with a newfound appreciation for Bourdain’s impact on the industry.

2. Eat a Peach: A Memoir - David Chang

Eat a Peach: A Memoir centers around David Chang and his journey to opening Momofuku Noodle Bar, his award-winning restaurant in Manhattan. It took him around the world, from the US to Japan and back again. But, along the way, he discovered how he could use cooking to give his life “both purpose and agency.”

Why you should read it:

Chang’s memoir is a candid self-reflection of what led him to a career in the restaurant industry. It’s an honest and raw look into opening restaurants, kitchen successes and failures, mental health struggles, and personal growth. If nothing else, the chapter ‘33 Rules for Becoming a Chef’ will certainly teach you a thing or two.

3. Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef - Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef is the story of the kitchens that shaped Gabrielle Hamilton’s life. From her mother’s kitchen to her own kitchen at Prune, Hamilton’s experience at the stove helped her learn the true meaning of hospitality.

Why you should read it:

First published in 2012, Blood, Bones, and Butter has been gathering awards and recommendations from names like GQ, Publishers Weekly, and The Huffington Post. Hamilton’s non-traditional upbringing shaped the way she interacted with the kitchen. It’s a reminder that we can’t separate our personal experiences from our work; instead, we embrace the mess and let it guide us.

4. My Life in France - Julia Child

Few people have had as significant an impact on the hospitality industry as Julia Child. Her famed cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking changed American kitchens forever, and it all started with Child’s move to France. In My Life in France, Child dives into how she entered the world of cooking and made a name for herself against all odds.

Why you should read it:

It’s never too late to discover your passions — and it doesn’t always require moving to France. Child’s memoir is a testament to the trials and tribulations of surviving in the hospitality industry to pursue what you love: creating and sharing good food.


Allison Van Duyne
Allison Van Duyne

Content Marketing, DoorDash

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