Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Underground Culinary Tour - Foodie Nonfiction Review

The Underground Culinary Tour: How the New Metrics of Today's Top Restaurants are Transforming How America Eats by Damian Mogavero and Jospeph D'Agnese

Rating: Just Okay
Source: NetGalley

Description:  In the bestselling vein of "Moneyball" comes an entertaining, behind-the-scenes narrative about how the restaurant business is being transformed by the use of data, in an industry historically run by gut and intuition. From celebrity-run restaurants to today's cutting-edge culinary trendsetters, author Damian Mogavero looks at how the use of data is revolutionizing how restaurants are run, from hiring chefs and training staff to pioneering new recipes, reengineering menus, and transforming the dining experience from the inside out, so that no restaurant is out of anything you want, "ever." After earning his MBA from Harvard Business School, Damian Mogavero founded a pioneering software company to completely reorganize how the restaurant industry functions, from the food they order to the menus they create, from the chefs and waitstaff they hire to the wines they stock. The use of data has helped to re-create the dining experience, maximize customer satisfaction, grow revenues, and improve popularity and profits.
Damian first forged a relationship with Jeffrey Frederick, a recently promoted executive in charge of food and beverage at one of the biggest properties on the Las Vegas strip, who was eager to prove himself in the high-stakes, cutthroat world of Las Vegas dining. Using data analytics, as well as weekly coaching sessions with Damian over the next 15 years, Frederick became one of the most successful restaurant executives in the industry. Damian shows how the use of data provides trendsetting new restaurants, luxury hotels and casinos, and even cruise ships, nightclubs, and beloved mom and pop restaurants with the information they need to transform the food we eat and create the dining experience we have come to expect.

Genre: Nonfiction - Foodie

Why I Picked This Book: One of my absolute favorite books is a book called Tastemakers by David Sax which is all about food trends.  I was hoping this would be similar.

My Impression:  When I was in college there was this little out of the way bistro that I used to go to all the time.  It had the best turkey and Gouda croissants and their creme brulee was to die for.  And then it wasn't.  I'm not sure what I noticed first but it kind of became grubbier and less pleasant and then the quality of the food took a hit.  And then it closed.  With zero notice.  At some point I found out what had happened.  Apparently the bistro had been opened by a married couple - he was the chef, she was the business person.  Everything went merrily along until the marriage ended and he got the restaurant in the divorce.  With no real understanding of the business end of things he let things slide until finally the restaurant itself was seized for back taxes.  This book made me remember that little bistro because they could have seriously benefited from the software that Damian Mogavero and his company created.
There's a lot that's really interesting in this book.  The ability to analyze restaurant data and create a model which allows you to safely make purchasing and staffing decisions is pretty amazing.  Add into the fact that the data is specific about what people buy, what they eat, how long they stay, etc. that it saves the restaurant owner the trouble of having to analyze the data on their own and frees up time to evaluate new business plans and it's not surprising that Mogavero's software is used by Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio Geoffrey Zakarian, and pretty much any celebrity chef or restaurant empire that you can name.
However, while there is a lot of information that really made me think about the inner workings of a restaurant I really felt that this would have been a fascinating article but makes a very repetitive book.  The data itself doesn't change that much in each case and while I enjoyed getting little behind the scenes glimpses what happens at a little beach side restaurant isn't all that different from what happens inside one of Harrah's Resorts.  While I'm seriously impressed with Mogavero's ability to meld technology and  the dining experience and I wish that more restaurants would implement his software as I think we'd all have better service I don't think I wanted to read 272 pages about it.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Probably not.  While I did find it readable I think he is more geared towards hands on business practices than I'm interested in.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you are interested in starting a restaurant or improving one you already own or manage then I think this book would be invaluable.  If you're not it makes for somewhat repetitive reading.

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads


  1. I liked The Tastemakers also so I would think this is a similar book. I think based on your review I will skip this one. I like the non fiction foodie books too but right now I am more into the mysteries and crime dramas.

  2. Very interesting. But I can see how it could get repetitive. I like nonfiction food-related books, but this might be too much into to the business world for me.

  3. Good warning! I read a lot of books about restaurant trends and food trends -- will definitely avoid this one!

    Thanks... mae at

  4. Great review! Having been on the business side of both dine-in restaurants and quick service, it sounds interesting to me but I can see how it would get repetitive. Thanks for sharing! ;-)

  5. I think I would also leave this one for the restaurant entrepreneurs among us:) Interesting though what a difference and how helpful it would be for them.

  6. This book does sound quite interesting. Although, it does seem like it would be less about data and more about trends by the title. I wonder if it would be a useful tool for restaurant owners. Thanks for sharing! :)

  7. I think I'll skip this, sorry you didn't enjoy it more.

  8. I really enjoy watching those start-up programs on television, but it sounds like it would lose a lot of the interaction by just reading about it. Loved your detailed review! Hugs...

  9. I don't think this is my cup of tea, I prefer a light and friendly story. I am such a sap.

  10. I had the same impression of the book- bored by the end. Also sad about the restaurant, we went there a lot! And creme brulee still always makes me think of you and that place.