Book review of Damian Mogavero's The Underground Culinary Tour.

Book Review: Mogavero’s Underground Culinary Tour

Sometimes you just don’t want to know how they make the sausage. Today’s restaurateurs aren’t being as driven by passion so much as by the bottom line? Choices and experiences are being carefully choreographed by intensive data analytics? Say it ain’t so! In The Underground Culinary Tour: How the New Metrics of Today’s Top Restaurants Are Transforming How America Eats entrepreneur Damian Mogavero and co-author Joseph D’Agnese pull back the curtain as to how data analytics are being used today. And you might not expect what they have to say.

The Underground Culinary Tour is Leveraging Tech

Mogavero is the founder and former CEO of Avero Inc., a company that provides restaurant analytics software. With that kind of insider experience, he knows what he is talking about. And it does not take readers long to see just how passionate Mogavero is about it. In the book he shows how analytics can complement doing your research: visiting competitors, tasting their food, experiencing the way they provide service, and simply following your gut feeling. For Mogavero the learning and improving should never stop. And rightfully so. It should be no surprise that Union Square Hospitality Group’s CEO (and Shake Shack founder) Danny Meyer is of a like mind to Mogavero and contributes a foreword to the book.

The entire book is, essentially, one case study after another. Most of these chapter-long anecdotes take place in New York City or Las Vegas. These are big cities where the action is. But the goal is to apply the lessons to even the smallest restaurant in the most modest town. Each one details how analytics can and are being implemented in the food service industry. It’s also evidence of how you, as a hungry restaurant visitor, have benefited from an improved experience because of just those analytics. No cafe is too small and no casino is too large to utilize this strategy is the message. It’s as fascinating as it is frightening.

Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

Perhaps I’m blissfully naive but reading The Underground Culinary Tour was like finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real. To be fair, Mogavero shares many inside secrets and information. There are the kinds of things we don’t consider or simply overlook as restaurant patrons. For example, a particularly interesting section details common ways that waitstaff are able to steal from their employers without them being all the wiser. Elsewhere Mogavero teases how a celebrity chef restaurant comes into being. And you may be surprised at how little those celebrity chefs are actually involved. (Or maybe it will not surprise you!)

No doubt many will find the topic interesting. But it is only a shame that Mogavero does not go deeper. Perhaps for proprietary reasons, he does not provide a more technical understanding. The depth of knowledge in the book is rather shallow. Combined with Mogavero’s seeming eternal optimistic tone and writing style, the book comes off a bit too much as an advertisement at times. As it is, The Underground Culinary Tour is a high level look at how data science affects us all.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

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