Web Exclusive | October 2013 | By Julie Knudson

Spill Your Secrets

Some operators find that cookbooks can boost business.

Quick serve chefs like Jeff Rossman are using cookbooks to earn media exposure.
San Diego chef Jeff Rossman's cookbook highlighted recipes from his restaurant, as well as local farms.
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Most quick-service operators are secretive about the recipes for their menu items. Some even turn their secrecy into a marketing strength; KFC, for example, is famously tight-lipped about the 11 herbs and spices in its Original Recipe fried chicken.

Other companies, however, have found that recipe transparency in the form of cookbooks can draw in more customers and even build a unique brand positioning.

Native Foods Café’s first cookbook, The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook, came out in 2004, and it’s still selling. But Andrea McGinty, president of the Chicago-based vegan brand, says it’s time for new recipes to hit the streets.

“The leaps and bounds that have happened in the vegan culinary realm in the last 10 years have been tremendous,” she says. Evolution in the sector, coupled with the staying power of the first book, has prompted the brand to release The Native Foods Celebration Cookbook, scheduled to come out this December. The new book will feature “delicious vegan recipes to celebrate every month of the year,” McGinty says.

Designed as a way to market the restaurant and entice people to try vegan food for the first time, McGinty says, the new book will feature recipes for some of the brand’s popular menu dishes, plus other meals that may remain exclusive to the cookbook. McGinty says it was important for all the recipes to be as approachable as they were tasty.

“It’s not intimidating. When you look at the pictures, people think, ‘This looks really good, and it looks like I could actually do this,’” she says.

In his first cookbook, From Terra’s Table, Jeff Rossman focused on the offerings at his Terra American Bistro. For his second book, which he’s now writing, he’ll use the menu at Terra’s sister restaurant, Bunz, as his launch pad. Rossman, executive chef and owner of the San Diego–based restaurants, says the Terra book highlighted a number of local farms and gardens in addition to recipes. The Bunz book will be “a build-your-own-burger book, with tons of different alternative combinations,” he says.

“Overall, we just see this book as an extension of the brand.”

Intended to elevate Rossman’s status as a chef in addition to boosting respect for his restaurant brands, From Terra’s Table featured recipes that were easy enough for a home cook to tackle, Rossman says.

“There are too many people who have told me, ‘These cookbooks are really cool and they look nice, but I just use it as a coffee table book because I can’t find the ingredients, the recipes are too hard, or it’s too laborious,” he says of other cookbooks.

Rossman arranged his book to be easy from the start, with chapters arranged by produce types. The upcoming Bunz cookbook will be similarly organized into the type of burger patty (pork, beef, etc.) and accompanying condiments.

Jennifer Shea, cofounder of Seattle-based Trophy Cupcakes & Party, wanted to encourage people to have more celebrations, so she wrote a cookbook that doubles as a go-to guide for planning the perfect party. She also “wanted to share my recipes and show people that with the right tools, they can throw wow-worthy parties, too,” a concept that takes the brand into people’s kitchens and beyond.

“To us, our book is more than just a cookbook,” Shea said in an e-mail to QSR of the recently released Trophy Cupcakes & Parties.

Some of the dishes in the new Trophy book are fan favorites, including its Red Velvet cupcakes.

“That’s a recipe we know our fans love and we get asked about all the time, so what better time to share it,” Shea says. Other recipes give home cooks the chance to tap into their creative side.

The new Native Foods Café cookbook will be in stores for the holiday season, but McGinty says the book’s marketing push won’t come until January to take advantage of those ubiquitous New Year’s resolution lists.

“Our food is healthy,” McGinty says, “and ‘eat healthy’ is always on there somewhere.” Free cooking demonstrations have also been key to the marketing plan at Native Foods Café; McGinty says they’re a natural complement to the cookbook. People coming in for cooking demonstrations are excited to learn how to make new dishes.

“They walk away after sampling three or four different dishes, hopefully they stay for lunch, and then they line up to the buy the cookbook,” she says.

Rossman includes a photo for almost every recipe in each of his books. “People are very visual,” he says. For dishes that aren’t as exciting in their final form, he likes to present pictures of what goes into the dish. Many of these ingredients are also available in Rossman’s restaurants.

“We bottle our own ketchups and marmalades and other things,” he says. That connection from menu item to packaged item to recipe in a cookbook gives the stores additional financial channels, he says. “On top of elevating your brand and on top of the marketing aspect, it’s an extra source of revenue,” Rossman says.

Along with cupcakes, Shea says, Trophy Cupcakes also carries ample party supplies in all its stores, including candles, cards, banners, and confetti.

“Having the book in all six of our stores will only help people take that party creativity to the next level,” she says. On the flip side, she says, if customers want to do the party preps but don’t have time to bake the cupcakes, they can pick up a batch while they’re in the store.

“Overall, we just see this book as an extension of the brand.”