This past month, for example, the Cleveland store's café presented hearty Golden Mushroom Soup from the Gourmet Cookbook, Crab-Stuffed Portabellos from Rachael Ray's Cooking Around the Clock and Provencal Salmon served with tomato-basil sauce and mixed greens from Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy.
The cafes don't exist simply to demo recipes or sell cookbooks, however. They impart a certain homey comfort to the sprawling (the first store was 6,000 square feet) Joseph-Beth stores. They're also a tidy little side business: Foodservice kicks in about 10 percent of the group's $50 million in annual revenues and involves about 40 percent of the organization's 500-member team.
About 90 percent of the menu at each restaurant consists of standing items from popular cookbooks and monthly recipes selected from featured titles. Chefs at each location have some latitude to stray from the cookbook-centric formula, also. In Cleveland, executive chef Joe Dawson has won a loyal following for his scratch-prepared soups.
So what, you say. You're in the restaurant business, not the book business. No problem. If your restaurant offers specials, or if you'd like it to, you could do worse than to tap into recipes drawn from a well-known cooking expert's or chef's most recent cookbook. It's a source of inspiration that will never dry up; doing so will impart a contemporary feel to your daily special offerings; and you'll be able to leverage the star power of well-known culinary names to boost your restaurant's sales.
We're not saying these cookbook dishes will be any better than the specials you dream up yourself. But they could be strong sellers in certain full-service situations. Maybe one like yours.