Morton’s Writes the Book on Steak
When Klaus Fritsch moved to the United States in 1967 and then teamed with Arnie Morton to co-found Morton’s, The Steakhouse in 1978, the West German probably never envisioned penning a 240-page “bible” on steak. But almost 30 years after opening the first of what has become a chain of more than 70 restaurants worldwide, Fritsch has done just that.
“Morton’s Steak Bible” is the first-ever publishing effort from the company that made its name in the kitchen—not the book store. Roger Drake, Morton’s vice president of communications and public relations, says finding the right publisher to get behind the book was the first step in the three-year project.
“We’ve been approached many times over the years, and this is our first and probably only cookbook we’re going to do,” he says. “This was all foreign to us. We’re in the business of making great steaks and creating a great dining experience. We know how to market that, but putting a book together was totally foreign.”
Clarkson Potter, a subsidiary of Crown Publishing Group known for its lifestyle books, was the perfect match. Founded in 1959, the publisher touts titles from famous chefs such as Jeff Nathan, Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart. The company’s experience with cookbooks made it a nice home for the “Bible,” Drake says.
But while Clarkson Potter’s goal is certainly to sell as many books as possible, Morton’s motivations are a little different.
“From our perspective, our main purpose for the book is to promote the Morton’s brand,” Drake says.
In fact, the company is so focused on using the book to boost its brand, its press release announcing “Morton’s Steak Bible” is highlighted by reviews from the Chicago Tribune, Washingtonian magazine and People magazine … on the restaurant itself and not the book.
The book’s marketing and publicity campaign has been Drake’s responsibility, and he has been coordinating several moving parts since it hit shelves in late May.
“We’ve been working with [Clarkson Potter], along with our national PR firm and then our internal Morton’s [staff] as well,” the 14-year veteran of the company says. “We also have local public relations firms that represent all 70 of our Morton’s [locations] worldwide—so it’s 45 different local agencies—so all of those agencies are also heavily involved in the marketing and promotion of ‘Morton’s Steak Bible.’”
“For us, it’s been a partnership [between Morton’s and Clarkson Potter],” says Rica Allannic, the Clarkson Potter editor who worked on the book. “I think in working with our team, it has been a question of who has the best [publicity] contact … and sometimes that has been us and sometimes, especially in the local markets, it has been the local teams who [Morton’s] counts on and who know how to sell the Morton’s brand quite well.”
Drake’s team is launching a 41-city publicity tour for the book, in which Fritsch will make stops in each city at the local Morton’s where, for $30/person, the public can receive his book, food, drink and the opportunity to meet the author and have him sign the book.
“When Klaus gets into town, we’re pitching morning shows where he’ll make some of the recipes from the ‘Morton’s Steak Bible,’” Drake says. “We’ll also do book signings too.”
Drake says he is not yet privy to the book’s precise sales numbers, but that he has “been told [Clarkson Potter] is very satisfied that they are already meeting initial sales goals.” He adds that Mortons.com sold more than 400 books online in the book’s first three days alone.
Despite the enormity of the three-year book project, Drake says Morton’s did not bring on any additional staff.
“It’s a huge endeavor,” he says. “It touched about 50 people … in our company over three years … everything from recipe development to the photography to the logistics of putting the [publicity] tour together. It’s a huge undertaking for us, especially the way we decided to do it, which is in a significant way.” BB