The EAT book series originates in Stockholm, Sweden, where it’s celebrating its 10th edition in 2016. The book series has been published around the world with published books in 16 cities across 8 countries so far. Now its entry to Asia has its first stop in Singapore, with other cities scheduled across the Asia-Pacific within the next few years.
“The idea was born by realizing that you usually go to the same restaurants and often in your own neighbourhood,” says Peter Ulrich, who, together with Karin van Vliet, is managing the Singaporean EAT book series.
The founder of the EAT book series, Jochen Schmelzer, lived in Stockholm and realized, that he and his friends always visited the same restaurants in the same parts of town. To encourage his friends and others to try out restaurants in different areas of the city he started the book EatSweden. The idea of the EAT book is for you to visit a new restaurant every month – the number of featured restaurants is always 12 – and thus take part in what a city or region has to offer you.
Peter is from Sweden and has lived in Asia for the past 18 years. Karin is from the Netherlands and has lived in Singapore for the past 8 years. The couple ended up having EatSingapore as a side project next to their full time jobs when Peter was introduced to Jochen Schmelzer through a mutual friend in the summer of 2015.
“He showed me the book, and it made a different appeal to me. The message you send and the type of audience you entertain is not like the one-for-one deal books,” Peter says and Karin agrees: “It’s not for people just looking for a discount.”
The European publishing house Benzer-Publishing started with a small print-run of the book EatSweden in 2006, and both the design and the concept of the book has been more or less the same for the past ten years. Nowadays there are a hundred apps and websites that can help you find new restaurants, and often that results in an overload of options to choose from and you often end up going to places that are recommended by friends.
“What we are saying is ‘let us be your friend’ and we are recommending places that are a sure hit for a good evening,” Karin says.
The couple selected around twenty restaurants out of approximately 50 restaurants they visited. When it came to narrowing it down to the final 12, different criteria, such as a range in locations and a mix of different cuisines, had to be met. Other than really good food, a great atmosphere and especially great service – which according to Karin is sometimes hard to come by in Singapore – was of great importance.
The first edition of EatSingapore became available for purchase at December 1st 2015 and the book is limited to 5000 copies with each book being exclusively numbered, which according to Peter is to ensure that the restaurants can give the best experience to each book owner.
This is also why they are selective in where to sell the book and focus on book stores, gift shops, lifestyle stores and the restaurants itself. Their advertising is done online via social media or with features in lifestyle and dining magazines, but they mainly rely on word of mouth.
“We don’t want to advertise too much since we believe the book will promote itself and be recommended by friends to friends, just like we recommend restaurants as your friend,” Karin explains.
On 7 December 2016 the book concept had its launch in Singapore, where media and participating restaurants attended. Both the exclusivity of the book and the targeted audience was something noticed and appreciated by the restaurants.
“Eat Singapore is a beautifully presented, curated selection of some of Singapore’s best dining experiences. Unlike a typical guide, it feels more like a list from friends of “must-tries”. In an already saturated market, this little red book is a welcome addition in navigating the multitude of offers out there. We love being included in a guide that stands apart from the rest. Being a beautifully presented tangible object, rather than just another app, brings real cachet. We are grateful and excited to be part of the inaugural edition – it is a real privilege. We are confident this will bring discerning diners, rather than just those looking for another deal,” said Richard Letch, Restaurant Manager at Luxe.
The purpose of the event was among other things for it to be a networking event with people from the industry and for the participating restaurants to talk to each other and exchange stories about why they were participating.
EatSingapore 2016 features Bincho, BoCHINche, El Mero Mero, Kilo, Long Chim, Luxe, Mitzo, Oso, Saha, Sorrel, Tburu and The Black Swan.
“We’re not saying these are the twelve best restaurants in Singapore. We’re saying these are twelve great places to visit this year,” Peter says.
“EatSingapore is tailored to more discerning travellers and avid foodies. The ease and focus when it comes to choosing allows the reader to concentrate on those exact venues, which could all possibly be seen in a week’s time. This allows the user not having to sift through guides, which might be confusing with all the options, but rather offer the ‘must see or visit’ places in Singapore. It places us in a very select group and therefore gives off the perception that we are one of the restaurants not to be missed,” said Javier Perez, founder of restaurant Kilo.
None of the featured restaurants paid to be in the book and this will never happen to ensure authenticity of the book. According to Peter, the restaurants that have participated in other countries have benefited from being featured as the average spend has gone up ten to fifteen percent.
There are only two demands that the restaurants need to live up to in order to be featured:
“What we ask from the restaurants is to give people a great evening and one complimentary main course,” Karin van Vliet explains.
This means, that the restaurants treat you to a main course when you are a party of 2 diners ordering 2 main courses and bringing the EatSingapore book with you to dinner.
“It’s not a deal book. It’s not a one for one. It’s the restaurants thanking you for visiting.”
A new edition of the book is published each year with the latest dining discoveries and next year the concept will be looking at the possibility of expanding to Bali, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Sydney, and Melbourne.