New Book About Zingerman’s Released Nationally on February 22!

Micki Maynard’s book, Satisfaction Guaranteed, shares the story of four decades of Zingerman’s

micheline maynard illustrated

My book will look at Zingerman’s nearly 40-year journey, from a single store on Detroit Street in Ann Arbor, to a business that touches almost every part of the world… The book is for food lovers as well as readers of business books. It will be a guide to the way Zingerman’s does business and how its approach can help any kind of business. And of course, there will be lots of delicious food stories.
—Micki Maynard

Zingerman’s News: What sparked the idea to create this book?

Micki Maynard: Over Thanksgiving weekend, 2019, I saw an email from Irene Goodman, who is a literary agent in New York. She started out by saying she had gone to the University of Michigan, was a Zingerman’s Mail Order customer, and was looking to get more business-related titles. Then, she reached out to me saying she was a fan of Zingerman’s and had read some of my articles about Zingerman’s—especially the 2007 New York Times article. She thought I would be the perfect person to write a book about Zingerman’s. At first, I was not sure if this was legit! It’s like the literary version of the prince who wants to give you a million dollars. I checked into it, and it checked out! I started thinking maybe that would be a good topic for a book! As a journalist, I started looking for the “News Peg”—why in time should this book exist? I realized, doing some math, that the 40th anniversary of Zingerman’s was coming up. We pitched the idea, and Charles Scribner’s Sons said they were interested! We set up a meeting with Ari on March 15, 2020. [Wah!] But it all came together. The publisher made an offer, Ari and Paul offered their support, and that was how the deal came together. Originally the book was going to be the backstory of Zingerman’s, its business philosophy, and a look at the future. We had no idea that the pandemic would be such a factor in the book. So it’s now Zingerman’s backstory, the philosophy, a chapter about the pandemic and the innovation that took place, and a look to the future along with the 2032 Vision.

ZN: What was the research and writing process like in creating this book?

MM: I have the advantage of having been a Zingerman’s customer for a long, long time. Having taken numerous classes upstairs at the Next Door and at BAKE!, sitting in and participating in ZingTrain seminars, eating in just about every part of Zingerman’s that you can eat in … I never knew that was going to be helpful research, but let’s just say my research for the book probably started twenty-five years ago! In terms of actual research, I talked to Ari and Paul a lot. Many partners were kind enough to share time with me. I went on scouting missions where I would wander into the Deli, take pictures, and listen. I had many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at the Roadhouse. I spent time having coffee at the Coffee Company … In a lot of field research, they call it “go to the spot.” In Japanese, genchi genbutsu [real location, real thing]. I did lots and lots of that! Another thing that was very enjoyable was talking to a community of chefs that are friends of Zingerman’s, other journalists, growers, and folks like that.

photo of Zingerman's Deli and Next Door

Photo courtesy of Zingerman’s Deli

ZN: What is it about Zingerman’s that intrigues you?

MM: My first job was at Jacobson’s, a department store in Ann Arbor, when I was sixteen. My training consisted of: how to write an order slip, a few things to say to a customer, and how to ring up a sale. I never got a fraction of the training. There was no Training Compact. There was nothing like what Zingerman’s has in the first thirty days, the first sixty days … My retail experience was so different from what people learn when they come to Zingerman’s. That really struck me. Both the involvement of the employee and that of their manager and others up the chain. I recall that when I was sixteen I met the gentleman whose family owned Jacobson’s and it was seen as a big deal! But when you work at Zingerman’s, everybody meets Ari. Everybody meets Paul when Paul’s here. Everyone meets the managing partner from the business. They are right there. I’ve gone into the Bakehouse and Amy has waited on me, I’ve gone into the Deli and Grace is right there. People are visible. I think that’s one of the things that jumped out at me with my retail background.

ZN: What surprised you in your interviews while working on the book?

Satisfaction Guaranteed book coverMM: Zingerman’s made me think of the Turkish phrase—”sen bir de ona sor”—like a swan gliding along a pond. We see the swan gliding elegantly along the surface, but below the water, it is paddling furiously to create that calm effect. The smiles at Zingerman’s, the knowledge, the quality of its products, the willingness to go an extra mile doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of years of business philosophy, extensive training, and constant education. I saw that effort in action over and over again, and while people worded their answers to my questions in different ways, there was a consistency in everyone’s approach.

ZN: What are some things you hope readers take from the book?

MM: First, I want readers to think, “I can ___________.” I would like them to think that like Ari and Paul, and all the managing partners, they, too, can become entrepreneurs. I’d like to hear that they wrote a vision for their businesses or themselves, and to appreciate what goes into providing good service. I hope the food lovers will enjoy reading about all the steps that go into creating what Zingerman’s serves, and the products it offers in its shops and through Mail Order. None of it is easy; Paul and Ari didn’t just sit down when they agreed on the concept for the ZCoB and voila! it came about. There’s a lot of conversation, research, and decision making that goes into what Zingerman’s does. I hope readers will appreciate learning about that process.

ZN: For someone who might not know Zingerman’s, or who has never been to Ann Arbor, why would you recommend they read this book?

MM: I read a lot of business books, with advice for managers, and I especially hope they will take Zingerman’s management philosophy to heart as they think about their workplaces. I’m especially an advocate of servant leadership, which goes back to the days I spent at Detroit Metropolitan Airport with my father, who worked for American Airlines. He introduced me to people at every level, from the skycaps who checked bags to the air traffic controllers to the people who handled air freight. He taught me to respect everyone, and that everyone had a role to play. I hope my book expresses that about Zingerman’s, too.

ZN: What did your study of Zingerman’s lead you to believe about the future of business?

MM: While I was working on the book, I read Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. Zingerman’s isn’t mentioned in his book, but it could be. Start With Why tells readers that a successful company doesn’t begin by saying, “I want to create a $70 million business” or “I want to bake 20,000 loaves of rye bread a week.” It starts with a foundation—the why—from which everything flows. In Zingerman’s case, it’s good food, good service, and good finances. After researching Satisfaction Guaranteed, I was absolutely convinced that businesses need to look at their “why” and that without it, they simply can’t succeed. Luckily, many businesses know this, and the pandemic has given them an unexpected opportunity to hone in on their reason for being. The ones that get through uncertain times will be infused with their deeply held ideas.

Just like the exceptional company it chronicles, this book might have been called Satisfaction Exceeded! Micheline Maynard beautifully captures the trials, tribulations, trajectory, and ultimate triumph of one of America’s great business stories.

—Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and author of Setting the Table

ZN: Is there anything you learned in your interviews that you have applied to your own life and work?

MM: On a dark November night in 2020, Ari led a Zoom conversation at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University. It focused on his work about the power of beliefs in business. I was listening and taking notes for my book, when Ari said, “Beliefs are not genetic. Beliefs are learned.” He added, “You have to ask yourself: where did that belief come from?” I got tears in my eyes. Even though I’ve had the good fortune to work at news organizations like the New York Times and the Washington Post, I’ve never won a Pulitzer Prize. Because it’s considered the highest standard of achievement in journalism, I had convinced myself that I would not be a success unless I won a Pulitzer. I realized, listening to Ari, that winning a Pulitzer had far too great a hold over me. It was liberating hearing him say that, and it helped me focus on my role, which is to educate people, and to help them whenever I can. Thanks, Ari, for helping me shed that baggage.

ZN: Do you have a favorite Zingerman’s memory?

Dorie Greenspan

Dorie Greenspan at BAKE!, photo courtesy of Zingerman’s Bakehouse

MM: Several! A fabulous butter class at the Next Door with a gentleman from the Cork Butter Museum! My dear friend Dorie Greenspan presenting at a BAKE! class, the tomato dinners at the Roadhouse, and Camp Bacon to name a few. Also, one particular birthday celebration where I was celebrating with my family at the Roadhouse and a plate of Pimento Cheese came out with “Happy Birthday!” written on it. Then Ari came to the table with a wonderful dessert of fresh fruit, cut-up eclairs, and cut-up brownies.

ZN: What is your dream Zingerman’s meal?

MM: It has to be Pimento Cheese, Teutonic toast [Zingerman’s Creamery fresh goat cheese, Uzbek wild black cumin from Épices de Cru, served on Roadhouse bread from Zingerman’s Bakehouse], New Deli Dal soup, Fried Chicken, tomatoes, Garden Party salad from the Deli, the vegetarian tteokbokki from Miss Kim, and miso butter rice. For dessert, Boston Cream Pie from the Bakehouse. And of course, we’d need to have some gelato on the side. My mother and I used to go to a local movie theater, and she always loved gelato, so we would come into the Roadhouse after the movie and we would each get a scoop of gelato. I have many memories of sitting in a booth with my mom and having one scoop of gelato and one of those little cookies.

Get your copy of Satisfaction Guaranteed at Zingerman’s locations, your local bookstore or