Foodservice marketing lessons from independent operators

Working directly with independent operators is the best education any of us working in foodservice product marketing.

Seminars, books (or blogs!) and conferences no doubt have value.  But spending time in a busy restaurant kitchen or talking to an executive chef about the pressures of making monthly numbers simply can’t be duplicated.

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Make it a habit to be in the field at least a few times each year.  Here are a three things operators have reminded me of in the last month that directly apply to food product marketers everywhere:

  • Capture the experience. Smart operators today know that to build steady, repeat business is about engaging customers beyond simply great food and service. They want customers to be part of the larger dining experience.  Operators commonly ask if they can take photos during our onsite video shoots so they can share with their fans on Facebook or Twitter about their “celebrity-ness” (if that’s a word!) when Brand X is in town for a visit.  How often do you capture informal photos for your social media efforts when working with operators?  Documenting the fun is a credibility builder for you and the operator.
  • Leverging simplicity.  It’s in an operator’s DNA to simplify everything she possibly can.  It’s amazing how she can explain a complex recipe in 30 seconds — including how they leverage the same ingredients across multiple dishes.  Operators tend not to over-think things… and can articulate benefits in a simple, inspiring way.  Proof once again that recipe videos don’t need to be three-minute epics!
  • Wait for the backstory.   Most restaurant owners, cooks and chefs I’ve interviewed have a story about most products they use or dishes they serve.  How a popular pizza was inspired by a tuna fish sandwich.  How grandma used peppers in everything, so the chef added them to his famous mac n’ cheese.  Or how a recipe from another restaurant launched another operator’s most popular salmon dish.  Other operators (and your potential customers) will be inspired by these stories if you provide them!


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