This week was the 2018 CO Restaurant Show and the ROOT Marketing & PR team was there to soak up knowledge, connect with friends and make new ones! In case you weren’t able to make it this year, here are some of the most impactful messages we heard over the course of the conference:
Gender and the Restaurant Industry
Amanda Cohen // Dirt Candy
The Restaurant Show was kicked off by Amanda Cohen of NYC’s Dirt Candy, a restaurant known for its bold take on vegetarian cuisine. Amanda has spoken at several events the last few years about wage and gender equality, and she shared this knowledge and passion for changing the industry with attendees during her opening keynote.
In light of the recent #MeToo movement, she focused on restaurant culture and how to elevate women in the kitchen. Amanda praised how writers are shining the spotlight on female chefs more than ever before, pointing out how women make a unique impact on the food industry. As a group of dynamic women who work with restaurants across the Front Range, we couldn’t agree more!
Meatless Matters: Discussing Plant Based Dishes For Your Menu
Moderator: Sara Brito, Good Food 100 Restaurants
Ron Pickarski // Eco-Cuisine
Paul Reilly // Beast + Bottle
Daniel Asher // River & Woods
Next up, a panel of local chefs and cookbook authors discussed plant based alternatives and why thoughtful menus are more important than ever. Chef Ron Pickarski noted that one of the best ways to get diners excited about vegetarian options is to move away from the words “medley” and “pilaf” on your menu and instead turn traditional comfort foods into a meatless option (hello Seitan Reubens!) Chef Daniel Asher introduced the idea of how plant-based options lower food costs and ultimately help restaurants make a better margin on each dish. He also shared our favorite quote of the panel when stressing how delicious dishes are the gateway to choosing vegetarian options on your menu: “Flavor never lies. If it’s not flavorable and memorable, it doesn’t matter.”
Chef Paul Reilly took us in another direction by stressing how chefs should not become “anti-meat,” but rather encourage customers to eat better meat – and more responsibly. This is important because diners will still expect to see meat on your menu, so chefs have the responsibility to be mindful of the portion size in relations to vegetables and grains on the place, and to source from farmers that raise their animals with care whenever possible.
What I Learned When I Learned Facebook Ads
Ben Curnett // Xcite Media Group
Ben discussed the importance of being deliberate when it comes to creating Facebook ad content. If you don’t post content that entices users to come into your restaurant, be a part of your community, or to learn more, you’re wasting your time.
What’s even more important is boosting every post or ad you share on Facebook and Instagram. If you don’t boost a post, your content will reach very few people, because of the recent push from Facebook to make businesses pay for reach. Even boosting $5 makes a huge difference! This is also crucial because you can target your audience based on demographics, location, interests, and even job description. He demonstrated how to target your audience as specifically as possible by using the “and” feature when building an audience through Ads Manager. Saving your audiences makes sure you can use them again, and using Lookalike Audiences can help you reach even more people.
Need an expert social media manager for your restaurant? Our team has the in-depth experience to take your social media presence to a whole new level.
Help Them Help You: Working With Restaurant Media
John Imbergamo // The Imbergamo Group
Denise Michelsen // 5280 Magazine
Mark Antonation // Denver Westword
Rebecca Treon // Freelancer
Greg Hollenback // The Modern Eater
This panel consisted of media experts who discussed how restaurants can better appeal to their local media. Most notably, the panel stressed the importance of being mindful of the content you send to the media. There needs to be a reason for writers to cover your story, whether that is a creative angle or a fabulous media event that they can’t resist.
We couldn’t agree more with everything this panel had to say! As experts in PR the last 17 years, we understand that every restaurant has a story that needs to be told; but how does your story fit into what writers and readers are interested in? Choosing an agency like ROOT Marketing & PR can help you host a successful media event and curate unique stories about your restaurant, thus leading to impactful stories that bring new and repeat customers through your door.
National Issues Update: What You Don’t Know May Hurt You
Mike Whatley // National Restaurant Association
Speaker Mike Whatley explained some of the state and local policy issues that are currently affecting restaurants in the Front Range, which range from labor issues to nutritional and environmental issues.
The issue concerning labor really stuck out for us at ROOT Marketing & PR, as our restaurant clients have overwhelmingly expressed how difficult it is to find employees who either have experience or align with their mission. This creates high turnaround and inconsistency in customer experience. While we have hundreds of thousands of people moving to the area each year, that doesn’t equate to thousands of people who are committed to working in the industry. We’ve seen restaurants combat this issue by deploying effective training programs and by actively engaging their employees at multiple touch points during the year.
Sustainability of the Foodservice Professional
John Hinman // Hinman’s Bakery
Josh Wolkon // Secret Sauce
Rich Schneider // Raquelitas Tortillas
Holly Arnold Kinney // The Fort Restaurant
Brother Luck // Four by Brother Luck
Anthony Bourdain’s death hit all of us hard. This panel discussed the importance of mental health in the restaurant industry. They recognized how the restaurant industry is often filled with pressure and anxiety., and why it’s more important than ever to shift our thinking when it comes to what we condone in the restaurant industry, and how we interact with our fellow industry professionals.
The panel also stressed the importance of bringing personal wellness to restaurant culture. One local organization has stepped up to the plate to directly address the issue of wellness: CHOW – Colorado Hospitality Outreach & Wellness. They gather with foodservice professionals struggling with addiction twice a month to listen, learn, and share support. If you’re interested in making a difference within our restaurant community, we highly recommend looking into how you can show your support to this new organization!
Marcus Samuelsson // Red Rooster
Marcus Samuelsson ended the conference with an inspirational speech about overcoming adversity and the importance of creating a bond with your peers. He shared his story of rising to stardom, which began with being born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and then moving to NYC where his career took off. He recognized he had less choices as a man of color starting out, which meant he had to be extraordinary at his craft. We loved his quote: “People come up with great things when they are pushed up against the wall.” How true that some of our most difficult struggles can lead to the most rewarding experiences if we take a positive approach!
Marcus then shared his passion for finding creativity and community in the restaurant business. Find what makes you unique, find a technique that inspires you, find people who believe in your mission and make a difference together. Marcus achieves this by being imaginative and committed to food. He hones his skills regularly and never turns down an opportunity to grow. He also interacts with his employees and creating an open door policy that fosters engagement.
We learned so much at this conference, and we hope these top tips inspire you too! Thank you, CO Restaurant Association, for putting on a well-rounded and thoughtful Restaurant Show.