WHAT DO CHEFS NEED TO
UNDERSTAND ABOUT SOCIAL
MEDIA AND HOW TO MANAGE IT?
Connecting with people via social media is not a fad. It’s not
going away. It represents a fundamental change in society.
Chefs no longer need to rely on traditional channels—
magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows—to tell their
story. They can and must interact with diners directly.
But you can’t just jump on the bandwagon and expect
immediate success. It’s about relationships. You have to
invest in cultivating an audience of fans and followers so
they’re there when you need them, say, for promoting a
special event you’re doing. If you do your prep work, then
you’re ready for service, right? Same principle applies here.
Communicating is no longer something to be sloughed off
onto an outside publicist. You have to do it yourself. People
tell me they don’t have time. My answer is, marketing is
important, you make time for it. It can’t be an afterthought.
You’re not working all the time. You do it on the edges
of your day, in the moments in between things. You can
certainly designate someone within your organization to
help, someone intimately involved with you and in what
happens at the restaurant on a daily basis. But the magic is
in your head. You need to be the communicator, an assistant
Journalists are still important, but not as important as
they used to be. It amazes me that chefs still put so much
weight on magazine and newspaper reviewers but dismiss
the blogger with a large and loyal readership that gobbles
up what they write. You have to embrace the world as it is
now, not mourn the loss of the world the way it was. Figure
out the new model and learn to operate effectively in it.
DOES THE QUALITY OF WHAT YOU
Yes. If you’re not a words person, get help. Learn the basics
of taking pictures, even if it’s only with the camera in your
phone. Commit to becoming a better communicator. The old
kind of publicist as spokesperson and appointment-maker
is no longer essential. But a good one can provide strategic
thinking and guide you in promoting yourself, your food and
your restaurant. That would be a worthwhile investment.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS ABOUT HOW
TO BUILD AN ONLINE PRESENCE?
There are many options. Everyone has to choose which forms
are the best fit, and then be active and regular in using them.
IS THE RESTAURANT WEBSITE
STILL PART OF THE EQUATION?
Websites are less significant than they used to be, because
they are, for the most part, static and not interactive.
But they have a real value for customers who are not yet
followers online. It’s a place where they can find the basics
about you and your restaurant. To be most effective, the
site should develop and evolve and new content should
be added often, for example, with a blog where you post
regularly. The real key is not to silo your information.
Everything should be linked.
Be rigorous about getting information out into the
marketplace, but remember that this is not advertising in
the conventional sense. Think of the social media world as
a huge cocktail party. There has to be a level of sincerity
and realness in how you represent yourself. This is not
You need an overall social media strategy so that everything
you do supports the concept behind your restaurant and your
cooking. For example, Paul Fehribach of Big Jones in Chicago,
which features dishes inspired by traditional Southern food,
reinforces his brand by blogging about his interest in heirloom
ingredients, old recipes and cookbooks.
ABOVE: On Restaurant Intelligence Agency’s Spoonfeed, chefs, restaurateurs,
sommeliers and mixologists create content and interact with media pros, the
dining public and each other.