2018 Mid-America Restaurant Expo: On Branding via Competition

One of the first things I did was observe the pizza competition. It wasn’t the branding fiesta I expected. I think I expected more of a cable television show competition vibe. It wasn’t like that. There was roped-off area with long tables. There were camera people filming the action. Pizza chefs and representatives were chopping, spreading and shaping their pizzas. But there was none of the formality. It was more of a mosh pit. Team members talked amongst themselves and occasionally spoke with other teams. I wasn’t close enough to hear if there was any smack talk (would have to be, right?). A disembodied voice on a microphone did quick, brief interviews with participants, and occasionally called out the participants that could line up to use the cooking equipment.

I’m going to list my takeaways here in case you are planning to attend one of these in the future. Or, in case you are a spectator like myself and want to know what to expect. I like to start with the negative and then sweeten things up.

Marketing/ Branding cons…

  • The announcer was not allowed to say the names of the establishments as he interviewed participants for fair judging. But the participants mostly wore logo’d apparel anyway, though most logos were too small to see from the audience. So restaurants were prohibited from giving shout-outs. Fair, certainly, but less thrilling for spectators.
  • No list of competing items. Forget the restaurant names, for us audience members it would have been nice to see the innovative pizza recipes. The announcer was visiting to ask what was being made, but between the hubbub and confusion, I only heard a couple. One described a short rib and meatball combo. Another was doing a buffalo wing pizza. I couldn’t hear the others.
  • Couldn’t smell anything. Kudos to the excellent ventilation system. Non-kudos for not being able to smell pizza. I was slightly disappointed but let’s face it, a hundred different pizza smells in one place might not be so good, so maybe they were right on this one.

I’m not familiar with these types of competitions so my expectations were off. Far from being a spectator event, it wasn’t really designed for viewing and winners wouldn’t be announced until later in the day. I don’t imagine many other people who weren’t directly invested in the competition would come back later to find out who won.

Marketing/ Branding pros…

  • Bragging rights for winning restaurants to use in their marketing, photos, and likely a trophy or some other item to take home and show off on-premises.
  • Opportunity to turn participation into a story for media
  • Chance to try out new recipes on the judges — an unbiased focus group

I stayed for about forty minutes but then the floor opened up and I had to go. And though it was around 9:00am, I had watched enough preparation to be hungry for pizza. Turns out there was a lot of it on trays cut into tiny little squares at exhibit booths on the main floor. I was told that the Expo used to be primarily a pizza event. I partook but I’m watching my carbs so could not shove more in my face like I wanted. And without the smell of it in the air I did not feel temptation quite so strongly.

Don’t worry. I came across a booth giving away beef patties. I was all over that. Oh, and the wine. Yes, it was way before 5pm. Don’t judge.

Reflections from the 2018 Mid-America Restaurant Expo

Recently attended in Columbus, Ohio, January 28-29th and I was reminded 1) how much I love food, and 2) how fast marketing in the restaurant industry changes. I enjoy writing and branding so it was thrilling to me to visit as many marketing seminars as I could. And it’s even more thrilling for me to share just a little of the experience over my next few blogs. Stay tuned.

2018 Mid-America Restaurant Expo

Isn’t Service Service?

All Service Isn’t the Same

Just read this article about how hospitals should not be expected to function as hotels. I agree with the author. Both institutions serve but the industries are different.

It is an important distinction to make.

Service is a component of many industries. But they can’t simply operate in a similar fashion based on similarities. In the situation highlighted in that article it wouldn’t work. You can’t successfully flip the logic. You wouldn’t suggest a hotel behave like a hospital, despite the overlap in some functions. At the end of the day, the very purpose of the entity determines its comparable industry, not the many functions or services that support that purpose.

Sure, pattern your business after a successful model, but make sure it’s a model that makes sense.

Love or Money?

Money flower, creative writing for love or money
Photo by Evan-Amos

Love or Money?

In the writing world there’s long been a barrier between writing for money and creative writing for the love of the art. This pervasive notion that art shouldn’t be initiated with a monetary value in mind could be where the whole “starving artist” thing came from. Crazy notion because, as we know, there’s plenty money to be had for the sale, trade and distribution of the arts.

It’s not just the artists who suffered from this separation of art and money. Even today, take a look at the average business website. Perfectly fine and respectable sites are designed to inform potential customers of products and services. But let’s face it, most people are not interested or motivated by education, alone.

Today, smart businesses appreciate the influence of word art to entice, excite and persuade. And creative writers accept that it is not a betrayal to our artist souls to write with money in mind. We’re all in this together.