Updated: Mar 10
By Andrew Parr
For the last two weekends in the evening, my wife and I snuggled up on our mid-century blue couch, under a warm, fuzzy blanket in our comfortable Denver home. I was tasked with selecting our restaurant delivery options as Jody scrolled the streaming services to determine what we would watch each night. You see, not only do we live in a COVID world, but we also live in an on-demand world. COVID didn’t create it, but it certainly accelerated the process of getting here and where we go beyond. We want what we want, when and where we want it. We do all of this with the ease and convenience that our Otter Box protected, 3” X 6” hand-held devices offer. The keys to the kingdom – anything we want, right within reach.
So, what did I scroll in order to find restaurant delivery options for dinner? Internet search engine, Yelp, Best of Lists? Nope, I scrolled Social Media. I went to Facebook and Instagram. With the ubiquity of food photos, something would surely spark my interest. But let’s step back a moment to the omnipresence of food photos in our universe. Everywhere you look there are pictures of food. Some far better than others. You would think the disastrous pics might be the product of home cooks, but the reality is that there are plenty of restaurants that put up photos which should be captioned, “Send That Back!!” The reality is that anyone and everyone is posting their sexy food shots; from restaurants posting their full menus to nouveau bakers posting their “150-year-old heritage sourdough starter” that they got 113 grams of from a friend of a friend.
It seems to me, though, that the places that have always done a great job of communicating in person tend to be the ones that are best able to carry that over to social media. After all, isn’t cultivating community on a restaurant’s social media page the present-day version of the table touch? Restaurants that are able to create a sense of time and place with their social media presence are the ones that draw me in. Think about old family photos. The ones that are the most memorable are not the close up shot of potato salad, but the one of my Aunt Suzi carrying the oversized bowl to the 4th of July table and Uncle Mickey sticking his finger in the bowl along the way. That is what creates the sense of time and place.
Personality comes from people, not from a perfect food pic. Tell me a story about the people who are making my food, who and what inspires you, and why you get out of bed every morning to do what you do. That is what is going to draw me in for more. Sure, I’m hungry right now for food, but telling me an ongoing story about your “why” is going to do far more to motivate me to order from you than a highly filtered photo of Buffalo Wings! We live in trying times, and transparency is achieved by communicating with community. Think about being in a restaurant (circa 2019) and your food is taking forever to arrive. Your server is nowhere to be found and it seems like even the busser is avoiding eye contact with you. This is the feeling when you “go dark” on social media or don’t share actual content. This is the restaurant’s opportunity to share with its customers what they are doing, how they are doing, and the very best ways for customers to interact with them. Every time the dial changes, we move up or down a level, or change colors there is a new uncertainty for the customer. You can be the beacon showing them the way. Restaurants can be the guides, holding the torch and leading our heroes out of the dark cave. There are plenty of avenues used to “sell.” On social media, just tell me a really good story.
Andrew Parr, Angry Olive Consulting's Founder, is a restaurant and hospitality industry leader with over 25 years of experience including consulting, project management, restaurant operations and talent acquisition. His education includes a BA in Psychology and History from the University of Wisconsin along with a JD from Hamline University School of Law.
Andrew was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, and currently resides in Denver with his wife Jody and their dog Cooper. Andrew is a Past President of the Board of Directors for the Scleroderma Foundation – Rocky Mountain Chapter.