Top chefs, restaurateurs talk marketing in Aspen

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The discussed newspapers, Twitter, and technological priorities

This is part of NRN's special coverage of the 2012 Food & Wine Classic held in Aspen, Colo., June 15-17. Follow all of our coverage at NRN's 'Aspen Food & Wine Classic' section.

Below are key takeaways from the first panel of the American Express Trade Program: “Tech Talk: Marketing to Today’s Diner,” featuring Washington, D.C.-based chef-restaurateur José Andrés of the Think Food Group; Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago; Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York; and Bernardo Hernandez, director of product management of Zagat, now owned by Google.

On the importance of newspapers:

“It’s still important to be mentioned in local newspapers, but what matters more is that people from whom your customers get their news — such as their Facebook friends and who they follow on Twitter — mention you,” Meyer said.

Andrés said small neighborhood newspapers can be crucial sources for customers.

Bayless said: “It’s important to be in the newspapers, partly because if you’re ignored by the local newspapers there’s this group of people who won’t know what you’re doing,” namely those not involved in social media.

However, Bayless said he gets a lot more comments if he’s mentioned on Eater.com than if he’s mentioned in a newspaper.

On Twitter (which they named their key social media outlet):

Twitter’s immediacy has a lot of power, the restaurateurs said, allowing them to respond to customer feedback in real time.

“It’s a wonderful way to take down the walls of the restaurant and do what you’d do if you were tableside, in a broader sense,” Meyer said. He added, however, “High tech ain’t never going to trump high-touch.”

Bayless said expressing his personality on Twitter enhances his customers’ experiences by making them feel more connected to the restaurant.

On technological priorities:

Hernandez noted that last year, for the first time, more mobile devices were shipped than desktop PCs and laptops. While restaurants remain focused on their websites, he indicated that they should focus more on their mobile presence.

This article also appears on NRN's sister site Restaurant-Hospitality.com.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary