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Celebrity Chef endorsements

To phone, or not to phone, that is the mealtime question...

To phone, or not to phone, that is the mealtime question...

A week or so ago a friend of mine sent me a video of Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker, discussing “The Millennial Question” (worth the time to watch). While Mr. Sinek brings up more than a handful of insightful, interesting, as well as disturbing points during the interview, I wanted to focus on one that directly impacts the culinary marketing business- mealtime. 

During the interview, Mr. Sinek talks about how living in a social media focused world impacts our ability to create deep, and meaningful relationships. He points out that dopamine is actually released into the body when we receive a text or a like during social media interactions; the same dopamine levels as when an alcoholic drinks or a gambler gambles.  This sudden chemical release is the root cause of physical addiction, which is why as a culture we are becoming more and more dependent on cellphones and social media.

How does this relate to the culinary world one might ask? Well, here is a question for you- If you go out to dinner, have a coffee with someone, or share some time at a table with family or friends, is your phone on the table? Do you take your phone out to look at texts or emails during a meal, instead of just being in the moment and actually enjoying your company? More than likely, if you are being honest with yourself, you answered yes (I know I did, but i'm working on changing my habits). Cellphones are changing mealtimes from a social experience to a social media one, which to Mr. Sinek’s point has a negative effect on relationships.

This has not gone without notice in the restaurant world, a few establishments have actually taken it upon themselves to try and shift behaviors, by offering guests incentives to put their phones away and focus on reconnecting with the people they are with. Most recently, Chick-fil-A created a Family Challenge, offering families free dessert if they put their phones in a cell phone “coop” for their entire meal.  Kudo’s to Chick-Fil-A for taking a proactive stance on this issue and actually coming up with a great incentive to keep people off their phones during mealtime.

So the question is, if we know we are a culture addicted to technology, what do we do and how does this change the way we, as marketers, look at mealtime?  How can brands play a role in helping to bring people and families back together over the dinner table? Will there be new apps/technology that help to do this (yes, I know that’s somewhat counter intuitive)? Or will we see more restaurants using incentives as a tactic?

Whatever the solution may be, mealtime is where relationships are built, memories are formed and lessons are learned, so please make the effort to put the phone down and enjoy the company you are with!

- Lonny Sweet, CEO

A Chef, an Athlete and a fan walked into a room...

One of the things I love about working with Chefs which differentiates from my past experience representing sports personalities (athletes, coaches and broadcasters), is the way fans interact with my clients when they meet them.  When I used to be out and about or at an autograph signing in my sports days, the conversations athletes had with fans, typically went something like this:

Fan:  Oh my god, “insert athlete name here”, I can’t believe it’s actually you.  I am a huge fan, love the “insert team name here” and have been a fan my whole life.
Athlete: Thank you, it’s great to meet you.
Fan: If you don't mind, can I get a picture with you? My brother will be so jealous.
Athlete: Sure, no problem
Fan: Thank you so much – take picture/sign autograph – Really appreciate it, good luck the rest of the season.

Most of the time, fans are always super jazzed, but they don’t have real conversations with the athletes because, while people may aspire to be an athlete, 99.9% of the time, it’s simply not attainable.  This disconnect from reality leaves little common ground to have a real conversation.

Conversely, working with Celebrity Chefs, here is what a typical interaction may look like (if they are not meeting at the restaurant):

Fan: Oh my god, Chef, I can’t believe it’s actually you.  I am a huge fan and just recently ate at your restaurant, the halibut dish was AMAZING.
Chef: Thank you so much, really appreciate it.  It's great to meet you, glad you liked the halibut.   That's one of my favorite dishes on the menu.
Fan: Do you mind if we get a picture and have you sign your cookbook?  We have been cooking from this book for a while, it’s got some great recipes in it.  The stuffed chicken is our favorite one, our kids love it and we have actually gotten them into the kitchen helping us out. They love it because they feel like little chefs.
Chef: That’s the way I started, my parents would get me involved in the kitchen whenever they could and I fell in love with it from there. The parfait is great for kids as well, you should check it out.
Fan: Yeah, we love that one too, but to be honest, we have a really hard time getting it to come out the right way.
Chef: One little trick I left out of the cookbook is to leave it in the fridge to set an extra hour, try that, it should help. And regardless, just have fun with it, that’s the most important ingredient.
Fan: Awesome, thank you so much and really appreciate the picture, my brother is going to be so jealous.

Depending on who the Chef is, often times the fan is just as jazzed to see the Chef, as they are the athlete.  The main difference though is, while being an award-winning chef is still very aspirational, because cooking is something people do every day and they can try to cook the chef's own recipes, its feels attainable. That subtle difference of feeling like you can make a dish by your favorite TV chef, allows the fan to feel like they have more in common with the chef and therefore, a deeper connection and more topics to talk about.