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Culinary Marketing

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


Food is the New Golf???

There was a really great article in the Wall Street Journal last week discussing how some real estate companies are turning to food festivals as an outlet to prospect customers and sell properties.  

“Food and Wine is the new Golf”, a broker in the article was quoted. 

The article continues on about how real estate companies are using food festivals, dinners parties, celebrity chefs and other epicurean events to tap into more affluent, cosmopolitan and community based audiences. 

As a culinary marketing agency, we talk about how food connected audiences (think foodie 2.0) are an important target for brands on a daily basis, but to see it so clearly written in the WSJ is an important step in the evolution of the culinary marketing industry. 

More often than not its assumed our agency works primarily with food and drinks brands.  While we certainly do our fair share of partnerships in those categories, the non-endemic brands are now becoming a bulk of our business and where the growth will come.  Traditional brand categories such as auto, financial services, insurance, wireless, technology, travel/tourism and hotels are utilizing elevated food & drink experiences as a hospitality platform AND building comprehensive strategies to speak to this highly coveted consumer. 

While I love the quote “Food & Wine is the New Golf”, I believe the influence, reach and power of culinary marketing has the potential to be far stronger than golf ever can be on its own.  #everyoneeats

Lonny Sweet


To show off their product, Google Translate, Google partnered with 18 chefs, each representing a distinct global cuisine, to open a Pop-Up restaurant in New York City. This is another beautiful example of how food, which is something everyone all over the world appreciates, can be partnered with technology to create a really interesting experience:



Culinary Virtual Reality??

Thought this was an interesting article yesterday in the NY Times (, about Virtual Reality and its future as part of the media and entertainment mix.  I recently received a pair of VR goggles (thanks Samsung) and have tried several of the apps, all with amazement and apprehension at the same time. The full immersion capabilities are ridiculous and, depending on the quality of the video, it really does feel like you are inside the experience.  The applications this could have, from E-Learning, visiting colleges, building kitchens/restaurants, seeing venues, going to concerts and everything in between, makes it hard to argue this won’t forever change our world at some point.  That said, the introverted nature of VR has tremendous risk for our next generations and if we aren’t careful, the art of conversation, shaking a hand and looking someone in the eye, will be lost forever.   

From a food & drink perspective, this gets a bit more complicated.  As the article highlights, when you have VR goggles on, you lose the ability to use your hands and obviously can’t eat virtual food, which is an essential part of the food & drink experience.  VR will  be an incredible tool for meeting planners to see venues, consumers to be immersed into certain food based TV shows (imagine Anthony Bourdain travel show in VR!), transparency in the food process (see where your food was grown/made) and some education content, but I will be very curious to see how the technology evolves to a place where people can use their hands while being immersed in the content as well (despite articles below).  Until then, keep your hands safe from cuts, the houses intact (don’t burn them down) and keep the VR goggles off when in the kitchen.

Here are a few more good articles to check out. - this is crazy!