My Five Favorite Restaurant Marketing Moments of 2012

These are smaller, more personal moments that I’m reflecting on, not the larger issues that confront man and nature and restaurants. These were times that I just felt kind of delighted this year, while pursuing the topic of Restaurant Marketing (worthy of capital letters? perhaps, on good days).

1. The Sonic Guys’ Return

Okay, I’m starting off with one where I’ve switched positions. Initially, I was unimpressed, and on reflection I have to admit it was the same snobby reaction rock nerds display when a band moves from an independent label to a major label and then the rock nerd snobbishly declares all their work for the major label to be no good. But Goodby Silverstein is a great agency, and they don’t mess stuff up usually, or at least they don’t mess it up for very long (I think “The Great Skeedaddle” might have been a mistake, but it’s over now and they did the best they could with what the bossy social media bullies probably forced them into doing).

Not my favorite. I know the guys are supposed to be unaware of their nerdiness, but …“Skeedaddle?” Hm.

So sitting on my couch I do love when these two skilled comedians get a chance to do their stuff for me in between boring car ads. This is exactly the kind of marketing that can deliver raw, straight product info (and actually get through a person’s basic resistance to being “sold” by advertising) by simply making me like the spokesguys. Also, these are so well-written and/or well-improvised, I think a Sonic target audience member watches just because they know in addition to the down-n-dirty sales message they’re going to get Actual Real Entertainment.

2. Watching Daym Drops say the 3rd “Damn” in this video (start at 5:03).

He’s so charming. He was even on Jimmy Fallon!

3. Accidentally inducing Moe’s Southwest Grill rep Lauren Barash into revealing her advantage over other restaurants.

At the NRA Show this year, I was in the audience of the segment where they discussed Mommy Bloggers, and one of the most charismatic people in the room was Lauren Barash, who is Director of Marketing for Moe’s Southwest. She was explaining how much success she’d had with Moe’s main chef’s willingness to engage with customers on social media, and how that had been a great advantage—customers really reacted positively to getting messages from and chatting with the actual “man responsible” for the great food (and it is great food).

During the Q & A, I couldn’t resist holding up my hand for the microphone. They passed it to me. I nicely asked, “…so, I think a lot of restaurants would love to have their head chef get involved, but I’ll bet most chefs see social media as something that puts too much of a demand on their time, or even wastes their time, and resist doing anything with it. How did you get Moe’s chef to engage so effectively…?” (I probably said it slightly more awkwardly and less lucidly, but I think my question contained most of those points.)

She smiled and laughed a little bit. “Well, he’s my husband…”

And there was a pause. Then we all chuckled, and she introduced him.

I guess it’s important not simply to have an advantage, but to recognize it, and then to act on it. So I mean to take nothing away from Ms. Barash or from Moe’s: it’s still a great social media achievement.

It was just kind of funny.

4. This sentence of The New York Times review of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square:

How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable?”

There’s a lot more where that came from, but that sentence is the one that stood out to me—I think because while I’m coping with the “canon”-ization, I arrive at the word “unlovable” and it forces me to confront a rather complicated idea about my relationship to nachos. Anyway, the whole review is bad fun to read, and Guy has recovered, and I will defend Pete Well the Reviewer’s right to be interesting, and they didn’t air this SNL skit of him but a lot of people watched it. And in the end, it has marketed this restaurant so well that now I even want to go see if I have the same experience Pete Wells did, when before I wouldn’t have given it a second thought or even have been aware of it, really.

5. This profane, amazingly insightful advice to Burger King.

This guy is just a minor internet character somewhat well-known in a corner of the comments section of a pop culture website. But man oh man, he should be on BK’s board of directors. As always, I must warn you: NSFW.

May I present to you, ZodiacMF. ::curtain pulls back, ZodiacMF immediately begins dropping F-bombs::