Are Chefs Keeping Up With Social Media?

October 14, 2014

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In a recent post, my colleague Dan Barber wrote, “Food is social … and so is food communications.” After a recent meeting with corporate chefs from around the country, I can confidently confirm the industry is watching the food-centric conversation taking place in social media. My read the game is changing rapidly and the players are struggling to keep up.

On Thursday, October 2, the FleishmanHillard Kansas City team hosted more than a dozen members of the International Corporate Chefs Association (ICCA) for a quick ‘breakfast and learn’ session. These chefs and restaurant suppliers, from brands like Maggiano’s Italian restaurants, Frank’s RedHot, French’s Mustard and Marie Callender’s, were in Kansas City as part of a culinary immersion tour ICCA conducts twice each year. The group picks a city and samples the popular restaurants and hottest food products in town – further proof KC is a top trending food city.

Our goal for the breakfast was to showcase FH’s food and nutrition communications chops by talking about trends in social media and digital, especially the use of online influencers as foodservice
brand advocates.

During the insightful 45-minute conversation, three key insights emerged:

  1. These chefs have a long to-do list. But that does not mean they are not interested in being connected. Chefs want to know what people are talking about in social circles, and they want the information in real-time. Our breakfast club was looking for concise answers to questions such as ‘Should I use Twitter,’ ‘What do you think of LinkedIn?’, ‘How can I use technology to safely engage staff all over the country?’
  2. Chefs are constantly on the lookout for the next best thing in food, and they are finding inspiration online. But with so many digital choices and so little time, they are having trouble knowing where to focus to find the influencers that matter.
  3. Chefs want and are gaining a louder voice at the cross-functional table, especially as it relates to food marketing. These culinary connoisseurs are ready to do whatever it takes to get the passion they put into their food to resonate throughout the organization and into brand conversations in the social media sphere.

To help push this agenda, we gave attendees 5 Things They Can Do Today, or actually when they return to their kitchens:

  1. Choose a social platform, and spend one week listening. Watch the keywords. Watch the criticism.
  2. Introduce the concept of a culinary culture at your next cross-functional team meeting. Start the conversation about what the concept might mean function by function.
  3. Review current social listening protocols and identify gaps.
  4. If a social media feedback loop doesn’t exist within the organizations, partner with training and IT teammates to create one. Be prepared to help market the loop.
  5. Challenge the operations teams to commit to listen on the brand’s behalf for one day, on one topic and report back what they learned.

Are you a culinary professional or foodservice marketer looking to better connect with the social media data that is out there? Give our team a call. Together, we can cook up a plan.