To watch the Food Network, you risk being seduced by hunger. There are foods prepared in every program that make you want to devour the television. Food is a subject that everyone can agree on, albeit on different levels. Personally, food brings me to a comforting place where I am flooded by memories of discovery, family, and celebration. Food might be a better connector than any social network ever.
Why do you think first dates usually occur over dinner?
One of my favorite shows on The Food Network is Restaurant: Impossible. Chef Robert Irvine goes into a failing restaurant and tries to reboot their strategy, culture, and cuisine in two days. It’s a very tall task. A huge reason why I watch the show is to witness the transformation of the owners and staff. Irvine has the uncanny ability to get a felt sense of the restaurant and understand what is most needed to put the establishment back in the black. His show holds a very real resemblance of what it’s like building a Social Business.
Irvine tries to get into the role of the customer by sitting down for a meal in each venue. There, he is able to see what the customers are concerned about and how the chef/restauranteur in him would address the situation. He interviews staff, goes through the kitchen, overlooks the decor, and finally has a peak at the finances. In every episode, there always seems to be issues with each of these details. Social Businesses need to be thorough in order to better understand how digital communications can best serve the organization.
Once Chef Irvine has gone through the whole restaurant, he alerts the owners and employees of the issues he sees. Many times the staff is aware of what is wrong but may not be empowered to, or taken the time to fix these concerns. The chef explains why these issues are holding back their business and how his methods will ultimately be a long-term cure. Being straight lets them know that they are valued and that the commitment is to their future and present successes.
For me, the brand issues are my favorite subplot in any R:I episode. Many times these establishments have tried to be too many things for too many people. The menus are bloated and filled with dishes that aren’t reaching their prime. Chef Irvine simplifies the offerings by introducing fresh, vibrant ingredients that are easy to prepare and cook. By streamlining the servings, the restaurant can feed more guests leading to greater profits. When a business has a great product, it needs to be heard by their target audience. There is nothing worse than a hungry customer waiting for the right meal- a Social Business will bring a delicious dish to the right table.
If a restaurant is having issues with getting people in the door, there is a disconnect between venue and community. Chef Irvine makes it clear to owners that in order to change and thrive they must connect with the people in their neighborhood. He brings them out to public places with samples of the restaurant’s new menu, allowing the potential guests a taste of what they’ll get if they return. In the same vein, Social Businesses make sure to be in touch with their community, whether they really are right down the street or across the country. Local has never been more important in today’s social world.
During this entire process, Chef Irvine has his design team devoting all their time and $10,000 to renovating the dining room, signage, and exterior of the restaurants. This is meant to bring the venues up to par with modern decor and color, making the guests and staff feel comfortable in their surroundings. Creative, together with strategy, is the recipe for success.
A Change in Culture
By the end of Restaurant:Impossible there have been many changes, physically and philosophically. For my money, the biggest change is when Chef Irvine instills a new culture (and doesn’t give his blessing until he feels this shift) in the restaurant. There are talking heads of the owners, cooks, and servers, all talking about how this is the start of something great. It wasn’t a easy process, but it was necessary to move forward.
Isn’t it wonderful when there are happy endings for real people? Do you want the same kind of transformational shift in the way your business operates?
This post was authored by Jon Steiert, Storyteller & Social Media Swiss Army Knife for True Voice Media.