Marketing and Restaurants

[by Naveen]

After enjoying several excellent meals with my parents last weekend (The Friendly Toast, Garden at the Cellar, Highland Kitchen, and Toro) and thinking ahead to Restaurant Week, I've been pondering the situation from the restaurant's point of view. If you are a major corporation, like The Cheesecake Factory, a traditional media advertising campaign works well enough for drawing in many customers to enjoy good, but sometimes insipid food (according to Michael Ruhlman). However, smaller-scale endeavors need to pursue a different strategy, so I thought of some criteria that people follow when choosing a restaurant.
  • Reputation: Barbara Lynch (No. 9 Park, drink, et al.), Frank McClelland (Harvest, L'Espalier), and Todd English (Olives, and much more), have proven their contributions to the Boston restaurant scene in the minds of numerous critics and diners. I chose a dinner at Toro partly based on Ken Oringer's experience at Clio, which was apparently good enough for Ferran Adria.
  • Avoid the Middle: On the inexpensive side of the scale, homemade meals, potlucks, "happy hour" specials, and the like can be thoroughly satisfying. On the other side of the spectrum, an occasional meal at a fine dining establishment can fuel further gastronomic curiosity and exploration. Insipid mid-priced restaurants seem to me like an economic drain. This falls into Ramit Sethi's conscious spending philosophy.
  • Reviews in the weekly periodicals: These aren't necessarily the most insightful critiques, but everyone else reads them, so it's a good way to take the pulse of the city's culinary zeitgeist.
  • Recommendations from friends: This is the best way to find new venues, but it does require steadily increasing one's circle of acquaintances and seeking out people with similar tastes. For instance, now I wish that I went to Maynard James Kennan's wine bottle signing at Whole Foods earlier this year, since I probably would have met an interesting subset of the population that is a fan of TOOL and intrigued by wineries in the middle of the Arizona dessert.
Advertising good food, a random best of Boston award, or a standard three-course prix-fixe menu does little to convince me to make a visit. However, I'd love to hear about ideas for future dining expeditions or new tools for restaurant recommendations (e.g. similar to Netflix personalized recommendations).


  1. Regardubg new tools for recommendations, check out the 'tips' features on Foursquare (John will explain).

    http://www.thisisgoingtobebig.com/2009/07/why-yelp-should-support-foursquare.html is interesting and mostly relevant

  2. Hi Steven: thanks for the link. Foursquare does sound like a fundamentally new tool for making recommendations.