Listen Up World, Chefs & Restaurant Owners actually DO know what the internet is...
Featuring Scott Youkilis, Bay Area Blogger of the week # 58
Scott Youkilis is the blog-writing technology-savvy chef/owner of Maverick restaurant in San Francisco's Mission district which I visited last Monday night with a bunch of girlfriends. One of them Catherine, had been charged with finding a venue for our meetup and after a successful first visit to Scott's American style eatery & wine bar a day earlier asked us if we would agree to Maverick being the location for our celebration. Once we heard that all wine is 40% off on Monday evenings, we could hardly resist, could we?
But a funny thing happened when she called to make the reservation, only a day or two after she had first dined there. "Aha, Catherine", they said, "we remember you, we just read your blog entry". Her Maverick post had been on the web for less than 24 hours and the restaurant already knew about it. I was surprised. It takes a couple of days for the google bots to add new entries to the search engines and Catherine didn't link directly to the restaurant in her blog, so they couldn't have found her blog through visitor referrals. When she asked how they found the post, they replied that their PR company had called to let them know. This is something I hadn't considered before. Restaurants employ public relations people, and these people clearly do have blogs on their radar.
This led me to question further a blog post written recently by The San Francisco Chronicle's food critic, Michael Bauer in which he pre-announced he would be visiting Vetri, an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia he had been hearing a lot of buzz about. Personally, I wouldn't dream of making my upcoming dining intentions known to the outside world via this blog, because I would be worried that the restaurant might find out. I prefer to dine anonymously and according to Bauer he does too:
"Q: Do you announce when you're coming to a restaurant?
A: No. I never use my name when booking a reservation, and I have credit cards in other names." Michael Bauer
I can only imagine, then, that Bauer doesn't fully understand how the internet works. His blog undoubtedly will have sent hundreds of its readers to the Vitri website and if they are savvy or employ a savvy PR company, they could easily have deduced that a well-read food critic was heading their way and prepared accordingly.
One of the commentors on Bauer's blog post, johng, poo-pooed the idea that restauranteurs might have any kind of technical savvy:
"I've designed websites for several restaurants, SB, and obviously there are many levels of users, but the all chefs and restaurateurs I know can barely turn their computers on without help, so I'd be pretty shocked to find them pouring through their website stats looking for incoming traffic." and "yeah, I read a couple chef blogs but even those guys are hideously busy -- too busy to bother with web metrics."
Prepare to be shocked, johng, restaurants, particularly new ones, do check web metrics. Chefs and restaurant owners deserve more credit. This lowly blog, hardly moving in the same wide circles as Bauer has, after writing restaurant reviews, garnered quick responses from several restauranteurs: the owner of Dosa, Anjan Mitra, The Chef of Range, Phil West included. I have a friend who owns several restaurants in San Francisco who would perhaps unfairly be dismissed as one of those people who "can barely turn their computers on without help", but this didn't stop him from working out how to leave a comment on my blog the other day. I could cite you dozens more examples of how I can prove that restauranteurs do know what is being said about them on the internet but I hope I have already proved my point.
Times are changing, chefs are cottoning on to the power of the internet and their presence online will only become more and more prolific as time goes on.
Maverick's Scott Youkilis and other chefs like Brett Emerson who will be opening a restaurant called Olallie in Noe Valley next year and
Having a blog makes the relationship between the chef and the customer so much more personal and I think it is something that customers could really warm to. Unless they behave like arseholes, chefs are not going to make enemies from sharing a bit of themselves on the net. At the end of our really fun meal at Maverick last Monday, I turned to our server and asked if the Chef I could see working in the kitchen was Scott. "I read his blog", I said. He called over to Scott and said "They read your blog". Scott looked up from his work surprised perhaps, but with a big beam on his face. "Did you read it yesterday", he said excitedly "I just updated it". I told him I had a blog too, and so did she, she, she and she. It felt different then. It almost like I'd been for dinner at a friend's rather than just a.n.other restaurant.
PS Watch Scott Youkilis show you how to make a great stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey.
PPS - Don't forget today is the start of the week-long photograph everything you eat challenge. Will you be taking part too?