Want a Food Writing Job? Try Restaurant Marketing

Oct 302012
 

My workshop earlier this month at Ba Ba Reeba in Chicago. (Photo by Anjali Pinto)

Work comes to me in the wackiest ways, and I’m grateful for all of it. Most recently, I donated a copy of Will Write for Food and an hour of consulting time to a fundraiser at Purple Asparagus in Chicago. The winner was Jasmine Huffman, marketing manager of Lettuce Entertain You (LEY), a group of 85 nationwide restaurants with corporate offices in Chicago.

Instead of taking the hour for herself, Jasmine hired me to come teach about food writing in a three-hour workshop. Class met at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, a hot Chicago restaurant I have tried to get into and failed. We talked about food writing on Twitter and Facebook, how to connect with customers, and for our first exercise, we shot cell phone photos of food.

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Discussing cropping with VP Sue Chernoff (Photo by Anjali Pinto)

Yes, as part of my varied career, I studied photography in journalism school and was once a newspaper photographer. It was fun to run around and help people with their snaps of the buffet. I concentrated on quick fixes: getting in close, cropping out distracting backgrounds, and eliminating shadows. Even so, only three people tweeted their photos immediately. It’s hard!

Later I realized I’ve never interviewed people about marketing work on this blog. So I phoned Jasmine to find out more.

Me and Jasmine Huffman, marketing manager for Lettuce Entertain You. (Photo by Ryan Myers)

As marketing manager, Jasmine’s job includes writing about restaurant food through social media, global marketing, direct mail and advertising.

“We’re always involved in some kind of food writing,” says Jasmine. There’s announcing an event, such as a cooking series at a restaurant or a restaurant opening. This includes writing a press release, creating a promotional flyer, working on emails to customers with the restaurant staff, and writing announcements for Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, people at LEY:

  • Write web copy that describes the restaurant, the menus, and profiles the chef
  • Write press releases and work with the media, pitching stories and responding to requests for information
  • Come up with direct mail to customers and promotional postcards for the restaurants
  • Write ad copy for print and online ads
  • Create marketing collateral such as for a brochure, a gift card program, or a frequent dining program
  • Post on social media representing the restaurant, announcing specials, and reaching out to customers and media.

The employees who do this work are called marketing coordinator, social media coordinator, public relations manager, or web or PR assistant. These jobs are not necessarily entry level, as food writing goes on at all levels. As you might imagine, web skills are critical, such as the ability to use social media, email, and knowledge of the web. The managers of the stores do some of the work too. Particularly, they are in charge of writing the menus.

Jasmine advises that writers looking for work like this should use social media to build relationships with restaurants. “If you’re eating at the restaurant, that would create an opportunity as well,” she says. “Be resourceful, persistent, and follow up. Have a die-hard atititude, because these jobs are sought after and popular.”

She recalled that she was persistent as a job applicant, interviewing seven times at LEY. Previously Jasmine had worked for a restaurant and catering company, a PR agency, a non-profit and a government job. “I didn’t have a clear path to the hospitality industry. But the thread that connected everything, for me, was writing.”

A parting shot: My iPhone photo of muffins from the buffet.

  13 Responses to “Want a Food Writing Job? Try Restaurant Marketing”

  1. What a cool experience for LEY – to have you come and give them such a nice one-on-one (or many in their case) lesson.
    I am sure there are plenty of large food corporations in the US that can offer excellent jobs to those of us interested in food writing.
    I feel like I need to come up with a new way of saying ‘Thanks for sharing this information Dianne – so generous of you’ … but .. it is what it is, right?
    M’f3na

    • Perhaps not so many of those large corps. where you live, Mona? Still, restaurants need marketing, but when you’re a reviewer, that’s not an option.

      Thanks. It’s my pleasure to write these posts. Hearing from people like you make it worthwhile.

  2. [...] reading here: Want a Food Writing Job? Try Restaurant Marketing var addthis_config = [...]

  3. Enjoyed your post, Dianne, I am going to share with one of the hospitality management classes I teach.

  4. Hi Dianne,

    One of the things, there are many, I love so much about your blog, is the variety of topics you present.

    I feel like having a “slap-myself-in-the-forehead” moment with this topic. Okay, I just did.

    I worked twenty-three years in the food/hospitality industry and lately have been so focused learning my craft, building a platfom, keeping up with technology, and, in addition, writing for myself, it hadn’t occurred to me there might be an opportunity right inside me.

    The bigggest thing here, for me, is learning the specific job position descriptions. That goes a long way.

    Thanks as always,

    • Wow Maureen! Thank you so much. I can see by the comments that this topic didn’t resonate for most, but yours made my day.

      It’s true that we are busy with blogs and writing and sometimes we don’t realize that there are opportunities. Of course, if you’re a restaurant reviewer, this isn’t the right job but for everyone else, why not? And if you have a background in hospitality, it does seem like a no-brainer. Go get ‘em.

  5. Glad you included your muffin pic! So many hidden talents. Hope you find more ways to sneak your photos into your posts. It’s cool to see that side of your brain too.

    • Thanks Anna. It was really fun to work on photos with the group. If it made you want to take a bite, I’ve done my job.

  6. Dianne,

    It is awesome that you are able to call on your varied skills to provide income for yourself and educate others.

    I too have used my solid communication background and used my writing and photography skills to hone in on the F&B industry. It is indeed a lucrative field and well worth the effort to develop those relationships. When F&B outlets are marketed by people who do not understand and appreciate food, you can tell the difference. It’s the same thing with food photography. Whatever you are marketing, you have to believe it, and when you do, others will as well.

    You are right on the money on the importance of social media in the new restaurant marketer’s arsenal and when done well, it fosters engagement with clients well beyond the hour or so they spend dining and provide invaluable insight as well.

    • Sounds like you have the perfect background for this type of job. I hope you are wrong about the effectiveness of people who are not food-obsessed. I say that for my own selfish reasons, as I have edited publications where I had very limited interest in the topic. I’d like to think I did a good job!

      • Dianne,

        I did not write “food-obsessed.” I wrote “understand and appreciate food.” I don’ t believe one has to have a fiendish preoccupation with food to either understand or appreciate it. I was taught in school, “a good communicator can communicate anything.” I was a weather reporter and I had no obsession with weather. Those who are obsessed with weather become meteorologists :) So, yes, I am sure you did a fabulous job! You wrote a book that I revere, gift to others and promote at every opportunity and it’s about food writing!

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