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.
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.
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.”