A well-cooked meal is something that's been prized through the ages. The public's hunger for food can be seen through an explosion of cookbooks, reality competition shows and foodie blogs. More than ever before, food is so hot it sizzles (and simmers… and marinates… yum!).
Now, some of the hospitality industry's top chefs are putting down the frying pans and picking up their smartphones and laptops to stir up our mouthwatering social media addiction, but are they sating it as well?
In this uber-digital age, the reasons why chefs are taking to social media are as varied as their delectable cuisine. Some do it to personally connect while others do it to inform. Some do it to drive business while others use it to respond to customer complaints like they've never had a chance to before.
Rising sustainable seafood chef Rick Moonen, best known for his appearances on Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, runs rm seafood at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and tweets under @RickMoonen. Posts to his more than 3,300 followers are clearly his own. Personal, light-hearted and sometimes filled with the fire of a passionate environmentalist, they offer a refreshing snapshot of Rick Moonen, the man and the chef. (And, that's literally. Chef Moonen posts photos frequently.) Chef Moonen takes time to respond almost daily to messages from fans.
Conversely, the official Twitter page of Chef Wolfgang Puck - whose acclaimed restaurants can be found in some of the nation's most high-profile hotels - keeps things strictly business with its more than 5,400 followers. The largely impersonal tweets of @WolfgangBuzz leave the social aspect of Twitter behind and focus more on imparting information regarding specials, media coverage and more. When follower responses are posted, it's typically by rote with "hope to see you soon" and "glad you enjoyed" being standard refrains.
The Montage Beverly Hills used its Twitter account, located at @MontageBH, to whip up attention and business for their superstar executive pastry chef Richard Ruskell. They awarded a lucky follower with a two-night stay and a private pastry lesson from Chef Ruskell himself while picking up followers along the way with the tried-and-true marketing tool of a good old-fashioned giveaway.
Still other chefs use social media to dish out responses to complaints, or to air their own. In a New York Times article entitled "If You Can't Take the Heat, Don't Read Me On Twitter" writer Julia Moskin detailed "how chefs are now going online to confront customers, bloggers, critics, rivals and sometimes even their bosses."
The choice to use social media to promote any person, business or brand is a smart one, but needs to be done with forethought, creativity and care. Chefs who take to Twitter, Facebook or Yelp (or any of the other seemingly endless social media platforms out there) should remember these three key ingredients for a recipe for success - engage, respond and be real. Quite simply, be accessible and yourself and fans and business will follow.