Restaurant Promotions-White Sale!

Chefs Playing in Snow Courtesy of Wall Street Journal

Chefs Playing in Snow near Polish restaurant Courtesy of Wall Street Journal

The worst, most depressing time to own a restaurant is right after the holidays when many among us can best be described as “stuffed.” We’ve eaten too much, drunk too liberally. The idea of going out to a restaurant is not hugely appealing.

So it’s ‘thinking’ time…

A restaurateur we know offered the equivalent of a white sale: everything white on the menu went on sale. This included New England clam chowder, potato soup, gnocchi, white fishes with white sauces, rice pudding, vanilla ice cream, etc. You get the idea.

Riskier was the promotion for a snowy day: the deal was for guests to make a reservation for a certain date. If it snowed on that day, everyone could eat free.  The joint was filled to capacity and No, it didn’t snow. (A quick check with the weather man revealed it (almost) never snowed on that specific day.)

Ho! Ho! Yo!!!





The Rainbow Room Lights (Almost) Out

The Rainbow Room at Night

The dazzling, venerable Rainbow Room has been in the news again, sadly…Former colleagues have wept to learn of its current demise.

Today, I remembered when I was working at The Rainbow Room, there were hardly any reservations for the big New Year’s Eve gala dinner one year. We were all terribly worried.

A full-page ad was designed for placement in The New York Times. It listed all the fabulous goodies the guests would be receiving–free champagne, gorgeous food, top flight entertainers, big bands, dancing, fantastic view of the fireworks on the East River and a lot of other impressive stuff that I’ve now forgotten.

CEO Joe Baum reached for the designers’ proposed advertisement.

Across the entire page he wrote:


“Run it,” he demanded.

We gasped.

“Wait,” he instructed. He left the room, leaving us to think that he had gone quite mad.

The moment the ad appeared in the paper, the phones rang non-stop.

Callers told the most incredible lies: “I am the chef’s mother,”  “I made my reservation six weeks ago,” “I’ve been coming to New Year’s Eve every year for 35 years…”

The reservations desk responded: “I’m so sorry…we’re sold out…but we can put you on a waiting list. It’s an additional $25 per person cost.”  (I might have made up that last bit.)

No problem!

The room filled immediately.

The lesson I learned was that Joe Baum knew to whom he was speaking.

In Manhattan, if a place is sold out, you’ve positively got to go there.

Brand Manager

Marcus Samuelsson, age 41, owns 6 restaurants, wrote 2 cookbooks and a memoir, appears (very) frequently on the TV, featured with full pages in the New York Times on Sunday…featured in Food Arts…employs 700 people…unintentionally leaves most of us in the dust?

When we think of Ben & Jerry we think of caring philanthropists who produce super ice cream. We think of Starbucks as earth-friendly folk who generously provide health benefits for their employees and make high priced coffee that is sold in a paper cup.

These images are creations of marketing experts who have specialized knowledge within specific fields.

A culinary brand manager understands the demographic profile of food television viewers, analyzes food trends, researches packaging innovations and coordinates the strategies of advertisers especially when it comes to “personalities” of the Anthony Bourdain genre.

Anthony Bourdain said, ” “Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night. Seeing two guys who’d just as soon cut each other’s throats in their off hours moving in unison with grace and ease can be as uplifting as any chemical stimulant or organized religion.” (His current net worth is estimated to be $6 million.)

How to Become a Brand Manager | › Job Search & Employment

A Rose by Any Other Name

A thirteen-year old boy is given the ultimate gift at his bar mitzvah. No. Not a check for a vast sum of money. No. Not the hottest new video game or electronic gadget. His uncle gave his nephew a complimentary visit to a whorehouse.

The lad’s heart was pounding with excitement as he followed the madam up the staircase. As she reached the top of the stairs, the madam looked back over her shoulder at the young boy, and remarked: “Sonny, enjoy the look. This is the best part.”


The makers of Heinz knew all about the thrill of anticipation. The company used Carly Simon’s song Anticipation in the late ’70s to associate the plop of the ketchup as the salutatory seduction to French fries.

Plop, plop; fizz fizz was another wildly successful advertising slogan from the same era.

Selecting the right letters and the right words can spell success or failure for many a business.

Cup cakes, Kit Kat chocolate bars, Captain Crunch and Coca-Cola carry a cheery, clickety-clackety, crispy, crunchy, crackle that we say we like. Their very names may go a long way to contributing to their popularity.

“H”  is a happy letter, though we have decided not to actually pronounce the letter “h” when it comes to the first letter in the word “honesty” because we have collectively agreed the concept of honesty is far too elusive.

“Happy” is a happy word. Happy Birthday is the most frequently used phrase in the English language, even more popular than the oft-repeated and totally meaningless “Have a nice day.”

Happy Meals are wildly popular and McDonald’s hopes to keep them so. During the first six months of 2010, McDonald’s spent $45.6 million to promote their happy meals to mostly happy little children, who are not required to eat their veggies or drink their milk or take their elbows off the table.

By definition: “Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.”

The ultimate objective of advertisers is to simulate this emotion by connecting an emotion, consciously or subconsciously, with a specific product, a food or, with any luck a chef and a restaurant.

We must all pay a lot of attention to buzz words in order to get noticed. This means not mentioning unmentionable words like fat, or calories but instead emphasizing ecstasy — an audacious concept or a variation on a time-tested Norman Rockwell fantasy family meal.

Russ & Daughters, NYC

Russ & Daughters, NYC

Families are strangely popular when it comes to naming foods like potato chips, microwave meals and pizza parlors. Uncles and Aunts were once popular but have become less so in these politically-correct times. Sons are good.

The iconic Russ & Daughters in New York has remained the all-time go-to place for classic deli foods. In-laws are mentioned only in jest.

Yum is a good word. YUMMY! Is even better. In this context, I am not referring to the giant food company that owns and operates Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and other insanely popular restaurants. Rather I’m thinking of YUMMY! as a specific reaction to being presented with one of Gotham Bar & Grill’s ethereal, architectural delights.

Yuck is the direct opposite of Yummy! It is a response to an appetizer described as “a gently liquefied tea soup, with tiny jasmine and eucalyptus flowers floating on it, like water lilies.” This sort of menu item produces a reaction similar to Anne Boleyn’s facial expression when King Henry VIII told her that her head will be chopped off…tomorrow.

The objective of branding is like yawning. Look at someone yawning and you want to yawn too. Look at the Gerber Baby and Smile. Give a restaurant a good name and folks will come running.

Phil Romano's Macaroni Grill

Phil Romano's Macaroni Grill

For a restaurant, everything begins with its name. To my mind, one of the cleverest’ is Phil Romano’s Macaroni Grill, described on its web site as “a casually elegant Italian restaurant serving handcrafted pastas, crave able entrees, and a diverse wine list.” Bingo! Every box is checked. And everyone loves both the words “macaroni” and “grill.”

Dunkin’ Donuts, even when incorrectly spelled reflects a worthy association with blue-collared everyone especially policemen and even those who don’t actually dunk their doughnuts in anything at all.

The Cellar in the Sky was an inspired name for an intimate restaurant that offered a wine and food pairing boutique Here it is described in the New York Times by the incomparable Ruth Reichl:

“There is never a wait. Your table belongs to you alone for the entire evening. The ambiance is lovely. Soft lights, dark wood, walls swathed in richly colored silk brocade. The tables are widely spaced, the sound level discrete. The service is so smooth and pleasant you have only to look up to bring a waiter instantly to your side. And the view from the top of New York’s tallest building is spectacular. To make matters even better, you need not waste time deciding what to eat. Everything has been taken care of, down to the wines you’ll be drinking with each of the six courses in your evening odyssey.”

This is penultimate pairing a restaurant name and its food and service philosophy.

A successful menu must include a few favorite foods that aim to bring guests back again and again. This naming/branding business involves a careful study of what makes folks truly happy. You may not be in a position to offer a single guest a pair of flannel pajamas, a comfy feet-up armchair and a movie, but there are plenty of other ways to persuade a receptive visitor to order exactly what the chef would like to cook.

When it comes to a corporate identity, what an inspiration it was to come up with the name Starbucks that can only anticipate will reap ever-bigger bucks. Or Celestial Seasonings: a pie-in-the sky dream of a Colorado hippie that generated ever-higher profits each time the company was bought and sold.

Jolly Green Giant continues to be a good association of ideas particularly at a time when being jolly is a distant emotion for too many in these painful economic times.

‘Green’ is the word hovering on every hidden persuader’s lips. We have been convinced it is imperative to “go green” in order to get in the pink.

Idly, we may wonder why the BlackBerry name was selected over StrawBerry or HuckleBerry when it came to naming a smart phone.


Food Job: Brand Manager

What do you think of when you think of Mario Batali? Pony tail, shorts, plump knees, orange crocs? What do you think of when you think of Donald Trump or Lady Gaga? Public faces (and private fortunes!) are created by brand managers.

In a way, we too create ourselves. We develop our own unique style that encompasses how we speak, how we wear our hair, how we dress, how we walk, what we read, which TV programs we watch and how we communicate our thoughts. We may behave differently in the company of close friends than when we are going for a job interview, but, essentially we are who we are.

The difference between us and “them” is “they” are supposed to stay in character all the time. We show a different face to our beloved than to the repair man, who failed to show up — again!

Brand Manager Job Description

A brand manager is a creative professional, who develops a public image for a person, product or an entire company with the objective of  increasing his, her or its revenues.

For example, we think of Ben & Jerry as great philanthropists who produce super ice cream. We think of Starbucks as earth-friendly folk who generously provide health benefits for their employees and make high priced coffee that is sold in a paper cup.

These images are creations of marketing experts who have specialized knowledge within specific fields.

A culinary brand manager understands the demographic profile of food television viewers, analyzes food trends, researches packaging innovations and coordinates the strategies of advertisers and marketers. A brand manager can manage to create a new TV program for a “failed” or obscure chef or a movie deal for a blogger.

The brand manager invents novel or traditional products to be endorsed or manufactured by a food celebrity and distributed to consumers, who are eager to buy.

The goal of a culinary personality brand manager is to create a unique, instantly recognizable, endearing personality, who is inclined to repeat words like “Bam!,” “EVOO!” and “Y’ALL” to further the ultimate objective which is to make heaps of money for the “brand,” whether or not the brand is Emeril (Lagasse), Rachael (Ray) or y’all.

Characteristics of Brand Managers

Common traits of brand managers include: being results oriented and highly creative innovators, who possess strong interpersonal, communication and analytical skills, and entrepreneurial leanings. (Source:

Average salary is $76,100 though CNN places this figure at $90.000 or even higher for a senior executive.

Education/Experience Requirements: A Bachelor’s degree and 4 years of field experience. (For culinary brand managers, it helps to have culinary training but it isn’t crucial.)

Sample interview questions for an applicant to this field include:

1.    Describe a time when you went above and beyond for a customer.

2.    What would you do to maximize the brand image in this region?

3.    A new competitor is entering the market. How do you protect your market share?

4.    Tell me about a brand that does not compete in your current category that is not doing performing well and why?

5.    Walk me through your resume – tell me why you’re qualified.

6.    Give me an example in which you have led a team successfully to accomplish a task

7.    Why should we hire you as opposed to someone else?

8.    In trying to market a product, how do you differentiate one brand of product to another.

9.    Do you have a culinary degree? (Source HR Management)

Getting Started

Check out The Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin as well as the Top 10 Brand Management Blogs for getting started and gaining insights.

Food Job: Specialty Store Owner

I read three online food news briefs every day: NASFT (National Association of Specialty Food Trade), NRN (Nation’s Restaurant News) and FNJ (Food News Journal). I like to know what’s going on.

I just read this communication from Specialty Food News: NASFT DOWNERS GROVE, Ill., Aug. 18:

Lemon Tree Grocer will host a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, August 20th at 3:00 p.m. to celebrate its grand opening.  Lemon Tree Grocer officially opened for business on August 13, 2010.  Located at 5101 Mochel Drive, the new neighborhood “food emporium” features a full service sandwich and salad bar, fresh, flown-in seafood, one of the last “journeyman” butcher counters, hand-made sushi and a full menu of chef – prepared meals. Lemon Tree also features an extensive artisan cheese selection and a barista serving coffee and espresso. The produce is an assortment of locally grown goods along with exotic, international offerings.

This is what is called in the U.K. “bloody marvelous” press writing.

Talk about punching every hot button. The company creates an event complete with ribbon cutting. (The release didn’t mention the idea of inviting Snookie or any other big shot celeb. Pity it is the only touch that remained untouched.)

Lemon Tree is a great name for a food emporium.

Emporium is a good word, so is “neighborhood.”

Sandwiches are really hot. Sandwich Consumer Report tells us that 96% of polled consumers bought a sandwich in the last week. I can only guess full service sandwiches are extra, extra good.

Salad Bar. There’s nothing like a nice salad to put a little pep in your step.

Seafood. “Flown in.” Flying fish! And Fresh to boot. Fresh is a reassuring word. (I’m always puzzled by customers who ask: “Is the fish fresh?”)

Butcher. Butchers are the new hotties in the food world. Wegman’s, Whole Foods and other food emporia like to display naked meat. Customers leap to the conclusion there is a real, life butcher hovering with cleaver ready and eager to respond to questions. I don’t know about the word “journeyman.” Does this mean he’s wearing a straw hat and a bow tie?

Sushi. Everyone’s favorite food. And hand-made. Wow! No robots here churning out sushi and sashimi by the thousands of pieces. By the way, have you noticed we don’t eat the food of unfriendly nations? We’d never have touched sushi right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. No caviar from Iran either. The government has banned it.

Chef-prepared meals. A telegenic iron man or woman chef we hope.

The rousing chorus of extensive artisan cheese selection and a barista serving coffee and espresso, locally grown goods along with exotic, international offerings produces such a buzz of literary exultation, we can only imagine excited crowds are already beating a path to The Lemon Tree with open hearts and willing wallets.

This is the way to write a press release for sure.