Eatery Pulse News is a new online, all-digital video news network for restaurateurs in the D.C. area. The network will cover cutting-edge news topics, best practices and hyper-local D.C.-area trends comprising technology, including mobile and IoRT, culinary trends and insights, marketing & social media, operations, and new concept design. The project is headed by Rick Zambrano, who is a trend analyst, entrepreneur and management consultant for foodservice operators and small businesses in the DMV (D.C.-Md.-Va.) market. The network will include a news show, digital magazine and a career and networking platform, and cover local news, insights, industry analysis and best practices after its news anchors are selected through a competition on social media. In this edition of MRM Talking With:, Modern Restaurant Management magazine learns more about Eatery Pulse from Zambrano.
Please explain your background in the food/restaurant industry.
I have 15 years in food-related businesses. I started out in fast casual in a corporate office environment, working in Finance and Accounting. Later, I would have the opportunity to work with IT, marketing and senior executives as I took on roles in business analysis, food cost analysis, retail projects and interfacing with general managers and assistant managers. It was at that point that it was evident that I was destined to be a catalyst in driving processes and resources to business leaders that increase their access to information, analysis and insights. I’ve also had experiences in research, content marketing and publishing.
What is the origin of Eatery Pulse?
Eatery Pulse Magazine is a publication that was distributed door-to-door in the Boston area, and would later be available on the Android, iTunes and Windows 8 Marketplaces in “app” format. This news-specific brand has been brought back to help support restaurateurs in a very local way in the D.C. area. These culinary innovators and business owners are a no frills group. They want information delivered straight to them in a way that informs and inspires them to continue their hard work making the Metro-D.C. area.
Why did you choose the name Eatery Pulse and what does it mean to you?
To me, “pulse” means something quick and bright—enlightening and in bursts. I would like to see trade information be delivered in that way. Foodservice professionals, especially, work long hours and have very little time for long reads. I would like to inform people in less than 10 minutes per week. That’s my goal. That’s what “pulse” means.
Who is the target audience?
We are targeting independent restaurateurs in the area. We are forging relationships and collaborations with key influencers, trade groups and restaurateurs in the area to get the word out. There is a multi-front effort in terms of marketing and visibility.
Why do you feel Eatery Pulse is a needed addition at this time?
Restaurant ownership and management is a very challenging proposition. Business owners need information they can digest quickly and make it useful for their own establishments. As an analyst—as a “nerd” perhaps—I scan and read tons of articles that relate to the food industry. Most restaurant and foodservice leaders are very busy and don’t have that kind of time and digest bits of information and may have a short attention span. Eatery Pulse News is for them. Concise information filled with energy and vibrancy. And it’s localized so that the news is highly relevant to them. Furthermore, our work with Gen Y and Gen Z actors is one of the ways we are differentiating the publishing and video production platforms.
Why do you feel taking a collaborative approach is an opportune way to go?
Eatery Pulse News requires resources and information and articles. There is a mutual benefit to those collaborators who want to help with valuable insights and information. There are also influencers who want to help us grow this venture in Metro-D.C. I see consultants, vendors, partner publishers, research experts and other influential area restaurant leaders having a place at “this table.”
Why are you emphasizing video with Eatery Pulse?
Video is that vibrant way to get information out and to engage an audience. That’s one of the biggest reason we’re working with our partner Hbf Enterprise. In addition to the shows we produce, we also have a turkey production team, including filming, editing, props and actors to help other foodservice companies. The partnership with Hbf is key to making video work for all our viewers and customers.
Why are you doing a news anchor competition and what has the response been?
This contest has allowed us to select some of the best representatives possible for our new, trade news network. The response has been a good one. It’s been a short competition. Again, professionals can have a very short attention span so the competition was meant to run for a short time, just a bit over one month and for the winners to be ambassadors in the local foodservice community. We see the Eatery Pulse News Network anchors doing outreach events, attending local trade shows and reporting on important events, including the RAMMYs, which is a restaurant industry awards recognition event here in D.C.
In what ways are you raising awareness?
We have been using social media and starting to share the crowdfunding campaign with our business associates. We have some collaboration with local vendors here in the area and are increasing our involvement with trade groups. There are a few marketing events scheduled for this month, and in addition to that, we’ll be holding our own educational events with the dual function of carrying out our mission and making people aware of our news, insights and future events. Our outreach to local restaurant-facing advertisers will also be helpful as they have their own audiences and want to further engage them with video.
How do you envision Eatery Pulse expanding?
I see it growing along the East Coast. There is a master plan, but it is a stealth plan and it requires some very committed partners and investors. I have the relationships and credibility to make it happen. What is needed are additional partners that share our vision and also our mission to inform and inspire today’s restaurateurs and the restaurant owners of tomorrow. I also see an Eatery Pulse News audio/podcast component soon.
What is distinctive about the D.C. restaurant market?
The D.C. scene is coming into its own. It has been put on the map by major food magazines. Bon Appetit named it the “Restaurant City of the Year.” D.C. is now included in the prestigious Michelin Guide. The area has many culinary innovators, who are starting concepts of all segments, including fast casual. If I started a list of top chefs or restaurateurs, I wouldn’t be able to finish. My take is that the D.C. area is a mix of a lot of food, with many different global influences. There isn’t a “D.C.” plate that you can name, per say. It used to be a steakhouse town and now It is a big melting pot. Restaurateurs are driving the culinary innovation through entrepreneurial spirit and business savviness, but people here still respect the dives, long-time diners and eateries that serve up their beloved ethnic dishes.
What are some challenges you see facing the restaurant industry, both for independent restaurants and franchises?
The maturing Gen Y and Gen Z consumer bases are certainly going to keep restaurateurs on their toes. There is a lot of expectation of convenience from younger consumers, more so than ever before. They are growing up in a world of food-on-demand. Restaurateurs have to learn this new language in serving the culture of convenience. Additionally, technology is a big expectation—how restaurateurs use tech to increase not only convenience but to streamline their busy operations.
Restaurant ownership and management is a very challenging proposition. Business owners need information they can digest quickly and make it useful for their own establishments.
Another challenge is knowing who you are and what you are. Who is your actual competitor? Restaurateurs outside of the fast-food segment were never meant to play the “utility food” game. They have a built-in advantage of being able to bring the “experience” to the diner. Restaurants are a business of “occasions” not of “hunger.” Many restaurant businesses miss out on a ton of opportunities because they are looking the wrong way, not embracing catering, private dining, parties, prepaid dinners, tasting events, etc. Restaurateurs are wise to understand their own brand and explore all the high-margin opportunities in their markets.
For franchisors, an overemphasis on segments and categorization is not helpful. Be fluid and open-minded about the concepts and service-styles you are bringing to the diner. With fast-casual, digital-casual and polished-digital casual dining concepts out there, remember that segment blurring is here, and now it the time to think outside those lines, particularly as more virtual restaurants arrive These businesses focus on getting food to customers before they can even think about going out for dinner to your establishments. Make the proposition of going out for dinner exciting again, deliver it at a reasonable price point.