Hospitality

The friendly and generous reception of guests, visitors, or strangers.

You know hospitality. You pay attention to details. You study your customers’ needs and tendencies—anticipating what they want next. It’s second nature, part of who you are.

For you, customer service is an offensive strategy. Which is exactly what marketing is being called today. That’s right: marketing experts are learning about hospitality.

They’re learning from us.

Because remembering a guest’s dietary restrictions, getting on the phone to talk through a recipe from the cookbook, pulling that espresso like you’re Angelo Moriondo’s long lost relative—that’s how you build and keep customers. Not just in the hospitality industry, everywhere.When it comes to marketing, you already know what the experts are just starting to figure out.
So when it comes to marketing, don’t copy them. Just bring what you already do—all day, every day online. I’ll show you the way.

 

 

Hospitality

The friendly and generous reception of guests, visitors, or strangers.

You know hospitality. You pay attention to details. You study your customers’ needs and tendencies—anticipating what they want next. It’s second nature, part of who you are.

For you, customer service is an offensive strategy. Which is exactly what marketing is being called today. That’s right: marketing experts are learning about hospitality.

They’re learning from us.

Because remembering a guest’s dietary restrictions, getting on the phone to talk through a recipe from the cookbook, pulling that espresso like you’re Angelo Moriondo’s long lost relative—that’s how you build and keep customers. Not just in the hospitality industry, everywhere.When it comes to marketing, you already know what the experts are just starting to figure out.
So when it comes to marketing, don’t copy them. Just bring what you already do—all day, every day online. I’ll show you the way.

 

 

Could Be Good, Could Be Bad; Don’t Know

Everything I needed to know about life I learned in the last seven years.

Not in kindergarten, so goes the saying — but later, much later, and after many college degrees, while I was knee deep in trying to reinvent my job and my life.

And it all boils down to this: could be good, could be bad; don’t know.

Morsel’s Launch

This week, Morsel announced it’s launch to the tech press and garnered a number of amazing stories written in the tech/business sector.

My favorite was the Sun-Times story that demonstrated why Sandra Guy has been helming the business news for so long: She caught on that Morsel is a platform for everyone interested in food and trumpeted that fact. I loved she did because, as a J School grad, I saw that it demonstrated the kind of journalism you expect journalists to deliver — thoroughly researched.

But the best of the bunch is probably the GigaOm story, written by a reporter who spent a lot of time with my cofounder, Kris, on the phone; downloaded and used the app; and was even gonna morsel some cooking action himself, until he ordered a pizza for dinner instead.

There’s something amazingly satisfying about a tech writer investigating your app and loving it to the point of wanting to use it himself. I can’t imagine how many apps he researches in his job; he liked ours. It’s not a guarantee of future success, we’ve got tons of work ahead, but it’s definitely a signal that we’re on the right track.

Then Eater wrote a story. The lone story from the food community.

From what we can tell, the writer didn’t download the app or read the press release and we’re certain they didn’t talk to Kris. It seems they read two stories and decided that counted as source material, even though they had a question (what our content creation process is) that needed answering (it’s our awesome storyboards).

I’m not gonna lie. I was devastated. This is my community, my people. And it wasn’t as though they tried the app and legitimately deemed it a piece of junk. They just, generally, hated.

It was unexplainable. 

So, I went there: Maybe it was because they hated me?

From Terror to Panic

After a few phone calls trying to make sense of it all. I decided to go soak in the whirlpool, my sanctuary. I took the El to the health club because I didn’t want to risk riding the scooter when I was that upset. I was that upset.

And then, right there in the locker room, I had a full blown panic attack.

I’ve been dealing with what I can only describe as “terror episodes” for a while now. I had my first in Italy last Spring. They’ve been increasing in frequency of late. My terror episodes, basically, are an intense feeling of being at the moment before an excruciatingly painful death. It’s pretty horrible, actually. I can’t let it impact my job so I manage it by brute forcing my brain to overcome the irrationality of it all. (Note to many: see, I brute force myself, too, not just you!)

But this time, that terror came with a heaving dose of physical symptoms that my brain seemed unable to rationalize away. I made it to the quiet room in the ladies’ locker room and laid down in the dark spooning a gigantic stack of gym towels to serve as a facsimile of my beloved dog, Chloe.

And I waited out the storm.

This could only be bad. It couldn’t be good. I felt I knew.

The Unicorn Effect

Kris Petersen, my cofounder, is an extraordinary man someone needs to figure out how to clone because all men should be Kris.

No, honestly. He’s that awesome.

OK, fine, since no one is perfect I’ll offer that maybe sometimes he talks too much. But it’s just when he’s in this terrifically earnest Boy Scout-y mode. You end up forgiving him because his you notice his gigantic heart more than the talking. 

But other than that, and even sometimes because of that, he is mind-bendingly amazing. While somehow still being just a regular ol’ backwards baseball cap-wearing dude.

His take on the Eater story was that it didn’t matter to the company because they weren’t actually even commenting on the app.

It’s a really good point.

The piece really just reveals one writer’s idea of maybe what could concluded about the app from reading other short articles — and apparently not even the GigaOm story. The stories they read were by tech writers for, basically, an audience of tech experts and tech funders. A tech person can read them and see futures — generally their perspective is driven by a growth mindset. It’s why they are in tech — in tech you have to be able to see futures so you can build for them.

If your perspective is fixed, you look at something and see what you see. It’s not bad or good to be growth or fixed; it’s just the different ways people think. The Eater writer is apparently of a fixed mindset. She read what she read and decided that was all it could be. She didn’t see futures. Or even, really, what is there now, since she apparently didn’t look. I don’t know what they call the mindset that doesn’t see either futures or now.

Kris insisted that because Eater hadn’t even seen the app yet, we still had an opportunity with them.

Honestly. He’s that earnest.

And honestly, he’s right.

It could be good. It wasn’t necessarily bad. This we decided we knew.

Staying Focused

But I was still roiling around in a raging sea of disappointment. Most disappointing of all was that the Eater writer seemed incredulous that Paul Kahan is on our site. 

The writer apparently doesn’t know what Paul and I do — Paul doesn’t do anything he doesn’t believe in his heart. If you consider him famous, it is probably mostly because of his steadfast authenticity in all things. You can’t buy him and you can’t coerce him. Believe me, for ten years my job was “try and coerce Paul into doing things.” It never worked. Even though I excel at coercing.

Which is why I went home and cried with joy and relief after he said he was interested in Morsel and would try it. (And he keeps on trying it and getting me into his restaurants for them to try it. The day the Eater article came out, he had asked us to help Dove’s on Morsel so they could “get the word out.” We’re doing it next week, so stay tuned cause Dove’s is my absolute favorite of all One Off properties. I can’t explain why, it just works.)

It’s a particular triumph for me because it had been really hard for me to get up the courage to present our product to him. I dragged my feet for an awfully long time. Kris was a bit frustrated, I think. But I stalled a lot because I knew I needed Paul to believe in Morsel. Everyone expects that if I am involved, he should be involved. If he isn’t, whether he’s an early adopter of tech or not, it’s perceived as a Big Red Flag.

And what I knew is that he wouldn’t just because it was me.

This isn’t to say that Paul isn’t super kind. He just values his values in a way the world would be better off if everyone else did too. His values don’t get ignored to be nice or to do a favor for his ex-publicist. 

I once had to throw a national TV crew out of his restaurant because what they were doing didn’t feel honest to him. It was the first (potential) national TV exposure for him — and he is so protective of his values there are still, to date, only a few times you can see him on national TV because national TV is most often not very authentic. 

It killed me inside because at the time, national TV was a huge feather in a publicist’s cap. And I had none — outside of whatever was out there for Michael Jordan restaurants that I didn’t feel counted.

But even though I wanted it for me, I couldn’t blame him for throwing out the TV crew because he was right. And that was probably the moment when I learned a great lesson in why Paul is extraordinary. And it showed me how I could help other chefs be extraordinary.

Which is what I’ve tried to focus on as I’ve lain in bed not sleeping the last few nights — even more than I usually don’t sleep.

What we are trying to do is help chefs share their extraordinariness. They can’t do that with food porn posted to social media. They can’t do it by selling their soul on a vacuous TV show. They can’t do it just by hoping everyone discovers what they are doing by happenstance.

They can only do it by having their story told, honestly and completely.

It’s what I learned doing press for Paul all those years, and it is what I see working when I look around today and notice which chefs are simultaneously famous and respected.

It used to be that journalists told their stories for them. But these days, there’s a lot more chefs and a lot fewer journalists. Simply — there’s no longer enough journalism to cover all the amazing culinary and mixology and sommelier talent out there. So there has to be another avenue. This is what Morsel is. 

That *has* to be good. It can’t be bad. I really need to know that.

Imagine the Possibilities

Eater has done an amazing job moving from promising upstart to legitimate, unignorable media concern in the food industry. They’ve amassed an amazing roster of trained, professional journalists who care about being journalists.

Kris is absolutely right that once one of these journalisty writers realizes what was published, they’ll immediately notice that it doesn’t actually conform to the standards of journalism, and because they’re journalists with integrity, they will likely want to cover the story as journalists and not just food writers fishing for a link bait.

In fact, there’s even the possibility that it might result in a writer spending more time and care researching our company in order to compensate for the lapse. If they do that and still deem us a ridiculous endeavor, we’ll have the responsibility to face the reality of that criticism head on. That’s OK! We crave good feedback because it’s how we built better technology. 

Or, just as likely, the controversy of the story might have brought Morsel to the attention of another writer at another outlet more consistently rigorous in their editorial guidelines.

Which isn’t to bash Eater. They’ve just relaunched and I for one know how ridiculously tumultuous a launch can be. That they are even showing up for work and typing any copy right now is cause for applause.

But it is to say that this whole episode could result in a more thoughtful story — possibly one in a publication that reaches more than just chefs but awesome home cooks as well!

That would definitely be good. It is most assuredly not bad. We’re pretty confident we know that.

Of This, I Am Sure

I love my company. I love the incredibly quirky, intensely smart and eminently thoughtful people I work with: The guys doing development; the gals helping on-boarding chefs look good.

They are the most extraordinary collection of brainpower with whom I’ve ever been associated. And honestly, I’ve worked with Ardis Krainik, Michael Jordan, David Hockney, Greg Hall. Yeah, I’m throwin’ him in there, he totally ranks in that group. (Plus, he brought me leftover treats yesterday from Baker Miller to make me feel better. Jordan didn’t show up. He didn’t even call!)

I love that I have a whole army of incredibly smart people building something inherently good for an industry that fed me so well for so many years. I love we are building something that can actually help my chefs and their restaurants — and will even help the farmers and suppliers who support them. Double Triple Whoop! Whoop!

It’s not another tech product that drains restaurants of money they really can’t afford to spend. It’s not another tech product sold as a great promotional tool but really just builds a monetizable audience for the tech company while not really doing anything that actually helps the restaurant move ahead. 

It’s actually a net asset for the industry.

And as a former restaurant publicist, that I can be at ground zero for building something that is a net asset for the industry is a seriously amazing thing.

The job of a restaurant publicist is not writing stories that help restaurants. It’s not making the food that is written about. It’s passing information between the writer and the chef. Some people do it very well and Bravo! to them because it is a crushingly hard job to do. But at it’s core, it’s never actually contributing something meaningful to the community.

(Though a lot of PR folks do a lot of charity work that generally goes unnoticed and unappreciated.)

It is why the article hit me so hard: because I thought that it meant what I was doing didn’t even matter after all and I thought that it meant that I let my investors and my team down. That I had let Kris down.

It’s the kind of thinking that happens when you’re hanging off the edge of a cliff every day, doing work that makes you extremely uncomfortable even if you are incredibly good at it, and under the pressure to deliver some incredible magic to investors who put their faith in you.

A lot of startup founders struggle. A lot of small business owners struggle, too. Startup founders have all the struggle the small business owners have and the added pressure of having to deliver X times multiples to their investors.

With startups, there are usually millions and millions and sometimes billions of dollars of potential revenue at stake. As well as the worry of meeting next week’s payroll.

That’s why, though our lead funders first suggested I should be the CEO, I handed it over to Kris.

Kris, aside from being a unicorn, has already been a startup founder. He’s exited twice. He’s lived the struggle. So the challenges, while constant, are not new. And his DNA renders him emotionally even, all the time. He’s able to keep the boat on a steady course while a perfect storm rages around.

I knew that wasn’t my strength.

And I knew the right decision wasn’t to cover that up and rise to the challenge. I knew that the right decision was to choose the best person to run the company and then get the hell out of his (or her) way so he could do it.

I may have a lot of faults, founder’s syndrome is not one of them. Introversion is. 

If you find that a curious statement because I appear so “out there,” you’re missing what introversion means: it means that being around people drains me.

And in my job right now, the more I am around people, the better we do.

All that being around people drains me. And all I see in the future is being around more people.

Which is why I am experiencing terror episodes.

I’m around people all day, every day, and all night, as many nights as I can manage. I’m mindful of being rested and staying healthy so I don’t hit a wall of exhaustion so deep that can I only describe it as having a brain made of cotton balls. But the fact that I know what that kind of exhaustion feels like is testimony to the fact that sometimes I put off resting and move the company forward instead.

I do it because right now, today, we are at the moment I’ve been charging toward: The moment when the product is so beautiful and intuitive that I can proudly bring it to any chef and feel awesome about it AND the moment when Kris and I have such a clear vision of the opportunity that ways to leverage the product to get there pop up every day.

That’s right. Despite what any writer says, because no writer has actually asked, we’ve hit that point where we’ve got a ridiculous number of opportunities opening up, and a great leader in Kris, guided by great mentors like Matt Maloney and Kevin Willer, to sort through them all and decide on the best next step.

It’s easy to think that even a non-researched article is really bad. And not at all good. It’s easy to think you know. But really, as you can see, if you focus on what’s really going on, you absolutely don’t.

This Closer, If You’ve Gotten This Far

Which brings me back to the lesson. 

I am overtired and exhausted from constantly eating. I am an introvert in a extrovert’s job so I am also emotionally drained every damn day I come home.

But I get up the next day ready to get back to it because I feel I have a mission in life. A mission I’ve pursued relentlessly in one form or another for a rather long time. 

Some people have kids. Other people have charitable endeavors. I want to help chefs market themselves in a manner infused with integrity and thoughtfulness. I have this job.

One writer, careless in action and limited in thinking, doesn’t change that. Shouldn’t change that. Even if it knocked me out of commission for a few days. Life missions are more immutable than that. 

And, really, I don’t know what will come next.

Will chefs watch what our amazing, high-profile chef users are doing and totally get it? Or will they believe an Eater article that seems a little strangely vindictive? Will our product, which is showing the definite first signs of adoption, continue to success because we build good features and UX? Or will it fail because of one person with a fixed perspective and apparently limited curiosity? Did I let my team down because only one food writer wrote about us so far? Or are there many in the wings watching/thinking before they write — because that’s what journalists do? 

No one ever knows what comes next. No matter how sure they are. So the best thing to do is to carry on with a warrior spirit because anything can happen in life if you choose to live it determinedly — don’t let a bunch of outcome-guessing dictate your happiness or commitment to a vision.

Which is to say: could be good, could be bad; don’t know.