5 Marketing Lessons I Have Learned from my Favorite Restaurant Industry Podcasts

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Over the past few years, there is one routine I have adopted during the week to unwind after a day of work. It often involves taking my dog Layla for her evening walk and then cooking dinner while listening to a podcast. (This will likely change come August when I have my first child). Because I consult on B2B marketing all day, I find that podcasts that appeal to me during this time are ones that are about cooking or the restaurant industry. I often find myself flipping around through some of my favorite podcasts which include The Bon Appetite Foodcast, The Dave Chang Show, Hugh Acheson Stirs the Pot, Starving for Attention with Richard Blais, and Radio Cherry Bombe.

All of these podcasts I listen to in no way talk about B2B tech marketing, and at many points, I have felt the pressure to start including some industry-relevant podcasts to the mix so I can keep myself more informed on the industry I work in.

However, I started to realize that despite being about a totally different field, these podcasts have taught me valuable lessons that I have brought to my own business and clients. There are many parallels I have been able to make between how a restaurant is run to how a marketing team is run and I feel like I am often learning valuable lessons because they offer a fresh perspective that isn’t normally being talked about in our industry.

So, I thought I would share some of these lessons I have learned!

Lesson 1:

Staffing can be harder than the work

Restaurants find one of their biggest challenges isn’t the cooking, but actually finding and keeping the staff they need to run the kitchen. There is a huge shortage of cooks in cities, mainly due to the low pay and high cost of living, and Chef de Cuisines that are talented are in such high demand, they won’t stay in a role long if the restaurant doesn’t meet all of their standards. Staffing for marketing operations and demand gen is also just as hard and recently turnover is at an all time high.

What Marketers Can Take Away from This

One big lesson here we can take is to outsource labor where you can. For example, a prominent chef once shared that when he can’t find enough lower level cooks, he doesn’t bring in a whole animal to be butchered, and just orders it already done. Yes, it might sound better to do it in-house, but the cost of labor doesn’t net out and you can just get the experts to do it. For marketers, if you outsource areas to experts (like CS2) they can be a consistent resource that will stay with you overtime. Also, because hiring is hard, focus on building a culture based on learning and growth. Employees are more likely to stay in an organization if they feel like they are continually learning. Chef/owners like Rene Redzepi from Noma have created incubators where he pushes his staff to create new dishes and at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters has been famous for allowing her staff to work on any station they feel like they want to, and explore better ways of cooking a dish (within reason).

Lesson 2:

Process and efficiency is the key to success

One of the biggest parallels I have drawn from the restaurant industry to B2B marketing is one between running a kitchen and running marketing operations. Both are expected to execute perfect end results under stress and with a million priorities to balance. The thing that keeps both of these teams afloat is efficient processes. Well-run kitchens have a timeline, each station has a prep list for the day that is approved by the head chef, and when it comes down to service, the head chef expediting is giving communication to his team on what to do but also relying on their communication back to let him know they heard the request and to give direction when something is going wrong or might need to be slowed down, so all dishes delivered to each table are perfect but also delivered at the right time.

What Marketers Can Take Away from This

Chefs who are constantly looking for ways to make these processes more efficient will always thrive and reduce the chance of errors, which can be costly in their world of small margins. Marketing operations leaders should do the same by always analyzing their process methodology and if it is allowing their team to be the most effective.

Lesson 3:

It’s important to develop a unique point of view

Many chefs that are praised for their work have spent decades honing their craft, but all of them have one thing in common: a unique point of view that they express in their food. You hear it constantly in the food world and this concept has recently become “mainstream” as viewers watch Top Chef hosts constantly ask contestants. “What is your point of view?” Famous chefs like Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Massimo Bottura from Osteria Francescana are famous because they have created exceptional restaurants that have a unique story and consistent vision behind them. Diners who flock there know what to expect, but also know they can’t find that same food or experience anywhere else.

What Marketers Can Take Away from This

It is just as important for marketers to develop their own point of view. It’s very easy to get caught up in what other marketers are doing and just follow suit but does that even work for your organization? Better yet, does the strategy even excite you? Put your own stamp on your marketing and you’d be surprised how better received it is.

Lesson 4:

There is always more to be learned and improved

Cooking is a craft that has unbounded limits. There are so many different techniques and cultures to be explored that even if someone was cooking all day long, they still wouldn’t even scratch the surface on every dish or technique that can be done. One podcast host and chef I have learned the most lessons from is Dave Chang. Although he can come off a bit intense, he is not afraid to explore any topic and uses his obsession with history, theology, and psychology as a backbone for drawing lessons that can be applied to the restaurant business, but also any business as he himself has even admitted. One philosophy that Dave mentions a lot on his podcast is the Japanese methodology of Kaizen which is the constant quest for improvement. In Kaizen, Japanese don’t see the goal of perfection, but rather think that although improvements can be miniscule, there is always room for them.

What Marketers Can Take Away from This

Marketing techniques overtime can become stale, and market trends are constantly moving, so marketers should also be constantly learning and looking for ways to improve their marketing. An example of this recently is the effectiveness of email marketing. Prospects get so much email now, that relying on email alone to create demand is not enough. Try engaging your prospects through new channels like direct mail or just make improvements to your email strategy by including video.

Lesson 5:

Things may need to get “worse,” so they can be better

One lesson that is a bit harder to get your head around, but really resonated with me from The Dave Chang show episode with the founders of Joe Beef. They said because restaurants have gotten so good with access to a better product, or chefs creating thought-provoking and labor-intensive dishes to show off skill, restaurants can barely make a profit because diners aren’t willing to increase how much they pay for food at the same rate their expectations have increased. Because of this, they think restaurants will have to start trimming down their menus to not have to overwork their staff.

What Marketers Can Take Away from This

In marketing, it feels like sometimes we also need to really look at our strategy and figure out if we can actually simplify our marketing but make it more effective. This means maybe running fewer campaigns and implementing fewer tools that are a time suck and focusing efforts on the tactics and technology that will provide the most value and impact.

Being able to draw lessons from other areas of work or life that are interesting to us should be celebrated! We might be missing out on some valuable lessons if we stick to our little bubble. Do you have any surprising places you have found inspiration or lessons to apply to marketing? Let me know!


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