Social media has had a huge impact on Grosse Pointe Yacht Club’s F&B operation since Executive Chef Colby Newman came on board and started posting pictures of his food.
With only 650 followers on Instagram, I’m far from “instafamous.” But creating an account several years ago where I post only pictures of my food has had many benefits.
Grosse Pointe Yacht Club has its own social media accounts as well as a closed group for members. In addition to those, many of our members also follow my account. In fact, I’ve recently been told by some members who don’t normally come in to dine that they have been coming more frequently because of the photos I post there. It’s also encouraging those who dine with us regularly to come back and try new things.
With social media’s influence on everyone’s busy lifestyles, our members seem to be more drawn to things that they can quickly look at. You can make anything sound good by writing it on a menu, but giving our members a visual presentation and letting them see the execution seems to have a much larger impact. It piques their interest.
With my schedule, it can be difficult to even find the time to post something during the day, which is why I try to post several times a week once I get home. I don’t always have the opportunity to immediately post what that evening’s special will be, but posting anything at all shows members what we’re up to in the kitchen, whether it’s pictures of something being prepped, a dish from a recent wine dinner or a new menu item.
I’m obviously not a celebrity chef who has someone running my account or even helping me get my other tasks done. So, like I said, I’m not constantly posting things throughout the day. My day is non-stop, so I have to remind myself as we sit down to dinner at 10:30pm that I should probably get something posted. I don’t feel the need to inform everyone about every hour of my day, and I’m quite certain that if I did, members would probably wonder if I’m focusing on my work. But it’s important for me to stay on top of it as often as I can because it’s an easy reminder to both members and non-members of what we’re doing at our club.
Social media is free advertising; it would be crazy not to take advantage of it. It helps get my name out there as a chef, but also promote our club and helps us gain new members. If it weren’t for me posting photos of my seafood dishes a few years ago, I would have never been asked to be interviewed for a Chef to Chef article about sustainable seafood. Which then led to me being asked to become one of Chef to Chef’s bloggers. And those blog posts led to the board of GPYC seeing a different side of me as a chef and a factor in hiring me. No, I’m not famous, but social media has had an impact on my career as a club chef.
I love looking through cookbooks, but social media is another large source of inspiration for me. You can follow almost any chef, restaurant, or club and see what new ideas or concepts others are coming up with. And who knows, maybe some of my posts might actually be an inspiration to others as well. Ten years ago, the only people seeing my food would be the people sitting right in front of it, definitely not a well-known chef scrolling through their Instagram feed. But once again, through the power of social media and hashtags, I’ve had chefs I would dream to cook for actually notice my photos and take the time to like or comment on them. No, they’re probably not going to ask me to open a restaurant with them, but sometimes it’s that small amount of encouragement you might need from someone you’ve never met and look up to that can help you realize that maybe you are doing something right.
But with the many positives of social media also come the negatives. People are much quicker to share their opinions or criticize something as they hide behind a screen, trying to persuade others that they too will have the same horrible experience they think they had. You can read reviews on anything – restaurants, products, businesses – and you will see both amazing and horrible reviews for the exact same thing. Everyone has their opinion, and what is good for one person might not be for the next. It just goes to show you that you can’t please everyone.
Things are going to go wrong, but in a field where consistency is crucial, even when things in the kitchen aren’t going as planned, every member needs to have the same dining experience every time they come in. So, when you put every ounce of energy and passion into your work, seeing anything negative online immediately trumps all the positive remarks you might get 99% of the time. It’s one thing to hear criticism face to face, but it’s a heartbreaking feeling when you see something negative on social media that could easily change the opinions of others before you even have the chance to get to them first. We’re all guilty of it in some way. My wife won’t even purchase anything without checking the rating or reading almost every review first. But when there’s a wide range of reviews, she tries to form her own opinion knowing there are people out there with impossible standards, and also people with no standards at all. So, when it comes to restaurants especially, I try to give every place the benefit of the doubt. I know what goes on in a kitchen. I know that service isn’t always going to go smoothly. I have an understanding that it’s not everyone’s intention to make your dining experience less than perfect. However, I certainly wouldn’t feel the need to blast it all over social media if it was a subpar experience, because I know how it can mess with your head no matter how much confidence you have.
Social media has its pros and cons. But overall, it’s allowing potential members to see what we have to offer on a daily basis, as well as getting our current members to dine with us more than they normally would. Whether it’s posting photos myself, or members sharing their dining experience on their own platforms and using a club hashtag, it’s getting people in our doors and our name out there.