FDMS: Where Food Meets Social

The First Annual Foodservice Digital Marketing Summit, which took place in Phoenix at the Talking Stick Resort last week, included speakers from some of social and digital media’s most forward-thinking brands. (We’re looking at you, Taco Bell.) Also in the speaker line-up were reps from Firehouse Subs, White Castle, Smashburger, The Walt Disney Company, Red Mango, and several other notables. (You can view the full schedule, along with speakers, here.)

What We Learned

Unlike Vegas, what happens at FDMS does not stay at FDMS - it is a social conference, after all. In case you missed it, here’s a breakdown of some key highlights from a few the panels:

Pictured: Tressie Lieberman, Director of Digital & Social Marketing at Taco Bell | Foodable WebTV Network

Pictured: Tressie Lieberman, Director of Digital & Social Marketing at Taco Bell | Foodable WebTV Network

Taco Bell Wants To Be Your Friend (Sometimes). Tressie Lieberman, Taco Bell’s Director of Digital & Social Marketing, said the Live Mas brand takes a different approach to digital and social strategy by bridging the gap between being a brand and being a friend. Taco Bell’s reach-out to customers via Snapchat, a strategy led by Lieberman, is a great example of this. “Disruptive can be a good thing if you do it right,” she said. However, Lieberman and her co-panelists Kim Kelly-Bartley (VP of Marketing and Menu Development for White Castle) and Doug Reifschneider (VP of Marketing for Firehouse Subs) all agreed that it’s not about being everywhere, on every platform - it’s about being where it makes most sense for your customers.

Smashburger Stresses the Importance of Local. Stacy Lange, EVP of Communications for Smashburger, gave us tons of insight into how the burger concept has developed into a community-focused brand. For starters, each Smashburger location boasts a menu that reflect its local flavors. For example (caution: hunger alert), their L.A. Burger includes crispy wonton, fried egg, cilantro, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and Japanese steakhouse ginger dressing on a black and white sesame seed bun. Don’t think it can get any better? Smash’s local strategy also branches into craft beers

Aside from the food, Smashburger stays on-point with their local communities. When recent floods hit Colorado, where their main headquarters are based, the brand took charge with a “smashmobile,” providing burgers for locals.

L-R: Allen Fazio, Ashley Fazio, Zack Basile | Foodable WebTV Network

L-R: Allen Fazio, Ashley Fazio, Zack Basile | Foodable WebTV Network

Millennials Give Interesting Insight About What They Look For in a Restaurant. In our Afternoon Keynote session, a Digital Generations panel, we got an insider look from two college-aged Millennials. The panelists included Wildflower CEO Louis Basile and his son Zack, along with Allen Fazio, VP of Business Technology and Strategic Planning for Theme Parks & Resorts at the Walt Disney Company, and his daughter Ashley. “We can no longer control messaging, so we have to be part of the conversation,” said Allen Fazio. His daughter Ashley, a student at ASU, said she looks to Instagram to choose which restaurants she eats at. Fellow Millennial Zack Basile checks out Seamless and GrubHub to make dining decisions. “Friendly staff reviews are important,” he said, especially when traveling and you’re forced to dine out alone. Zack and Ashley both trust online reviews - if there’s a restaurant they haven’t been to yet, those reviews certainly hold some weight. They also agree that, when it comes to restaurant loyalty, quality of food is the most important factor. If the product is great, they’re willing to wait longer and pay a bit more if it means better quality.

Not Your Average Conference

At FDMS, there are no presentations, no PowerPoints and no suit-and-tie dress codes, just insightful conversation you aren’t able to get elsewhere all in one room. Later that night, the premier RIZMY Awards were held, which applauds the best brands rocking it on social. You can view the eight winners here. For a more in-depth look at the Social Chef of the Year, click here.

Whether you’re a restaurant operator, digital diva, social stud or just a restaurant marketer, make sure to follow us on Twitter at @FoodserviceDMS. You don’t want to miss out on next year’s conference, which will take place in New Orleans.

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