Collaborating With Local Chefs and Businesses — Even the Competition

By Doug Radkey, Foodable Industry Expert

The word “collaboration” stems from the process of two or more people or organizations working together to achieve something that is remarkably outstanding. Giving that some thought, shouldn’t all restaurants and bars alike be working toward achieving this goal and mindset?

The problem is not everyone has learned that even collaborating with the “enemy” (competition) is not necessarily a bad thing. Restaurants have an array of opportunities to collaborate with suppliers, their community, and yes, even the competition, while working towards a common goal; more awareness, traffic, and revenue.

The below suggestions all have two key components: ticketed events and/or message amplification.

Local Farms

Assuming your restaurant is sourcing product from local farms, fisheries, and other artisans, consider taking that relationship to another level. Customers today are looking for one-of-a-kind experiences, along with food and beverage pairings that develop a perception that it is personalized or customized just for them.

This is leaving an opportunity for restaurateurs and their culinary and bar-focused teams to work alongside local suppliers to generate not only unique recipes but also a series of educational events where a farmer, chef, and bartender, for example, can educate guests on the product throughout the meal.

The farming partnership can also be taken to an “expert level” by having your restaurant host a dinner at the farm itself — climate and locality permitting. This takes the educational component to a new level and allows a culinary team to execute in one of the most creative environments, all while guests get to enjoy a variety of sensory-related experiences.

Local Beverages

Similar to that of the local farm collaborations, restaurants and bars have an opportunity to further enhance awareness, revenue, and experiences by partnering with local breweries, wineries, and distilleries.

Beverages today are an important aspect to the overall dining experience, and what better way to drive that message than to create pre-fixe menu nights using a chosen local beverage? This will give your culinary team the creative ability to infuse this beverage and flavor in all of the dishes, while a representative of the company walks guests through the production, tasting techniques, and flavor profiles of their product, creating a fun night and memorable experience worth sharing.

Chefs

For a one-night-only type of event, consider collaborating with another local chef at either your restaurant or theirs (or ideally alternate the next month). Use this opportunity to put a unique, one-night-only menu together that fits within the confines of your concept and put together the creative minds of both chefs.

The “aha” moment is when you both get to expand awareness to each others’ market and close network of guests by promoting this exciting event. This also drives a perception that you’re community-minded and open to creativity. And developing an event that can generate additional revenue on what could be a slower night for your concept always helps.

Charity

Cause-related marketing has always been a crowd-pleaser and is very easy for restaurants to execute, especially with venue space, food, and beverage options already in-house. Take this opportunity to communicate among your staff to generate a list of causes you and your team would prefer to support within your community.

Reach out to them and collaborate on an event that will generate awareness, guest experiences, and minimal revenue for the restaurant to cover costs, at the same time generating a generous portion of revenue for the cause or nonprofit organization.

This type of collaboration will generally grab the attention of local media and dignitaries, further amplifying your reach and awareness, and again driving the perception you’re a valuable member to the local community.

Competition

A little friendly competition has never hurt anyone (that we know of) and collaborating with other local restaurants can be very beneficial for everyone. Consider partnering with your local business resource centers to generate a one-night-only or week-long “restaurant/bar crawl.”

You can even develop your own event with other similar restaurants in your area, for example, a battle of chef creations or bartender creations. Consider a “Caesar Battle,” meaning which restaurant/bar can create the most epic Caesar drink, with a reward going to guests who visit and try each location’s creation.

The ideas are truly endless, and really fun, for everyone involved. Whichever is decided on, ensure it is driving traffic into your location. At the end of the day, it’s about the guest and egos need to step aside.

Now find ways to creatively combine two or more of the above collaborative ideas for the most unforgettable experience and revenue-generating opportunity. All of the above options and events will enhance your social media strategy, amplify your messaging throughout the community, improve your community perception, increase staff morale, and generate revenue opportunities for you and your shareholders, while developing a destination, not just a restaurant.