Food, Glorious Food (And Its Role In Relationship Building)

Just like 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Steve Miller and his band, I have been from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma,Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A., Northern California and so many more. At this point my state count is at 46, so while I have not quite gone everywhere like Johnny Cash, I am well on my way.

Traveling is simply part of what it means to work in experiential marketing – the art of making lasting connections between brands and people all across the globe. On a trip, it is important to me to be able to experience local restaurants, and more importantly it also serves a business purpose. Food is necessary for sustenance, but it can also be a venue for a bonding experience as well.

I have learned over time that people will waste a fair amount of time deciding where to go to dinner, and have often found my group at chain restaurants because people are comfortable with what they know. There is nothing wrong with a chain restaurant, but taking clients to somewhere with a local flair or memorable menu can help establish a better working relationship, which is never a bad idea. Therefore to avoid fast food client dinners, I make it a point to educate myself ahead of time on a number of local restaurants.

It’s funny though, “local” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. I was once in Asheville, North Carolina and asked the front desk attendant at my hotel for a good local place to eat and I will never forget the dead pan reply: “there’s an Applebee’s right down the street.” So while asking locals can be inconsistent, here are three other resources that I recommend help answer the question: “where’s dinner?”

1. Yelp / Maps App – Using the maps app on your phone is definitely the fastest and easiest way to find restaurants or bars with good reviews. While there is the occasional lemming, a 4-star or better review on Yelp is often an indicator of a fine place to enjoy a meal. When I don’t want to venture far from the hotel, this is my preferred route.

2. Trip Advisor – If you have time to research before you travel, Trip Advisor is helpful to research different places so that when you arrive into town, you are prepared. I recently spent a couple of days in Anchorage, Alaska and found unbelievable pizza (Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria) and a casual brew pub with some of the best salmon that I have ever had (Glacier Brewhouse).

3. TV Food Maps – Saved the best for last. This is an app / website that has collected thousands of restaurants that have been featured on television. My personal favorite has been to find Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but all of the places have consistently good and unique food! I recommend viewing websites before going however so you know what you are signing up for. I was in Baltimore and found The Blue Moon Café that is in the top 10% of all visited restaurants on the app (another neat search function), but neglected to look at the menu. When my co-workers and I arrived prepared for a feast of crab cakes, it turned out that it was a 24-hour breakfast restaurant. We decided to stay and while it wasn’t what we were looking for, the Captain Crunch French Toast ended up being so worth it.

Cheers to having a great local meal while on the road!