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The Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo is the only all-encompassing event in California for the restaurant and foodservice industry, making it THE one-stop source for everything you need to succeed in today's market.

My Takeaways from the Foodservice Expo

I think this is my 4th year at the food show and though I see a lot of the same vendors and classes, I also seek out the new – and always finds many things worth reporting on. This time my photos show that we enjoyed: making a beeline to Chris Uhde (partner with Impex Beverage Incorporated, the @whiskyredhead on Instagram and Los Angeles Magazine’s “The First Name for LA Whisky”) as he was signing up to do Cocktails on the Roof 9/7! Enjoyed tasting Togouchi, Kilchoman and Kurayoshi - all whiskeys from Japan!

From there, while in the Beverage Pavillon, I met with David Carbonell the GM for Drink Specialties that gets fermented beverages into bars that can’t serve distilled drinks and Philip Reis, National Sales Manager for CannaVinus, that makes a wine-based beverage with “exotic fruits and herbs” that is meant to be “the perfect wine pairing for the Cannabis lover.” Also had a few sips of Whistle Pig rye and Jefferson’s Bourbon with Bourbonblog.com

Just outside of the Beverage Pavilion was a large display for Somabar – a machine that stores up to 7 spirits for making a plethora of pre-programmed cocktails. There was a version for fermented beverage programs (those with just wine and beer licenses that make cocktails) and a full spirits program. You pick the drink, place your cup below, push the button for the cocktail you want, ice drops in and them the drink is made. Meant to go on the back bar I thought this would get much more play if the customers could do themselves, with the addition of some garnish and a bartender or server to watch over and, of course, charge accordingly.

Moving into the main convention floor things that got my attention included a plastic wine glass shaped like a rose with “petals” layered inside of it for aerating wine, JoeFroyo blended coffees, cheesewich slim breadless sandwiches, Longanisa garlic pork sausage from Argentina, tempting breads from both Melrose Bakery and Kings Hawaiian, Rishi Tea and Botanicals, the Kelvin Slush Manhattan, Pecans.com and Potatoes.com.

PR Bootcamp for Restaurants in Memory of Fifi Chao

How does an enterprising restaurant attract the attention of credible food and beverage journalists along with legitimate food critics? Is a public relations firm perhaps needed or realistically even affordable? Who better to provide some insightful answers than a high-profile panel of experienced food journalists and restaurant critics.

This distinguished panel (Andy Harris) was the brainchild of the late Fifi Chao, the beloved restaurant critic and food writer for the OC Business Journal for over 26 years until she retired last year due to illness. Fifi’s impression (based on a lot of experience) was that chefs & restaurateurs could benefit from sound, practical advice on how to approach the editorial food media. The panel members wholeheartedly agree and PR Boot Camp for Restaurants is a tribute to her memory. Fifi truly enjoyed promoting the restaurant business and generously guiding inquisitive young chefs with absolutely no strings attached.

The panel was moderated by Andy Harris of the “SoCal Restaurant Show” on AM 830 KLAA and included Farley Elliott, Eater LA; Gretchen Kurz, Orange Coast Magazine; Anne Marie Panoringan, Freelance Food and travel writer; Patric Kuh, former restaurant critic for Los Angeles magazine.

My Takeaways From Andy’s Course

Thrilled to attend a class moderated by my #LAWineWriters friend Andy Harris, and also thrilled by the caliber of industry professionals that joined him to discuss restaurant public relations. These are just some of the things I learned:

  • Critics will sometimes visit a restaurant anonymously 3 to 4 times before writing a review. Sometimes up to six visits if there is a wine list and/or cocktail program to review as well. They pay every time, nothing is accepted for free.
  • They don’t always publish a negative review. And if they do they sometimes will be passive aggressive about the issues they found.
  • Critics feel it’s unfair to the business owner to review their restaurant until they’ve been open for 60-90 days. Yes, the restaurant should be ready, but the critics want to give the owners time to manage their precious baby before being reviewed. The want to allow for a “long, fair start.” (Also some new restaurants shutter at that 90-day mark, so no point in doing a review anyway.)
  • There is a difference between an editorial and advertorial, and the consumer has to be made aware of what they are reading.
  • Reviewers should use less adjectives, while also avoiding “lists” of menu items alone.
  • Food journalists can help new chefs via forums and conventions that can help to educate.
  • Restaurants have to work around Yelp and Instagram.
  • Press releases need to include an image, be short and be written for a specific media outlet’s needs. Think elevator pitch.
  • Public relations professionals have to be passionate about their clients.
  • Digital publications like Eater LA are somewhat different in that they review the latest openings as that’s what’s expected from them.

Shout Outs

As I only took in one day of the multi-day convention it would be a disservice not to mention a few other things going on. Along with all of the vendors - I couldn’t possibly visit with all – there was also a Healthy Food Expo and a Coffee Fest located within the Western Foodservice Expo, The Beacon Award for a female leader in the industry was won by Dominique Crenn, Chef and co-owner of Atelier Crenn; The Torch Award for talented chefs and/or restaurateurs went to Caroline Styne who is the sommelier and restaurateur of The Lucques Group; some of the chefs lecturing or presenting included Mareya Ibrahim, Bernard Guillas, Mary Sue Milliken, Niki Nakayama, Nina Curtis, Tati Polo, David Rose, Fabio Viviani, Ben Diaz, Betty Fraser, Shaun O’Neale, Holden Dahlerbruch and Bruce Kalman.

Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a "certification in first globally-recognized course" as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com