Atlanta Chef Reaches Diners on as Many Platforms as Possible

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When he’s not in the kitchen at one of Atlanta’s top steakhouses, McKendrick’s Steakhouse executive chef Thomas Minchella is busy managing his restaurant’s Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare accounts, along with his personal social media accounts and a company blog. He aims to keep his messages authentic and can’t stand it when celebrity chefs hire outside companies to do their tweeting for them.

What is McKendrick’s Steakhouse, and what makes it different from other restaurants in Atlanta?
We’re an independent restaurant, so we are not like the chain steakhouses, like the Palm and Morton’s. We are a steakhouse, but we do a lot of different foods, too, and we are not limited by a corporate office when it comes to recipes. We do a lot of things besides steak, so we’re more like a restaurant inside of a steakhouse.

McKendrick’s is individually owned and we’ve been here for more than 15 years. Our employees have been here for a long time, too. So when guests come in, they recognize all the servers and they ask for the same servers. We’ve got a really strong following.

When it comes to advertising, how do you continue attracting new customers?
Social media is a big part of it now. I think that advertisements in newspapers and magazines are kind of going away because a lot more people are looking towards the Web. We used to do a lot a lot more of that [advertising in newspapers] than we do now.

What’s your goal when it comes to using social media at McKendrick’s?
What it is, is it’s just bringing the restaurant to people’s attention. I get comments from guests like, “I forgot the restaurant was here, but I saw something on Facebook or on Twitter, or I saw your blog, and we said, ‘Oh yeah let’s go down to McKendrick’s.’”

How did your blog come about?
I had read a few chef blogs, but I didn’t know what it was all about, so I figured I’d just dive in. I started out with a small Flip camera doing recipes and things like that, and as I began reading more blogs I noticed how good [other people’s] pictures were. So, I went out and got myself a really nice camera – a Canon Rebel XSi digital SLR camera. I think that pictures have a lot to do with it; when someone can see the actual dishes with the recipes, it’s so much better.

What influence do review sites like Yelp have on the way restaurants are run nowadays?
That’s hard for me to say. There are people who take pictures of your food and put them online, and sometimes you don’t like those pictures being on there. You know? But I like Yelp. We check on our comments on Yelp and a couple of other sites out there, including OpenTable.

What OpenTable does now is, if you make a reservation in a restaurant with OpenTable, then after that reservation – the next morning – you will get an email asking you to comment on that restaurant. I always check it. What’s great about it now is that I can get all this stuff on my phone. So I wake up in the morning and I go on the websites on my phone. I can have a cup of coffee and I can see what everyone is saying.

Given that McKendrick’s has been around for a while, are there are any common mistakes you notice younger restaurants making?
I think that a lot of the chain restaurants, and the ones that are not privately owned, have companies handling their social media accounts for them, which I really don’t care for. I know one chef who I follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, and he’s all over the place in restaurants where he obviously can’t be. He’s got somebody else doing it for him.

I do everything myself. I manage my own Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with the McKendrick’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Plus, I type my blog. I post photos on foodgawker and Digital Food Photography. It comes from the heart. I think it’s good when the content comes from the actual person.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.