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Lettuce Entertain You

Stew Food marketing is fascinating. As I mentioned before, the only reason my last week before vacation has been tolerable is because I'm doing chain restaurant research and it totally rocks. I've been trying to get away from this corporate niche that I've started getting myself into (and I might possibly have an out in the next few weeks, but who knows because whenever I say that it never materializes) but if I were to really peruse that route with a vengeance, I would have to somehow get into food marketing. I was so completely in awe at a meeting last week when we brought in this head honcho from a corporate food consulting company to get us up to speed since our company is filled with middle aged (or close to it) NYC women who wouldn't and haven't set foot in a chain restaurant and need to get up to speed asap on in the industry. I loved this guy. Seriously. He was 40-something, suit-y, polished, kind of like an executive version of Marc Marrone (who I also love) but sounded exactly like Steve Buscemi and was very wry. He knew every menu item at every chain in existence and what times of day women eat at particular chains and how much they spend and how to develop new flavor combos and crazy menu items like southwestern eggrolls. I tried impressing him with my knowledge–I was the only one in the room who knew what Bonefish Grill was and that it was a chain to watch (I liked that he compared the mix and match approach of Bonefish to Craft in their initital iteration, which showed that he's up on all levels of dining).

Like I said, I love this guy (um, I even looked him up because he struck me as someone who would live in Manhattan rather than Westchester, NJ or CT just because he has a wife and kids-and he is in NYC). How do you get to travel around the U.S. giving insights and making recommendations to corporate chefs and heads of marketing?  I think these are MBAs, and that's a route I can't go. More and more I see jobs that ask for an MLS or MBA, which is interesting. The major difference is that librarians are good at finding information, but they're not generally equipped to offer insights or analysis. And I assume the latter is what people expect from business school grads. The money is in the insights not the info. When I interviewed at McKinsey for a gussied-up cataloging job, the head of the dept. noted that what I'm currently doing is more R&I (I had no idea what that stood for and had to look it up-research & innovation) and had I considered going that route as it's much more lucrative. Those jobs are scary and you'll work your ass off and I'm not one for working my ass off (though it's a different track than consulting, which are the truly coveted, highly competitive, work 16 hours a day, make shitloads of money jobs). And they're always in industries I'm unenthused about like finance, real estate, insurance. Out of curiosity I did look at the knowledge center page of the McKinsey site and they profiled a few employees, mostly males with MBAs, but there was one female and she had a library degree (of course) so while difficult to get your foot in the door, it's not unheard of. I just don't think it's me, however. It's hard not to look at the photos of employees and wonder whether or not you would get along with them.

So, after learning about "eatertainment" last week, I was excited to see a retail-tainment piece in today's Times. So tantalizing, yet grotesque. I think what's offputting is that most of these concepts are devised to make shopping fun for families. And as you might know I loathe how this generation of youngsters is catered to. In-store dining, free ice cream cones, musical entertainment, petting zoos, animatronics aren't there to entertain me-they only create more logjams and chaos in the aisles-they're to distract the kids long enough so their parents don't have to beat them in public. So, too bad for old folks and younger cranky childless people who view grocery stores as a place to um, buy groceries. The Shopping Buddy does sound promising, but as you'll note not a single NY Stop & Shop is on the list (yes, I realize it's more of a New England chain, but they do exist in the boroughs and I have a Stop & Shop card)

I see that the 30s can be very lame. You're too old to be targeted as hip or creative, but you're hardly into boomer uplift me with retirement planning commercials using Paul McCartney. You're useless, so it's your likely overindulged offspring that are being spoken to with marketing tactics. Now, I see why people stay in NYC. I never used to get what the big allure was. In your 20s it's a giant hodge podge of possibility, but gradually people get grounded, settle down and frequently move away to cities that provide more retail-tainment options. If you don't need space, convenience, good schools or suburban comforts because it's just yourself to contend with and it's not worth the bother, then you stay because why would you want to surround yourself with those unwarranted things. So whoever's left here when they're adult adults is a very specific breed or else very wealthy and could create peace and relief in any setting (and I hate those people unless they're that food marketing guy I met last week because I love him).

Jesus, I'm supposed to be writing a short book review of a Cuban food writer's memoir, but here I am wasting a good 30 minutes writing about absolutely nothing of importance. And I'm also supposed to be getting downstairs and using that elliptical trainer and instead I'm eating more of that See's candy that causes digestive tract mishaps. But aren't Saturday morning supposed to be like that? Procrastinating and potentially pooping on yourself.

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  1. Such a good post. Your insights on who stays in NYC after a while makes so much sense. I wonder if I’ll be here still. Whether I’ll be here willingly or bitterly is another matter.

    July 29, 2006

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