Kinston, North Carolina.
Ever hear of it?
It sits somewhere between here and there in Eastern North Carolina, in one of the poorest congressional districts in the state.
Kinston was a tobacco town, not a culinary destination–that is, until Chef Vivian Howard showed up.
Enter Stage Right
Howard and her husband, Benjamin Knight’s love story reads like a familiar Southern classic. Howard, a Southern bred chef who describes herself as “seemingly cool and calm but panic stricken underneath” meets Knight, an “over reactor,” while working in a New York City restaurant. They fall in love and are married.
Chef Vivian Howard went home again (Kinston NC), defied the odds (opened a farm-to-table restaurant in a tiny rural community) and thrives (a new series “A Chef’s Life” on PBS).
Vivian Scarlett Howard eventually wanted to open her own restaurant and was offered the financial backing to do so by her successful, hog farming parents, John and Scarlett Leigh Howard.
There was one catch: She would have to build it in Kinston, NC where, by her own admission she would “NEVER return.”
First there was Twitter. Then there was Yelp, and Foursquare. Then came Foodspotting. And Instagram. Social and check-in apps gave us entertainment, and power. We looked for interesting restaurants, showed off the awesome dish we just ate and left a scathing review when our service took too long.
Bub City uses Earshot to listen–not only to who is talking about them but who is nearby and ready for a beer and BBQ. (Photo courtesy Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises)
For many years, the dance of engagement has been skewed towards consumers rather than the dining establishments. Now with Earshot, the intersection between consumers, food and direct marketing just got more interesting. Or at least, more targeted. Customers “within earshot” of a restaurant are identified through any number of social media and geo-tagging channels in real time–the digital equivalent of (or perhaps superior to) outdoor “hosts” urging tourists to come in and order the special.
Earshot, in a nutshell, is a filtering technology that lets restaurants not only see exactly which people are “talking” about them or seeking food that tastes like theirs; it also lets restaurants send greetings and invitations to those people, through the social media channel they use most.
It’s no secret that craft breweries are popping up left and right across the United States. Boulder-based Brewers Association counted 2,538 breweries in 2013, topping the previous high of 2,011 in 1887 before prohibition killed all the fun.
John Najeway of the Thirsty Dog Brewing Company in Akron, Ohio. “Brewing is a tough manufacturing business.”
One region that has taken a particular liking to the craft brewery crazy is the Rust Belt. Given the area’s manufacturing roots and blue-collar work ethic, it’s a pairing that has worked just as nicely as hops and barley. A brewer’s shop layered in steel barrels and technical equipment doesn’t look entirely unlike a manufacturing hub. And in Milwaukee, Detroit and Akron – they’re just fine with the comparison.