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Give Away Your Secret Recipe: Creating a Menu in a Social World

Build a more social menu...


When it comes to being a restauranteur, your recipes are your life. They are trade secrets, sometimes handed down from generation to generation, and there are miles of non-disclosure agreements for chefs and bakers to further prove the point. Each time you use great-Grandma's apple pie secret recipe, you probably get a bit of nostalgia and reminisce about simpler times, and you share this history and familiality whenever you hand a piece to a customer.

Yes, those trade secrets that customers come to you for are invaluable. Yet, Grandma was not infallible; there can always be improvements. Maybe the age-old recipes have been put on a pedestal, and thought to be made perfect by the passage of time, and maybe you have already tried to improve on them with little success - a little more this and a little less that just made it "not taste the same." That doesn't mean that those old recipes are the be-all and end-all of culinary perfection.

So why not try to up your game? If your reading this blog, chances are you've been into social media for a little while. One of the best ways to use the social sphere to your advantage is crowd sourcing. One example that uses this to drive traffic to your restaurant, increase brand identity, and prove yourself that "fun, hip company everybody's talking about" is offering an "Improve-Our-Recipe" contest, with the winner getting the new recipe named after them or some other significant prize. You could give him or her free food for a year, or a hefty check, but sometimes the best prizes are those that are free to you and invaluable to the world - and putting a customer's name in lights is an excellent motivator.

So how would you judge such a contest? Again, crowd-sourcing. Have your customers post their recipes on Facebook or add them to YouTube, then let the people vote on which creative interpretation of your recipe they prefer. If you still feel a little nauseous at the thought of posting your recipe for the world to see and modify, you can always just ask customers to replicate a version of it on their own, without revealing the intricacies of great-Grandma's family secret.

In the end, you will be left with your original recipe, a much-loved new version, and gained interest in both. Run the two side-by-side, or offer one for a limited time. No matter how you cut the new-and-improved pie, it's a win-win situation.
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