By Michael Davis
The Inside Scoop on Modern Marketing Trends: Understanding Your Customer's Quest for Perfection
Before delivering the Monday morning keynote address at the 2017 ORLA convention, Ben Powers positioned a virtual reality camera about 10 feet from the stage. Doing so allowed the staff at Visiting Media, the futuristic company Powers leads in Portland, to remotely monitor the breakfast proceedings in Bend. They did it in a way that makes the standard video conference seem positively quaint.
The keynote webcast provided a 360-degree, 4K, immersive experience for viewers 165 miles away. All they missed were the cinnamon buns. In his 45-minute talk, Powers provided dazzling visual evidence of the persuasiveness that advanced digital media holds to inform potential customers. The new tools include virtual reality, 360-degree photography, 3D modeling and TrueTour Technology, a one-stop visual hub and dashboard developed by Visiting Media. The system has the potential to exponentially increase digital outreach to dining and lodging consumers.
Powers is bullish on virtual reality's potential to transform hospitality industry marketing. Within 10 years, he says, VR will be the vehicle of choice to plunge potential customers into an active exploration of restaurants and lodging choices. From examples he shared from the stage, VR can be the difference between merely looking for a place to stay to feeling transported a destination for an up-close examination -- up, down, around, and behind.
At Visiting Media, the future is now. The company is already providing immersive experiences for clients in the Northwest and beyond. While traditional media remains vital, Powers says, a wave of change beckons companies striving to reach consumers fixated on their screens for guidance. Powers hardly needed to remind attendees that contemporary media consumers are voracious and impatient. "Waiting is a thing of the past," he said. Even a momentary loss of Internet signal can seem like a major annoyance to potential customer in search of an answer.
Just as the marketing world rapidly adopted smart phones, image sharing and texting, so too will VR become embraced and normalized. To that end, Jason Brandt, ORLA's president and CEO, described a goal to make Oregon the national leader in immersive marketing for the leisure traveler. To get there, Visiting Media and ORLA have collaborated on a strategy to get ahead of the curve and stay ahead. "We have to be first in line with immersion experiences," Brandt said.
Donate, Don't Waste: Steps to a Successful Food Donation Program
Any restaurant owner wishing to institute a program to donate wasted food needs to understand it will take substantial effort to launch and sustain it. But the rewards for investing in greater food security for a community could far outweigh the initial and ongoing costs in dollars and time. That was the message delivered by Allison Condra and Ben Edel, panelists for a frank and forthright breakout session on day two of the 2017 ORLA Convention. It was titled "Donate, Don't Waste: Steps to a Successful Food Donation Program."
Condra, an Portland attorney, is an expert in the laws regarding the safe donation of food to non-profit organizations. Edel is the newly installed restaurant manager at the convention's host hotel and convention center, Riverhouse on the Deschutes. Changes and federal and state law protect restaurants, hotels, motels caterers from liability, Condra said, adding that there are tax incentives for doing so. But she warned, "Gross negligence is not protected. Donors must inspect the food to make certain it is wholesome."
Riverhouse recently made an agreement with Bethlehem Inn, a well-regarded non-profit in Bend, to deliver regular shipments of food that would otherwise have been wasted. Often, the chef will take such ingredients to create special meals for donation. "He made a meatloaf the other day that I wanted to eat," Edel said.
To comply with food safety standards, Riverhouse had to invest in portable bins and coolers for the donations and come up with a reliable delivery system. "We didn't budget for it," Edel said. "We have been dealing with the realities as they come along. I'd say it has taken a couple of thousand dollars to get up and running. And that's not counting the extra labor and time for packing up the food. It's all about temperature with food safety, so we always need to be mindful of that. I didn't really start with a plan. It was more like 'Have balloons. Need darts.'"
Edel said he was compelled to do something, knowing that 40 percent of the food that's prepared in the United States goes to waste. "I'm trying to walk the walk," he said. Audience member Gianni Barofsky, of Eugene's Beppe & Gianni's Trattoria, said that his kitchen staff has been scraping food off plates into a colander rather than down the food disposal. Stored in bins, the waste is picked up by a pig farmer and used as silage. "This practice is actually a practice in Parma, Italy, that goes back hundreds of years in the creation of Parmesan cheese. In the first phase of making it, the waste becomes ricotta cheese. The second phase of waste is fed to pigs." The third phase gets shaved over pasta. Barofsky said that members of his kitchen staff purchased a pig from the local farmer who receives the kitchen scraps. They had it butchered and shared the meat. If you think about it, that's quite a recycling process.
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