At nearly every food launch these days there are more bloggers than reporters. In fact, invites to restaurant and cafe launches are titled as ‘Bloggers meet up’. From all the international chain launches recently, such as Snog, Tutti Frutti, Cinnabon or Gloria Jean’s Coffees to even local food initiatives like Bella Vita Gelateria, Cafe Ciao and Crepe Factory, blogging has taken precedence to create awareness either of the advent of a new food brand or its new menu on offer.
And because of this, the proliferation of food outlets and easy access to them via the web, blogging has become the ‘it’ thing to promote the industry. “Food bloggers are developing because of the growth in the food industry and not the other way around,” asserts Farah Kamal, a photographer and food blogger. “Customers would always be at the receiving end initially in every field not just food,” points out Kamal. “Blogging gives everyone a chance to voice their opinions, and most importantly, social media can help many women to come out and become entrepreneurs even from the confines of their homes.”
Kamal also provides unique insight, claiming that it is actually the public relations (PR) companies that have pushed for this ‘bloggers revolution’ (if you will) by encouraging companies to allow a new cadre of talent to write about their initiatives. Ayesha Nasir of Voila PR, for instance, relies heavily on bloggers for pre-event hype. “The reviews are instantly available and a lot of restaurants do not always have large budgets for marketing and social media is the most effective and cheapest way to publicise a restaurant,” she says. Lending credence to this trend, Aman Virji of the restaurant 44 says, “Since word of mouth is the best way of marketing in the food industry, social media gives the hospitality industry direct access to our consumers.”
It’s a blogger’s world
What is interesting is how food is the only industry in Pakistan to pick up on this quantum shift in global media where gradually the print medium has been rendered near obsolete as publishing rages online, resulting in a corresponding shift in the status of reporters versus bloggers. Finance professional turned food blogger Saira Malik regularly posts on food groups on Facebook and gets feedback through comments posted to her blog’s link on those groups which is her way of gauging that her thoughts carry weight.
While she agrees whole-heartedly with fellow blogger Kamal’s assessment, she argues that, “Initially bloggers used to provide perspective from the consumers’ point of view and now they’ve just become marketers for these restaurants.” Malik therefore insists on a code of ethics for bloggers.
While the reporter’s status may still be unchallenged in other arms of the entertainment industry, the food business is certainly shaking things up. “People have different tastes and palates and blogging allows for people to demonstrate varied comments and critique,” offers Nausheed Shehzad, Brand Manager at Food Connection Pakistan, as an explanation.
A courier delivery service, Blue Ex, is in essence a logistics and digital media company that is tapping into the growing food delivery market. Its young Director Strategy, Imran Baxamoosa, claims that, “Social media has dramatically changed the food landscape in Pakistan especially in the listings department. Before, all the restaurant details etc were distributed through traditional mediums such as flyers and newspaper ads, now there are targeted websites that cater particularly to restaurant listings.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2012.