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Monday, Jul 4, 2022

New Table Etiquette: Snap While You Eat Please

Applebee’s International Inc. is letting its customers get behind the camera and be the sole source of photos to its Instagram account for the next year. BeAFantographer is the user-generated content campaign for the restaurant chain, owned by Glendale’s DineEquity Inc. Though a social media team will monitor the posts made to the photo-based social network, Applebee’s will otherwise let its customers snap away and post pics to the Instagram account. “Nobody captures our brands the way our fans do when they’re posting pictures,” said spokesman Dan Smith. User-generated content involving Instagram is an emerging marketing tool with retailers. In fact it’s so new that Applebee’s Instagram account which has fewer than 17,000 followers is ahead of two Texas competitors, Chili’s Inc. in Dallas and TGI Friday’s Inc. in Carrollton. However, Aljolynn Sperber, director of social media at Marketing Maven in Los Angeles, said Instagram has a lot of potential for retailers, given its more than 200 million users. The app also skews to a demographic that is urban, African American and Latin American and falls in the 18 to 29 age range. She said food, fashion and travel are important to that group, so Applebee’s could stand to benefit. “The concept of user-generated content is still new, so they’re on the right track of engaging with their fans,” Sperber said. Smith said the Applebee’s social media team will continue to manage the restaurant chain’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as normal. “What the Instagram campaign underscores is that the brand is about our guests,” he added. Sweet Opening When Churro Stix owner Alen Aydinian opened his first location in January, he decided the Westfield Topanga mall was where he wanted to be. But not in a store. He wanted a far cheaper kiosk. Aydinian declined to state his specific rent, but said monthly restaurant leases range from $20,000 to $30,000 per month, while kiosks start at about $5,000 and top out at $12,000. Even better, he loves the exposure. “People have to pass you. They don’t have to come into every single store, but when you’re in the middle of the walkway, it gives you better exposure with a better flow of traffic,” said the 39-year-old entrepreneur. High traffic and low rent were critical for Aydinian, since he is introducing a relatively new product for malls, though, of course, the Spanish doughnuts are practically ubiquitous elsewhere in Southern California. His kiosk sells a small cone of four churros for $5.99 with a twist; he offers multiple dipping sauces such as Nutella, guava, Bavarian cream and dulce de leche. Alexandra Lippin, a spokeswoman for mall owner Westfield Group LLC, would not confirm rent prices but said the mall has seen a spike in kiosks in recent years. “Specialty retail carts are an excellent way for entrepreneurs with new ideas or concepts to introduce and/or test products as well as markets,” she said. According to the mall directory, there are 40 kiosks that include stationery and greeting cards store Papyrus and pretzel shop Wetzel’s Pretzels. Churro Stix has only been open since January but Aydinian said he has already been approached by at least 15 people about franchising opportunities and four other local malls trying to get him to move into their space. “It was always the point to franchise at some point, but I think I need to wait until I’m open for at least a full year and make it through the holiday season to have a better idea of what our revenue will be,” he said. Saying Goodbye Love Culture at the Glendale Galleria closed this month after the women’s apparel retailer filed for bankruptcy and announced it would close poor performing stores. The L.A. company was founded in 2007 by two former Forever 21 Inc. executives. Love Culture declined to comment on whether stores at Westfield Topanga and Northridge Fashion Center will close their doors . … Women’s footwear wholesaler YellowBox Corp. opens its second concept store at Westfield Topanga on Aug. 16. Its third store will open at Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks next month; the original location was in Miami. Affiliated Business Groups, a subsidiary of DSW Inc., became the exclusive retail operator for the 16-year-old shoe brand this April. … James Taylor will headline a Transatlantic crossing aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 later this month. Taylor will perform two concerts during an eight-day trip from New York to Southampton, U.K. The Valencia-headquartered cruise line also brought several other stars aboard its ships this summer including Wes Anderson, Tilda Swinton and Kim Novak. Staff Reporter Stephanie Forshee can be reached at (818) 316-3121 or sforshee@sfvbj.com.

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