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As a small Independent Restaurant owner who’s plunged headfirst into content marketing and worked with huge media organizations, digital marketers and SEO professionals, Shawn Walchef of Cali Comfort BBQ has honed in on his craft and built his entire culinary brand on digital hospitality; and he’s done it all in-house with his longtime friend, former newspaper editor, and current Content Publisher & Digital Strategist for Cali BBQ Media, Stover E. Harger III.

Cali Comfort first opened in 2008, a mere year after the first iPhone came out. Shawn quickly realized the impact of the mobile revolution and recognized that he needed to grow his brand presence in a multitude of ways to keep up.

Out of pure necessity, and in order to keep his restaurant top-of-mind and to pay payroll, he taught himself how to use a Facebook Business page, how to create a Twitter account, claim his Yelp Page and respond to reviews, and how take photos and videos with his iPhone and post them to social media.

In a similar fashion, and as a former newspaper editor, Stover took the core fundamentals from what he’d learned of being a newspaper editor and publisher and took it upon himself to learn how to start publishing online.

Once Cali Comfort started attending and producing events, Shawn saw his team as boots on the ground covering and promoting both before and after; but, not just for themselves, for all the other restaurants who were participating.

If any of the other restaurants in attendance were on social, Shawn would then connect with them and tag them, and they would engage back with Cali’s content. The domino effect took place, and so began the digital hospitality story to shine a spotlight onto why every restaurant needs to be their own media company.

Digital Hospitality - CaliBBQ.Media Podcast


In a newspaper, there are two sides to the business. There’s publishing in one building and there’s content creation in the other. Unfortunately, the two sides were often separated so nobody on the content side knew what promotions were happening and nobody on the promotion side knew who to sell ads to because they didn’t know what content was happening. The takeaway? Have a plan and communicate that plan clearly to the team.

  • Have a team in place (or person) to publish the content online, but also have a team (or person) to give your publisher(s) the content; unlike the fault in the newspaper world, communicate the content throughout the team so it’s clear exactly what’s going out, and when, which brings us to…
  • No matter the size of your business, whether you’re a single unit restaurant or a big corporation, you have to create a content schedule. Not only should your schedule determine the frequency and cycle of your content, but it should also determine what content will be produced for the ears the eyes, and any other way that people consume information digitally.
  • Start thinking of yourself as a media publisher, not just another company. Every restaurant should have a podcast and a blog because they’re easy to produce, but without a clear plan you will run around in circles. Coordinate weekly meetings to jot down ideas, focuses for long-term projects for content and also short-term projects.
  • Always have a guiding light that you release on a regular schedule that you can base all other content around. This will help you focus the content that you’re working on and it will hold you accountable to your schedule.


Restaurant Digital Media: Not About You, But Through You

Very quickly an audio only podcast can become a video podcast, which can translate into a blog, which can then be shared across all social media platforms; all while tagging and engaging with everyone involved in the process. It’s digital media not about you, but through you. If your restaurant is spending money to go to conferences (yes, pre Coronavirus, but hopefully in the near future) and spending money to for keynote speakers, and booth space, why not record the audio and video, and then repurpose that content to a global audience?

The best influencers and entrepreneurs on the internet, like Gary Vaynerchuk, David Meltzer, and Tim Ferriss, all understand that because of the Smartphone and the way that the internet functions at its core fundamentals with audio, video, and written word, you can distribute a single piece of content to the entire globe and watch it spread like wildfire.

Every Restaurant Is Making A Multi-Platform Documentary About Themselves

Content marketing is all part of storytelling and how your personal story fits in to the bigger industry picture. People might see that story on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog, and they might not remember where they saw it, but they’ll remember the story.

If you continue your story line over a couple years and people see you every week, every month, every year, the story will start to click. You have to think of it as covering yourself in the world that you live in. Everything you post is part of that documentary – so it’s more than just about what you’re doing and what promotions you’re running, it’s:

  • Who are the people in your story
  • What do you want to accomplish in your story
  • Who are your friends you’ll bring along in your story

Don’t be afraid to cover and be the guides to other people; Cali BBQ isn’t scared to cover other restaurants or scared to write about the barbecue industry because as Stover says:

“We believe that a rising tide lifts all ships”

Top 4 Takeaways On How To Become Your Own Media Company

#1) Find a clear focus for your brand and utilize that singular focus as a clear path to tell a story within the restaurant industry – What’s your guiding light?

#2) Use content to provide more support to others within the restaurant industry – Tagging, engaging, sharing etc., and don’t be afraid of competition!

#3) Remember that content marketing is a long game – You need to strategize and plan your news cycle within the various platforms to distribute audio, visual, and written content

#4) Consistency Is Key – By constantly telling your story within the industry, you remain top-of-mind and you learn how to be everywhere. It’s as simple as muscle memory, the same way you’d learn how to do anything. Once you start doing it, the opportunity it creates is endless.

Listen To The Full Podcast Episode Below!

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