National Restaurant Owner’s Podcast Interview w/Kyle Inserra

{Aired on December 20th, 2020} Catch my guest spot on the National Restaurant Owner’s Association Podcast, talking to host Kyle Inserra (mostly with my hands, as shown above) about all things restaurant marketing, social media, and pandemic problems. I took some of the questions we covered and turned them into a written format Q&A for blog purposes. Check out the episode here on Apple Podcasts!


  1. How did you get started as an influencer/consultant/ IG personality? 
    Well, if you don’t know the beginning of that story, you can find it on my blog. The long and short of it is that I was a dancer who got hit by a car and had to rethink my entire career path. After working in ad sales & marketing for 7 years, I left to put everything into The Skinny Pig. I was gaining traction on Instagram, making some money (emphasis on SOME), and I thought “how can I help more AND make myself more money?” For some reason, in this world, there’s something wrong with saying out loud that you want to make money off of your skills/knowledge and I just don’t understand that. It’s ok if you do that with a “real job” but not when you work for yourself?? It’s like there’s something wrong with saying “I want to survive and afford food”. It’s crazy. So that’s how I decided to go the route of consulting. I’ll admit it was hard to get over the idea of charging for my knowledge and expertise, but if I can, you can.
  2. COVID has obviously had a severe impact on restaurants – what’s your take on the current status – particularly here in NYC?
    I think it’s scary and it’s really, really sad. Part of what makes NYC great are the restaurants, and seeing them close down left and right has been heartbreaking. It’s great to see them adapting as much as they can to keep things going, but now we’re facing another lockdown, in the dead of winter no less, so I’m just not sure how many people are going to survive this. I’ve spent a lot of time being really sad and really pissed about it, but ultimately, we have to keep trying to move forward.
  3. What impact has this had on your business?
    My business was basically annihilated the first week of shutdown. I spent 2 years living in my mom’s basement at the age of 34 (now I’m 36) paying off debt and building my business. I was renting out my apartment in Williamsburg, then I decided to move back in in March. The first week of shut down. Finally thinking I was in a good place financially, mentally, etc, and then this happens. Lost every client within 4 days. I had about 8 at that point. It was such a hard pill to swallow. I was a mess and I’m still working my way out of this mentally, if I’m being totally honest. Some days are really dark for me. I’ve been building it back up as much as possible and charging much lower fees, understandably, but it’s been really hard to pitch new clients when most of them can’t even pay rent. So now, I’m trying to pivot even more to digital-only consulting/coaching and maybe creating an online course or workshop.
  4. Best use of social during the pandemic by a restaurant/chef?
    Behind the scenes (BTS) stuff and being honest/borderline vulnerable I think is the way to go. Share how you’re keeping your staff and customers safe. Share stories about your chefs or customers and how they’ve been impacted by all this. And push your business with as much detail as possible! Share updated menus, how to order, any specials going on, etc. Make it EASY for people to find you and order from you. People aren’t getting their info any other way these days except online and through social. So making sure everything is up to date is important.
  5. We’re seeing restaurant groups such as Aurify acquiring new restaurant locations? Do you think it’s a good time to be opportunistic?
    It’s hard to say, because on one hand it’s like exploiting a pandemic for profit, but at the same time, if you can afford it, why not? I have nothing against people making money, but I don’t want a great culinary city like NYC to be all chain restaurants and I don’t want to live in a strip mall. So there’s that, plus the downside of not planning things out fully and rushing to get a deal, and operating solely based on the pandemic. People are still interested in new restaurants and usually very supportive of it. You have to keep in mind that a lot of people are still afraid to go out, so I guess if you’re actually thinking of opening something now, make sure you do your research.
  6. Is there anything restaurants did before that you don’t think they’ll be able to do now?
    Good question. I think if anything, family style menus are hard right now. I know for my clients, it’s one of the questions I get asked most often from customers when they book larger parties (8-10) because that’s when family style menus come into play. And a lot of people say they don’t feel comfortable sharing plates. That and obviously events are taking an enormous hit or just not happening at all. Given how cases have been on the rise again, it will be interesting to see what happens around NYE, when so many bars and restaurants can charge a premium and make a solid profit. I doubt any parties will be happening this year in NYC, and it’s weird to ask “will you even be open?” but it’s a question I’ve been asking all of my clients lately.
  7. How should restaurants shift their marketing/social message?
    Again, I think it depends on what your brand is and what you offer. But leaning into that and focusing on what you CAN do for your customers right now is important, as opposed to what you CANT do. Also sharing UGC (uder-generated content) is a great move, because it shows that people are actually ordering from you or visiting your spot and encourages potential customers to feel safe about it.
  8. What is your favorite social media platform for your personal brand?
    Instagram, but I’d hardly call it a “favorite” – that’ just where my following really is. I hate a lot of what has happened to the platform, it definitely doesn’t feel the same as it used to, but I try to enjoy it as much as I can. I would love to get into TikTok, but I feel like a dinosaur every time I open it. I have ADD and even I find it to be too much sometimes. Like, some kid yelling in my face for 15 seconds followed by someone falling off of a house onto a trampoline and bouncing into a pool is just a lot for me right now. There are a lot of talented people on there, but it’s hard to find my niche with it.
  9. If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice you would give yourself before starting your own business?
    Have a better plan! Fail to plan, plan to fail! I was really winging it when I started, and I didn’t know how to fully position myself in the marketplace. I think a lot of people are still confused about what I really DO here, so I’m trying now to bring that message to life a bit more via Instagram and take some of my own advice! Share with the people what I do, keep cooking (since it helps me maintain my sanity), and connect with people who might need my help.
  10. What’s one piece of advice you would give a restaurant owner right now?
    Stay positive!! It’s really easy to get beaten down with everything going on, but as someone who is hardwired to focus on the negative, I can tell you from experience that gets you absolutely nowhere. It makes everything worse. You have to keep your head up and your eyes open. There are still opportunities to be had and there is money to be made. It’s not the same as it once was, but it’s evolving and you have to be willing to adapt and grow with it. Spending time yelling at the moon and blaming it for your problems is not the answer.
  11. How long until you see the restaurant world recovering from this pandemic?
    I honestly don’t know. I was convinced this thing wouldn’t last more than a few months back in March. Now it’s December and we’re still not out of it. I would have literally laughed if someone told me that. I’m hoping by next Spring/Summer, honestly. And that’s being optimistic at this point.
  12. Is NYC dying? 
    No. I think it’s struggling, but it’s not dying. I’m a born and raised New Yorker and I think this city has been through a lot of tough times. Granted, this is the worst I’ve personally seen and dealt with in my lifetime, but I think it will bounce back. It always does. Just gotta have faith in the process, even if it’s a long, shitty one.
  13. How do you deal with all this stress?
    Is “not well” a good answer? Just kidding. It’s hard, but I try to read good books and start my day with some positive affirmations. I know that’s a little off brand for me, but I do believe it helps. What we think and say to ourselves affects us so much more than we realize. And like I said, I’m prone to be cynical and negative, so rewiring my brain to think positively is one of the best (and hardest) things I do for myself daily. That and cooking helps me a lot. I love to cook, and it kind of helps clear my head, as well as put a smile on my face. When I can feed someone something delicious and watch their “mmm” reactions, it makes me feel like I did something good. Exercising definitely helps too, I just haven’t been great at maintaining a workout strategy this year!
  14. Are there any opportunities you see in the new Post-COVID-19 world? For you? For restaurants?
    It’s an interesting question, because MY hope for a post-Covid-19 world is that it won’t be driving our everyday decisions anymore eventually. Like I have been seeing shows on TV that are incorporating Covid stuff into their scripts and I’m just sitting there like…NOOOOO! I know that may sound ignorant, and it’s not that I’m refusing to accept reality, it’s just that I am desperately hoping that this won’t BE our reality forever. You know? So with Hollywood jumping on board and making it appear as if this is “the new normal” makes me feel like we’ll never get out of this. I’m all for “the new normal”, as long as it’s temporary, and I really want to believe that that’s what it is…temporary. But I have to say, wearing a mask on the subway moving forward is probably something I will do for a long while. I have a shitty immune system and I haven’t been sick with so much as a cold since February. For me, that’s an insanely long time. I usually get the common cold at least 2-3 times/year. Proves that masks and social distancing really DO help!
  15. Name one book, audiobook, or podcast that you recommend?
    Stuff You Should Know (podcast), The Rewatchables (podcast about movies, as an escape from reality because I love movies). Books: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and Feel Free to Prosper. That second one sounds very hokey, but it changed my life a couple years ago when I was really struggling with financial struggles and my business – it really helped change my outlook towards money and success.
  16. What’s a quote you live by?
    “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it that defines your character.” That’s from my own brain, so yes, I’m quoting myself!
  17. What was your first meal out after quarantine? 
    I actually don’t remember! Which is odd, but I think it may have been Reunion (great Mediterranean spot in Williamsburg) or Patrizia’s (Italian, family-style kinda joint). Our first meal “indoors” though was in Long Island at Vincent’s, and first meal indoors in Manhattan was Quality Italian on September 30th, the first day of the return of indoor dining. Can you tell I like Italian food served in large portions??

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