As the world’s largest online catering marketplace, ezCater is a Boston-based company that makes it easy to order food online for your entire office. So when we saw that ezCater put out an episodic video series called Restaurant Roots, we knew we had to pick their brains to find out why they chose this route for their content strategy.
The series Restaurant Roots features unique stories from ezCater’s partners like SA PA and SomTum Modern Thai Cuisine in Boston, as well as Busboys and Poets in D.C., a hybrid bookstore and restaurant chain known for the community fostered in its space. Instead of taking a conventional approach to customer testimonial videos, every episode showcases the heart of each restaurant to celebrate their beginnings and their purpose as told by their founders.
To get the inside scoop behind their strategy, we sat down and chatted with Sarah Gurr, ezCater’s Head of Content Marketing. Sarah works with a small team to create content for ezCater’s blog and YouTube channel, and helped bring this video series idea to life. Keep reading to learn more about why ezCater created Restaurant Roots, and get inspired to produce episodic video content of your own.
Wistia: How do content ideas come to fruition? Do you outsource others to help with the ideation process?
Sarah: All of our ideation happens internally. We start by reading about and watching what’s going on in the industry, then brainstorming as a team. At that point we fold in ideas collected from across the company and hold a second brainstorm with stakeholders in the marketing team.
As a marketplace, we look for stories for both the restaurant side of the business as well as the customer side of the business. So we have a lot of opportunities to come up with ideas.
Wistia: Who else is involved in your video series projects?
Sarah: Our content marketing manager owns the majority of our video series production. She finds the wonderful partners and stories that are featured on Restaurant Roots and handles all the pre-production calls. Then we work with freelancers and our internal videographer to film and edit.
Wistia: What inspired you to create this series?
Sarah: The restaurant world is full of challenges, so there are a lot of incredible stories out there that resonate with both sides of our marketplace.
We wanted to share the stories in Restaurant Roots to create an emotional connection and a sense of community with both prospective ezCater customers and catering partners. We want customers to see that you could support these partners’ dreams. And we want to show restaurant operators that there are people out there just like you, that you’re part of a broader community.
Wistia: How long did it take to get these videos produced from end-to-end?
Sarah: From ideation to publishing, our turnaround time is usually about three months.
Wistia: What is your plan for distributing and promoting Restaurant Roots?
Sarah: We’re lucky to have a robust marketing team to partner with on distributing Restaurant Roots. So we’re using owned channels, like email and social, and planning paid media to share these stories. We’re also leveraging internal promotion from our employees. Getting our employees excited about the content is important because they’re a huge network. Additionally, there’s promotion opportunities with the partners we feature because they’re proud to share their story with their network.
“We’re also leveraging internal promotion from our employees. Getting our employees excited about the content is important because they’re a huge network.”
Wistia: Speaking of the stakeholders who are involved, how did you get them to buy into your episodic content idea?
Sarah: One of our values at ezCater is “try it and track it,” so we were really able to run with this idea and see how it performed without worrying about buy-in at the beginning.
However, now that we’re producing six more episodes for a Restaurant Roots “season two,” we do have to make sure that the results are there to justify continuing to film.
Wistia: What do you hope these videos will do for your business?
Sarah: The goal is to create an emotional connection that will drive awareness of ezCater. We want prospective customers to be excited to support the featured businesses or businesses like them through ezCater. And we hope prospective partners see how we understand their world and are a partner in growing businesses like theirs.
Wistia: What advice would you give someone who’s going to embark on a video series themselves?
Sarah: Preparation is critical. You have to document and share all of the details before you film, like the lighting and setting of your location, expectations of anyone featured, and what the timing of the day should be. Once you make one video, you need to know what you did to get that end product so you can repeat it. And document your learnings during and after your shoot as well to incorporate into future shoots so that the next video you do will be even better.
“Once you make one video, you need to know what you did to get that end product so you can repeat it.”
For example, Restaurant Roots is shot in restaurants that are conducting business and we don’t want to get in the way of that. So, we quickly figured out that to get the best product we need to be there early in the morning or around 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon since those are typical restaurant down times. So, documenting your prep and learnings as you go is key for creating episodic content.
Wistia: Do you put any time into scripting before you shoot?
Sarah: We don’t put any time into scripting. When we call the partner we tell them that we want to share their story. It’s not our place to give them their story. So, instead, we share the types of questions we’ll ask them so they can prepare ahead of time. That allows us to get the best story because they’re more comfortable. But, we’re not scripting anything–we’re navigating the conversation as it happens and asking follow-up questions to get the sound bites we’re looking for.
Wistia: Can you tell us anything about season two of Restaurant Roots?
Sarah: We have some awesome partners from Dallas and LA that are going to be featured. We’re traveling around the country getting more stories from different types of restaurants.
Wistia: What would you say was the most challenging part of the process?
Sarah: Finding the story. Identifying compelling partners that can share their story requires hours of research. Once we have that person and their story it’s easy to capture it and edit it, as long as you’re working with a really good team.
Wistia: What was the most rewarding part?
Sarah: Being able to share these stories. I love sharing the end product with our partners and experiencing their excitement. Plus, knowing other people are going to see that story and identify with it is really exciting. It is rewarding to support our restaurant partners and the broader community.
There you have it! That’s the story behind ezCater’s original series Restaurant Roots. Is this the year your business will create an original series, or do you already have one out in the wild? Be sure to share with us in the comments!