How Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat Can Help You with your Restaurant Marketing

My face has never been warmed by the Tuscan sun. I have yet to feel the icy crystals of Sicilian granita crunch and dissolve between my teeth. My version of Bolognese is adding browned turkey to a jar of Ragu. For most of my life, I’ve had a goal to eat my way through Italy, but thanks to Samin Nosrat, it feels like I already have.

Her new documentary series Salt Fat Acid Heat (Netflix) is a love language to the senses, despite being a two-dimensional audiovisual experience. My mouth is starting to water as I type. I watched it through twice last month, once with my partner and again with my parents at my strong behest (who loved it), and I can still recall specific dishes, cooking techniques, and the people who created them.

At its core, Salt Fat Acid Heat is a cooking show. Usually we associate that kind of program with the kind of show we put on while we’re doing absolutely anything besides actively watching it. Nosrat’s show was released mid-October 2018. Not even two months later there are interviews saying she can’t visit a café without being recognized. What about this show struck such a resonant chord? How can it be applied in marketing your restaurant?

We All Want to be Friends with Samin

If viewers are honest, the most compelling thing about Salt Fat Acid Heat is the host herself. We know who she is the first time she laughs: uninhibited, thoroughly in the moment expressing surprise and delight. There is no pretense in her demeanor. You get the sense were you to meet her in person she’d be exactly as she presents herself on screen. She’s incredibly honest at a time when chefs are hiding behind prestige and flashy competitions to get attention.

Samin is deeply passionate about food and teaching people approachable ways to cook it. Rather than listing ingredients and where they’re sourced from, she takes you to Liguria so you can see how the olives are harvested for luxurious oil. She sips some from a cup and unfiltered emotion crosses her face, her eyes widening with joy. Through her honesty we get to experience Ligurian olive oil with her.

How Do You Make People Love You?

We can’t all be Samin, but if you want to be successful in any business, you need to give people a reason to love you.

So take a minute to answer the a few questions. What’s the main thing people think of when they come to your restaurant? What sets it apart from another one with similar offerings? Do you offer dishes that remind you of home, calories be damned? Does the food you serve come from a particular culture you have ties to? Can diners be sure to get the same thing every time, or does your menu rotate based on the season and the fresh ingredients that are available?

If you can isolate something unique about what you have to offer, go one step deeper and ask why. Why do you offer dishes that remind you of home? Well, your mom was a great cook and that is the reason you came to love food as much as you do. Recreating her dishes gives you the sense of warmth, comfort, and safety her food conveyed every time you ate it. Does your home town mean a lot to you? Does that affect how you initially envisioned your restaurant?

Teasing out these details is incredibly important for crafting a brand story, the reason behind why you make the food you do. If your restaurant is already a part of a broader narrative, it’s a lot easier to figure out where you stand and stick with it as time progresses. Your brand story informs the food you make, the interior décor, uniforms, even the typeface a designer chooses for your menus. When all these pieces tell the same story, your restaurant will be about so much more than food in a way that reminds diners why they love eating there.

A different way to slice it is that your brand story is also the personality of your restaurant. Lots of natural light, neatly designed menus without a lot of clutter, and unpretentious but well-presented plates can feel like the smile your dear friend greets you with after time apart. Once you set the tone, stick with it. You can pick whatever personality you want, but like Samin, it needs to be honest to resonate with your customers.

Samin knows what she believes and it shines through her work.

‘Core values’ has become an overused term for whatever a business wants to stick on the wall of a break room. If they truly are core values, they seep into and through everything like a head of garlic. You don’t even have to ask. Hopefully you like garlic.

Another reason Salt Fat Acid Heat is such a hit is that Samin’s values are evident throughout the show. She believes in appreciating and learning from cultures that make the food she loves. She’s not “discovering” something new and sharing her revelations with the viewer, a common trope for travel food shows. She’s listening and learning along with us, allowing the chefs and locally sourced food to speak for themselves.

She also believes in elevating the work of women, and it’s evident in that they are the majority of people she partners with in the show. She doesn’t open the show telling you of her intent to let women show off their expertise. She shows you. You might not even realize it until looking back or someone else points it out. Salt Fat Acid Heat sets out to showcase women without shouting it from the rooftops.

Similarly, restaurants need to know what they stand for. Ethically sourced, high-quality ingredients. Compensating your staff well. Exceedingly excellent service. Giving back to the community. Interesting beer and comradery.  It can be anything. Of course, some of these are selling points that are great to note on your website or menus. If they are truly core to how you do things, eventually you won’t need to. Each new decision should be made deferring to the values you started with. You’ll be known for serving single-origin coffee with a smile, and your customers will love you for it.

Salt Fat Acid Heat is breathtakingly gorgeous.

It’s hard to compete with the Italian countryside for natural beauty. The show’s exquisite cinematography and tight editing makes you forget you’re sitting on a couch and not standing next to Samin, tasting 15-year-old Parmesan that brings you to tears.

Fortunately, restaurants have visually compelling imagery for the taking naturally built in: food and the design of the restaurant itself. For someone who hasn’t been to your restaurant, it’s the easiest way to show them what to expect. Seeing a well-styled plate on an Instagram feed is also a compelling way to keep visitors coming back, reminding them of what they’re missing out on. Professional photography is also absolutely essential for your website, as it’s most likely the first impression a potential customer will have. It can be an investment, but the difference between shooting something with your phone and using a professional with years of experience will show your food in the best light, and will result in photography that can be reused for years.

Salt Fat Acid Heat is a dazzling example of storytelling at its finest. The show is honest, knows what it believes, and is executed with excellent craft. These principles can be applied to any kind of storytelling. The food and beverage industry has a particular advantage in that they are truly providing a multi-sensory experience that’s easy to showcase.

We’ve had some fun lately, working on restaurant projects.  Check out a few of our food favorites.