Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Being all Web 2.0

I managed to catch Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the head bartender for El Vaquero in Eugene, Ore., on instant messenger a week ago, and got to talking with him since previously I had left what I thought was a very cryptic message on his voicemail about a particular drink I was writing a story on. I have to admit, it was a bit novel talking to a source on IM. Shall I dare say it? It even felt downright taboo, since I'm more used to utilizing IMs for non-work related communication.

It was also fitting that I was communicating with Jeffrey this way considering that I was introduced to him not in meatspace, but by stumbling across his site/blog while doing a Google trawl for beverage menus.

I have had someone on the other end of the line ask, "Hey, how'd you hear about us anyway?" when I call to ask about beverages. I say honestly that I came across them while doing a search online. It might seem disappointing to some that my dirty secret of finding out new drinks is like an online version of covering my eyes and throwing darts at a dartboard. However, it comes down to the fact that besides relying entirely on press releases, a lot of times I tend to do cold searching to find new drinks and new things happening on drink menus outside of New York since I can't regularly go on a physical, nationwide "Tour of Tipple"...as awesome as that would be.

So my tip for the day? Use the internet to your advantage and get your drinks known. You never know who's going to stumble across your virtual doorstep. Working with the online department of Nation's Restaurant News, I've noticed restaurants' sites that have fallen to disrepair from not being updated enough or having old and incorrect info. This also means the drink menus don't fare any better.

If you have a seasonal menu, what better way to flaunt that than by having a regularly updated menu online? A lot of very "pretty" sites are Flash-heavy with bells and whistles, and I do mean "bells and whistles" when I think about all the times I've gone temporarily deaf from being blasted by a site's music and fumbling hysterically to turn it off. This is a large reason why my work computer's sound setting is on "mute" by default. But I digress. The point is a thoroughly designed site can many times be a difficult to maintain site. Restaurant and bars should discuss with site designers beforehand about the longterm maintenance of a site and devise a way to easily update things in the future when it comes to changing information on the site.

Sure, you might say, easy enough when you have a menu that rotates every couple of weeks or month, but what if you have something that changes daily? Well, I don't mean that every member on staff needs to be HTML/XML proficient code wranglers or site designing wizards, just keep in mind changes do happen and try to plan for it. Even noting that something is set to change regularly or daily should suffice. At the Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Ore., people can subscribe to a e-newsletter and receive information about the lounge, including menu changes. Customers can find out what's going to be in the daily changing Flowing Bowl, described on the online menu as a "rotating selection of hot punches, mulled wines & festive libations."

It keeps people interested. They want to know what's coming up next. Another cool thing about having an internet presence, in my opinion, is that it helps create and maintain a loyal community. People have their favorite bars and favorite bartenders, so why not extend that into an online community if you can? Getting news, tips and even recipes of drinks you like from that bartender you trust at your favorite bar seems like icing on the cake to me.

As I continued to chat with Jeffrey I mentioned that this blog was soon to make its debut, so I'd be much obliged if he could keep me up to date on anything new he was working on.

"I just finalized my fall/winter menu today!" He typed back. "Would you like the PDF?"

Of course I did. Merely seconds later, there it was, sitting in my inbox. Ah, delicious technology. If you want to take a gander, check it out by clicking here. There's something new, like the Marmalade Sour, and something "old" like the Bees Knees, which was a Featured Cocktail a little while back.

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