Scott Rutterbush is the owner and mastermind of Dine Drink Detroit. He is not only passionate about Detroit’s food scene, but goes above and beyond to promote the local businesses that make up the city’s unique and rich history. Scott’s energy is as contagious as the businesses he advocates. A big part of his mission with Dine Drink Detroit focuses on storytelling. His goal is to effectively tell the stories of local businesses that he refers to as “hidden gems.” I sat down with Scott at Harry’s Detroit to get a better idea of how he supports these various venues and to dig into his overall outlook on events and hospitality.
Could you tell me about Dine Drink Detroit’s events and mission?
Our big event runs from October 1st until October 10th and features food and drink pairings from local restaurants, bars, and cafes. It’s a great way to get a sample of Detroit’s food scene without breaking your bank. We’ve reached out to a number of local businesses that we feel would be a good fit, however, many locals have come to us from referrals. Our passion and our heartbeat lies in uncovering independently owned, hyper- local places in Detroit, but we are open to any and all venues that wish to participate.
There’s a lot to learn and appreciate about Detroit. The local businesses, especially the ones that have been around for thirty plus years, have so much character and depth; they have moxie. Our goal is to seek out those places and tell their story to newcomers and locals alike. We take a lot of pride in unearthing those gems.
Outside of this fall event, we also have a consulting service catered to local business. We look at all aspects of the business and ask what we can do to make that business more successful. From tweaking the menu to promoting events, we utilize the momentum of Dine Drink Detroit to advocate for those restaurants and bars to help tell that business’ story in a more effective way. Our goal is to create value for that business, so if I can’t help them, I will find someone who can.
Why is it so important for local businesses to host events?
I am a big believer in experiential marketing. If you host an event, you are able to help create what your guest’s reaction to your business is. Instead of a putting a passive ad in a magazine, create something interactive! An event gives your guest the opportunity to touch, feel and experience your business. You, as the event creator, get to introduce yourself to these people and share your story, making you an active part of the marketing. Of course, hosting an event requires more preparation and puts a little more pressure on your staff. However, if you are prepared, the word will spread and more people will love you.
People want to go somewhere that they can feel good about themselves. So, focus on moving people through your door and creating a memorable experience for them through your event. The reason people go out is because they crave experience. A restaurant’s bartenders, hostesses, waiters, and waitresses are the ringleaders of this experience. Business owners cannot undervalue their staff because these are the people that make or break your guests’ first impression of your event, and therefore your whole operation.
We live in an age where information is abundant, and static marketing is dead. Emails flood our inboxes and we are constantly looking at our phones, making it that much harder to break through the information overload. What many people in the hospitality industry forget is that it’s not about information, it’s all about how you feel. Having an experience actually leaves an impact on you. Some of the most impactful companies are comprised of people that when you walk away from them, you feel better about yourself. People will remember a great bartender; chances are, they won’t remember every single ingredient you used to make the perfect cosmopolitan.
Do you have any advice for people in the event and hospitality industry?
I see a lot of bars and restaurants training their staff to retain a lot of information about their food and drinks, and then to dispense that information to customers. This approach may not be benefiting their business and their events as much as they think. Most people who come out for an event, or even a night out, simply want to have a good time; they want to celebrate. Not every customer wants or needs to know every detail of what they are eating or experiencing. Of course, it’s important to use local ingredients and showcase the integrity of your ingredients. I don’t want to dismiss the benefits of letting people know where their food comes from. However, it is vital to realize that while some people like knowing the history of their meal, 100% of people want great hospitality. Instead of challenging your servers to know every recipe on the menu, start asking questions like: What does it mean to be kind? How can we anticipate the needs of our guests? What can we do to become fully aware and attentive?
The majority of people come into a restaurant looking for a positive experience. Most bar patrons don’t walk in saying to themselves, “Ugh, I’m going to the bar (insert sad face); this is going to be a miserable experience.” This person is coming in with the idea that they are going to have a good time. As hosts, we typically aren’t faced with the challenges dentists and surgeons might encounter in which they must turn their client’s negative expectation into a positive one. In turn, what restaurant owners and managers must ask themselves is, ‘How can we continue this flow of optimism?’ If you can leverage that positivity and go above and beyond your guests’ expectations, you’ll probably be successful.
What is your approach for businesses’ whose customers don’t respond positively?
Most people don’t deal with constructive criticism very well. I tell my team to always thank someone for complaining; these are usually the people trying to help us get better. Maybe someone really likes your bar, but the draft beer is always a little flat. Instead of writing this person off, listen and be receptive to their ideas. If you can develop the skill of listening and responding, people will be even more excited to tell others about you (not just because of your product or menu). Instead of just being another “complainer”, this person has become an advocate for your business. When you dismiss a customer’s complaint, you are missing an opportunity to make something better, an opportunity to make someone a partner or an advocate of your business.
Businesses should also not be afraid to advocate for themselves. If you are a business that wants to offer a $30 hamburger, then that’s who you are. Be proud of that. Don’t make excuses for being yourself. There is no business that can attract everybody. If someone complains because you are being yourself, don’t take it to heart. Handle that situation with grace by saying you hope that customer enjoys your product but if not, you wish him or her well. And remember, for every customer that dislikes you because of your unique atmosphere, there will be another waiting at your door. Spend your time and effort on those who care.
Special thanks to Colleen Cox Photography for the stunning feature photo.