Melt Bar and Grilled Founder and Owner Matt Fish spoke to PRSSA Kent on Oct. 15 about how he uses public relations in his multi-site restaurant business.
There are four Melt locations in Greater Cleveland and one in Columbus, soon to be followed by a second Columbus-area location. Fish’s business has been featured in the national media, including on cable network shows “Man v. Food” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Fish spoke at length about how he graduated high school and had no idea what he wanted to do.
While he was taking classes at Cuyahoga Community College, he learned from a first-generation Italian pizza shop owner by way of a happenstance connection that he enjoyed cooking and the restaurant industry.
He had always wanted to open his own business and saw an opportunity in 2006.
“When I decided to open my own place with my rules…The gourmet grilled cheese and craft beer scene in the United States was not where it is 10 years ago. Small, micro, craft breweries were enormously popular, but you couldn’t find it in Cleveland,” Fish said. “If I don’t fill this hole, someone else will.”
And fill the hole he did. Fish has opened a new Melt location every year since 2010. He lauded public relations as a key factor in his success.
“Melt restaurant and retail are all part of the service industry. We are in the business of pleasing guests. We try to keep our brand in publications and out there so people can keep seeing it. It’s all feel-good stuff. I want people to flip by and not necessarily see my ad and read it, but to see the logo and move on and see the logo and move on,” Fish said.
Some of his most successful strategies in maintaining his company's reputation include:
“Whatever somebody else is doing, I do the complete opposite. I don’t look at what other people are doing to copy what they’re doing but to try and do something completely different,” Fish said.
An example of Fish’s ingenuity was his philosophy in targeting an audience when he opened his business.
“[I] didn’t really determine a target audience. I was asked up front, ‘Who are your trying to appeal to?’ ‘What’s your customer base?’ It’s a cop out, but I wanted to get every single walk of life. I really wanted to create Melt to be all encompassing, welcoming, non-pretentious. If [someone] could enjoy food, enjoy service, enjoy a good atmosphere, enjoy beer, I wanted them in my restaurant. And, honestly, we have achieved that goal. We’ve created a perfect restaurant utopia where we get people from all walks of life. Gourmet grilled cheese kind of transcends,” Fish said.
Fish, having had music as his original career ambition, offered one piece of simple advice to aspiring professionals that seems to have served him well: “Go off and do whatever you want to do but always have a ‘plan B.’”
The next PRSSA Kent general meeting is Oct. 29 and will feature PRSSA National Conference attendees presenting what they learned at a variety of sessions.