We (technically) launched Rock City Eats two years ago next month with the simple goal of promoting and encouraging local dining. We wanted to form a conversation around the restaurant industry in Little Rock, highlight the places doing good and encouraging everyone to continuously grow and do better.
Much of my goals were to help support and promote local business. We did this passively by writing in a variety of ways about local independent food businesses. In those two years we have grown to become the largest food publication in the state and have even expanded our coverage to Northwest Arkansas.
I always wanted to us to do much more. For the past year I’ve spent much of my time trying to tackle two problems. First we wanted to find out how to encourage visitors and occasional eaters who are not engaged with the food community, and as a result not engaged with our publications, to become introduced to local dining. Secondly we wanted to help restaurants who have limited time, budgets, and expertise at marketing themselves in a way that allows them to grow while not costing a fortune.
It became obvious earlier this year that the two problems were one in the same, and our newest venture Visit Rock City was born. With Visit Rock City we will take an active role in driving business to restaurants than we ever could before.
Visit Rock City is aimed at easily helping visitors and locals alike find quality restaurants to dine in. We are doing this first by creating expertly curated lists from some of the top food writers in Little Rock starting with our Top Picks list. Why curated lists? Because the accuracy of collective opinion services like Yelp and Trip Advisor continue to yield questionable results that often direct users to a restaurant that reflects very poorly on the city and is in no way accurate about what is best about our city, or any city.
Secondly we want discovery tools to allow people to find restaurants much easier. Day 1 we are starting with an around Little Rock guide that has local neighborhoods and will grow in number of listings. Once that number increases and we have more data we will roll out a filterable listing that allows users to fine tune their search and find places near them. Before the end of the year we hope to build custom lists of places for visitors to go based even more on what they are looking for and why they are visiting the city.
For restaurants we wanted to leverage the work we are putting in here and use it to drive even more traffic into the restaurants. So we are forming a Visit Rock City annual membership to help actively promote partner restaurants.
To combat the problem of limited time, money, and expertise the membership allows restaurants at a very small rate, less than the cost of a traditional ad, to receive marketing and promotion all year along with a great profile page on Visit Rock City and on any lists that restaurant is included. By doing a small rate for a lot of restaurants we can reduce the marketing costs and we can use our expertise to reduce the time required for the restaurants and provide stronger marketing knowledge.
For restaurants interested please see our signup page that has full details as well as some future plans.
I am more encouraged and genuinely excited about this than anything we have ever done. I think we have the potential to dramatically influence the local food industry. We will now continue our great coverage that local foodies have grown to love, and bring more people every single day to love and respect the hard work of these restaurants.
Thank you for a wonderful two years, I am looking forward to many more.