Day 46 – The Puzzle – Another 48 Years, That’s How Long


That was the question that hit me this morning as I was leaving a business meeting and observed an older gentleman jogging through Loveland.

When I saw him jogging, weights in hand, I thought “I wonder how old he is?  Probably 70-75, he looks good.  But I wonder, what’s he do all day…what would I want to do all day then?”

And with that the thought popped into my head “how long will I work and what’s possible?” 

I just turned 48 last week and I can see the effects of not working, not thinking, not grinding has on people.  When you stop or even slow down YOU GET OLD!  And I don’t want to get OLD like that.  

Plus I freaking love the conversations I get to have with restaurant owners and other entrepreneurs. Just yesterday I got to spend some time with a good friend of mine, Jim, who was in town for a conference.  We spent about 90 minutes together and the conversation was amazing. The insights he gave me, the energy I pulled from him, ALL TOP NOTCH!

Then later in the afternoon I hopped on a call with my team and two restaurant owners.  During that call I got the exact same feeling.  I WAS ALIVE!  Talking about what I love, restaurant marketing, and helping small business owners get what they want out of it.  Plus, the collaborative conversation we had is what really fuels me.  

So with that thought this morning it instantly hit me “How old is Warren Buffet?  That dude is a freaking rockstar and he’s got to be pushing 90.  If he can be that damn sharp and impactful at that age, so can I.”

So off to Google and BOOM, he’s 93…according to Google (sidebar, crazy how we instantly trust one source these days right).

Now the question some people will have is “why would you want to work until you are in your 90’s?”  My answer, TO STAY SHARP!  To keep my brain running full speed and squeeze every ounce out of life.  Now will I be putting in 60-80 hour weeks and traveling all the time at that point, of course not.  But I will be contributing to the vision of this company, YES YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT, this company!  Selling to the highest bidder doesn’t appeal to me, building a legacy like Warren and Charlie did DOES!  I want to drive down streets and see campuses with our company brands on them.  I want to fly to conferences that we own. I want to see millionaires come out of our companies, and I want to do it for the next 48 yerars.

See you tomorrow. 

Day 42 – The Puzzle – Is This Birthday Offer Bad?

Ok, so I finally got what I wanted, A GREAT birthday offer with no strings attached…or did I?

This past week we’ve talked a lot about marketing funnels and the importance of the offer you make to get customers into your marketing programs.  Well, as you also might know if you’re an avid follower, this week was my birthday and my inbox was full and shitty offers!  Most of the birthday “gifts” that restaurants gave me were bad and had strings attached.  Honestly, most were coupons and NOBODY wants a coupon on their birthday. 

On Friday I was excited when a national chain sent me the email above with a solid graphic of a dessert and a pretty clear call to action, a free dessert for my birthday.  

BUT THEN when I clicked the “view reward” button I was redirected to a paid to download their Punch App.  So what I thought was once a free birthday dessert from a restaurant I frequent turns out to not be free offer after all.  

Then that got me thinking, what are the plusses and minuses of this tactic


– Forces me to download that app where they can get more data from me.


– I’m not a person that downloads apps and I don’t visit since the offer isn’t relevant.

Those to me are the main points of each side.  And as I reflect on my past experiences I know that loyalty programs, which is what this app is don’t apply to 80% of a restaurants customers.  And I also know that many consumes don’t like to download restaurant apps, including me.  

My point of todays blog post was to get you thinking about the “friction” in your marketing programs and what’s the best path to take on something like this.  Personally, If I was you, I’d want as many people as possible to visit a restaurant, regardless of if they have the app or not.  So this would be NO GO for Matt Plapp.

In episode 608 of my podcast, Restaurant Marketing Secrets, I talk about this topic as well…CLICK HERE to listen

Day 19 – The Puzzle

Are we crazy, probably.

But is it not something worth trying, exactly!

On a daily basis I tell my vision of what America’s Best Restaurants will become.  Many times a new thought comes up that makes the dream even bigger and I surprise myself.  

And every time the people I tell it to that are hearing it for the first time are BLOWN away.  

Here’s the thing, if your dream isn’t being spoken weekly and if it’s not so crazy that people either question your sanity or don’t say DAMN, then you’re doing it wrong. 

What we put in the universe matters.  But for more reasons than you realize. 

#1 – YOU have to believe it and if you only bring it up occasionally then how can you convince yourself of it?  Seriously!  I think my self doubt comes from the fact that I don’t talk about these things often enough.  As an entrepreneur it can get lonely.  You spend a lot of time in your own head, in your own world and not enough with others.  So when you take time weekly to tell people the mountain you’re going to climb, you’re spending time convincing the most important person, YOU!

#2 – People want to be a part of something bad ass!  They want to be on a journey, not just doing another job.  So by you putting your vision out there, you can attract other big thinkers and assemble a team of people ready to ride the rocket with you.

#3 – It makes you think BIGGER.  When I tell the vision to people, I have a second conversation in my head and I’m like WOOO!  That’s a good idea, what about this! 

Let me give you an example.  Recently I was telling someone our vision.  One that I’ll tell to the world soon.  In my vision I’ve had this idea in the past about an annual publication to chronicle our journey with the ABR Roadshow.  But as of late, it’s vanished from the stories.  Then yesterday, as I was talking to someone it came up again.  And this time it was bigger and better.  “Matt, we are going to have a few different publications published annually on our travels, top foods, top appetizers, top burgers, etc.  This will give restaurants a chance to sell a book that features them to create excitement with their customers.  But on top of that, we’ll have our brand front and center on displays NATIONWIDE for consumers to see”.  

I’m not joking when I say this was a conversation I had with myself while telling my vision to someone yesterday.  I’d been thinking about this idea for a while, but I had not verbalized it lately and it kind of went away.  

And with this, I’ve decided to start writing a blog post weekly on a piece of my vision puzzle and spend more time thinking, writing and speaking about what we are GOING TO DO! 

FYI, I think todays puzzle piece drawing was one of my best.  My penmanship still sucks, but that’s a work in progress too.

Day 14 – The Puzzle

A recent question I got while speaking to a private group of restaurant owners for Performance Food Group was: “How can I use coupons on the front end of my marketing to attract customers?”

This is a question I love, because it shows me the restaurant owner is looking for solutions to acquire new customers.  But more importantly, they are willing to invest in acquiring new customers.

Unfortunately, too many restaurants think that “word of mouth” will build their business and new people will magically appear every day.  We all wish that were the truth, BUT IT’S NOT!  You must, MUST, have a strategy running every day that is not only gaining the attention of new customers, but also getting them to give you their contact information to add to your restaurants customer database.

So back to the question, how would I suggest they use coupons to attract customers.

Short answer, I wouldn’t.

Coupons SUCK!  They brand your restaurant wrong and send the exact opposite message you want to send, that YOU’RE FOR SALE!  Meaning, you’re willing to pay them to eat at your restaurant one time and if you’ll do it once, you’ll do it many more times.

Offers on the other hand, RULE!  And an OFFER is exactly what you should be using on the front end of your marketing to attract new customers.  

“But Matt, what’s the difference between a coupon and offer?”

A coupon is a discount.

An offer is something for FREE that comes with strings attached, and those strings are for the exchange of said offer for THEIR contact information.  You’re horse trading.  Here’s a free burger, but first what’s your name, email, cell phone number and birthday. 

Now tomorrow we’ll dig into why you shouldn’t send your best customers coupons either.  You should send them REWARDS and incentives…WORDS MATTER MY FRIENDS.

2023 Year In Review

2010 to 2023

I just finished our 2024 projections and wrapped up 2023 look back, and that got me reflecting on where this company came from WAY BACK in 2010 when I started tracking things.

Here’s a our year over year growth since 2010:

2010 = 1st year tracking #s
2011 = 95% growth
2012 = 22% growth
2013 = -9% shrinking (had too many eggs in 1 clients basked)
2014 = 11% growth
2015 = 11% growth
2016 = 22% growth
2017 = 26% growth
2018 = 71% growth
2019 = 65% growth
2020 = 4% growth (cancelled division)
2021 = 65% growth
2022 = 78% growth
2023 = 84% growth

A friend of mine, Cris Rodriguez, made a post a few weeks back to look back 10 years and write down where you were and where you are now. That got me looking ALL the way back in my business journey with this company. In 2008 I started this company and in 2009 I thought “hmmm I guess I should start tracking things” and my 2010 Goals google sheet was born.

Here are the highlights for the different years.

2011 I hired Ashley Sparks Mullins my first employee (who’s my director of opps today). This allowed for the 95% growth you see.

2013 I realized the dangers of having larger clients that accounted for a big chunks of revenue and what happens when the relationship ends. This is our ONLY year of no growth in 16 years.

2016 we decided to shift away from being a local marketing firm and launch our nationwide restaurant program.

2018 we launched a restaurant agency training program, somehow I thought training my future competition was a good idea:)

2020 It’s NOT what you think, it wasn’t the pandemic. We cancelled the agency training at the end of 2019 and that accounted for 26% of our revenue. So while global #’s show only 4% growth, the restaurant division grew by 100%.

2021 to NOW is a product of focus. We got rid of a lot of distractions and focused 100% on our restaurant clients.

From 2021 to 2023 we also built the America’s Best Restaurants media company at the same time as the marketing firm. So when people tell me “it’s hard” to run a company and focus on growth this is why I have ZERO sympathy. You either run hard, or don’t run hard enough.

In 2023 we scaled in a BIG WAY. With lots of people, now 56 employees, and moving parts with our ABR Roadshow.

In the late Summer of 2023 I almost crashed. My stress levels were insane and I honestly wasn’t sure I knew what I was actually doing with the business. My October I was in a bad place mentally from the stress of what I built. I didn’t know how to fix it. But the funny thing was, every day I’d wake up REALLY early and the solution would HIT ME!

Literally, many nights I’d wake up a 2am and start working. The ideas would flow and 1 by 1 each solution would come to me. This was 100% from stress and it sucked, but it’s what pushed me to the solutions.

OH and in the middle of these stressful months I was in the midst of negotiating the acquisition of a software firm (we closed on that Nov 3rd).

By November I’d figured out the problems and put a plan in place to right the ships by early 2024. By December the plan was in full swing and working great. And now as I stare down 2024 I’m beyond excited.

2024 is going to be UNREAL and now I can’t fall asleep at night from excitement, because I don’t want to go to bed and stop thinking.

So, there you have it, my end of the year thoughts.

My goal for 2024 is simple, run the company how it’s built to be run and get Christy’s dream home under roof by December 2024.
When I’m able to do that, it means a lot of other great things have happened.

Good luck everyone, I hope you can find some vision from the past like I have.

Restaurant marketing expert Matt Plapp reacts to GENIUS Coinbase Super Bowl ad and goes in-depth on how the independent restaurant industry can take advantage of their same strategy.

I frequently recommend that independent restaurant owners choose to outsmart their competition rather than outspending when it comes to developing their restaurant marketing strategy.

Let’s take a look at some of the commercials on this year’s Super Bowl… More specifically, let’s look at the big boys… Pepsi, Mountain Dew, General Motors, Doritos, Taco Bell. You know… the ones that make your mouth water?

These big boys spend upwards of $6.5 Million per 30-second commercial!

While 99% of small businesses are worried they can’t outspend the big player… it’s time to start brainstorming how you can outsmart them!

Let’s Talk About The Coinbase Ad & Building An Unstoppable Brand

I would go as far as to say Coinbase outsmarted every other business that advertised during this year’s Super Bowl – I mean really! The QR code floating across the screen was genius… my dad thought his TV was broken! (Talk about gaining attention)

I talk about attracting attention, building a database, & retaining customers in almost all of my content. But In this case, we’ll talk about spending to build, not to sell… just like Coinbase did on their Super Bowl Ad.

They’re paving the road for all independent restaurant owners & small businesses – a company that understands the power of comprehensive customer data.

You should be spending your marketing efforts & dollars to build a database of customers or a loyal customer following.

Coinbase didn’t spend money to sell Doritos or Mountain Dew. They spent money to get people to take an action. In this case, it was to scan a QR code, that took you to a website with two options.

It was cool because, for me, I’ve been talking about a track, build, retain and, finally someone is listening! 🙂

Attracting & Retaining Attention

One of my biggest issues with standard restaurant acquisition marketing is that businesses and what I’ll refer to as “ordinary” marketing companies tend to focus your attention on a location where consumers can get too much.

We humans enjoy clicking things. So, when you run an AD and there are lots of buttons on the page you’re sending traffic to, people become confused and click away from the actual purpose of their visit!

But, as Coinbase nailed in their Super Bowl commercial, there were only two buttons…

Sign up and get $15 free…


Opt-in to win 3 million dollars…

They attracted attention and they built a traffic pattern because of the viewers who scanned the QR code can be re-targeted from backend Google and Facebook pixels.

PS… You can do this within your 4-walls with a QR code that takes customers to your menu on your website!

They then built the database of the new customers who opted in for the first time, while reengaging their current Coinbase subscribers by getting them to join a sexy contest.

Red Ocean Marketing VS. Blue Ocean Marketing

So for me, little ole Matt Plapp, it’s pretty cool because when I talk about restaurant marketing, I often use the red ocean & blue ocean analogy.

The red ocean is all about playing the same water all the sharks are in – a blood infested pool of sharks and their prey.

Whereas the blue water is calm & peaceful where nobody else is swimming. 

The independent restaurant industry isn’t playing in the blue ocean. They’re stuck in the bloodbath of sharks.

At America’s Best Restaurants, we preach all the time to our clients:




Page 41 of my book, Restaurant Marketing That Works, published a year and a half ago, covers what I call spend to build, not sell. Don’t advertise to your product or how great your restaurant is.

Your marketing strategies should build a database of engaged customers.

In Conclusion…

If this doesn’t show that the content we’re producing is teaching small, independent restaurant owners at a local level to get the confirmation that they need to let businesses like ours help, I don’t know what will.

We’re here to give you the restaurant marketing ideas you need to swim in the blue ocean. The best restaurant marketing strategies you need to succeed don’t mean you have to out-spend your competition… only out-smart.

You’re one marketing campaign away from a 6 figure wave.

So, as an independent restaurant owner, how will this Super Bowl Commercial impact how you create your restaurant marketing strategies in 2022 and beyond?

Work with Me by clicking here: CLICK HERE


More About Me: CLICK HERE

Restaurant Author Interview With Cliff Bramble

Today we are LIVE with Cliff Bramble, the author of The Business Side of Restaurants and CEO of Hungry Hospitality Consulting.

We’re going to dig into his book and a few key topics like:
Step 10 – Page 88 = Human Resources
– This is a key reason I think restaurants are struggling to find employees in 2021.
Step 12 – Page 112 = Inventory
– This kept me up at night when we had our boat dealership.
Step 3 – Page 45 = Marketing

You can find chip on his social links below:

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Live With Chef Max Santiago

If you don’t want to be hungry all the time, don’t follow this guy on IG 🙂

Max has founded three different companies (1) Batch Cookie Co. (2) Max’d Out Donuts (3) Consulting By Chef Max. He has 27 years of experience in both award-winning fine dining restaurants and 5 Star, 5 Diamond hotels.

Let’s find out what’s got him to this point and what’s next for Chef Santiago.

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MP TV – Episode 88 – Let’s Distribute Some Knowledge On Food Distribution With Aaron Croghan

It’s been a while⌛️ since we talked about distribution🎁. Good thing we have Aaron Croghan, the District Sales Manager at Performance Food Group with us today😮‍💨! Aaron is a self described foodie🍔, with 12 years of experience with food distribution under his belt👖. He originally got into food by accident😳 but all it took was making a few bagels🥯 to build a life-long passion in the food and hospitality business. 👥Matt and Aaron get to dive into:

🥯Results come from what you put into them
🥯Relationships are earned
🥯Set your menu up for prosperity
🥯 Are your best items hidden in your menu?
🥯What are you famous for?
🥯You aren’t actually competing with your neighbor

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Restaurant Expert Deep Dive With Author Bruce Nelson

#s are what you need to know, more than likely don’t dig into deep enough and probably analyze wrong!

We’re going DEEPER into restaurant MONEY with author Bruce Nelson.

Bruce is the author of “Restaurant Management: The Myth, The Magic, The Math”, a 40 year restaurant veteran and the current CFO of Nova Restaurant Group.

You can find Bruce on LinkedIn:

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