Matt Plapp of America's Best Restaurants on Marketing That Works

Interview with the America's Best Restaurants CEO about implementing restaurant tech, collecting customer data, and how it only takes 600 guests to transform your profit & loss statement.

learn more about Shawn P. Walchef

By Shawn P. Walchef

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Takeaways from this episode:

Attract, Build, Retain — America's Best Restaurants uses the acronym ABR to explain the importance of these steps: Attract, Build, Retain. It's not enough to market to your customers, you also have to get to know them over time in order to make them lifelong guests.

Tech Helps Restaurants — Using modern technology like Toast and Popmenu lets restaurants adapt to a world where online ordering and customer facing tools are of utmost importance. It's all about simplifying the experience and making it easier and more fun for your customers to spend money with you.

Always Be Branding — If you see Matt Plapp then you also have seen his brand. His cars match his brand's orange color, as do his shoes and shirts. It's important to promote your own brand whenever and however you can. It shows that you stand behind what you sell.


Matt Plapp is on a mission to help the best restaurants become even better.

As a young man, Matt Plapp's entrepreneurial endeavors began as a joint venture with his father and brother. Plapp's Pro Outdoors was a boat shop formed in 1999. But in true Matt Plapp fashion, there was a cutting-edge twist.

"It was kind of funny. We had this idea, I don't know how we got the idea," Plapp says of the Outdoor shop. "Let's just do it online. There's nobody selling consignment boats and campers online."

That early quest into the digital hospitality world led to Plapp and his brother launching their marketing company in 2008. An epiphany came in the form of an early client, a burger restaurant trying to figure out how to use a social media platform known as Facebook.

"Since '08 we've had our company. In 2015, I realized we had a secret sauce that was working with restaurants," Matt Plapp said on the Restaurant Influencers podcast hosted by Shawn Walchef of CaliBBQ Media.

Years later Plapp is still fully immersed in digital marketing. Now an author of three best-selling books, he is viewed as a leading voice in restaurant marketing and is now sharing his life's journey in marketing with the masses. Everything from how to acquire and retain customers to how to swim in the proverbial "blue ocean" is shared from Plapp himself.

Matt Plapp has also created sharing mechanisms for the customer by way of his America's Best Restaurants firm and traveling roadshow and an entrepreneurial collaborative workspace, called Deep Work Space.

"I always joke that restaurants two years ago were 20 years behind in technology. I say now they're only ten years behind."

ABR is an acronym of America's Best Restaurants but it's also an acronym for Attract, Build, Retain — three principles Matt Plapp's company follows.

  1. ATTRACT — How do you attract the attention of customers?
  2. BUILD — How do you build a customer database?
  3. RETAIN — How do you keep their attention?

In addition to running America's Best Restaurants, Matt Plapp is also CEO and founder of numerous other companies, including Deep Work Space, MPTV, Database Dynamite, and more. He's also the author of multiple books, including "Don't 86 Your Restaurant Sales" and Restaurant Marketing That Works.

One thing restaurant owners can do right now to improve their business is take a look at the technology they are using (their "tech stack") and see how they can simplify their processes.

Using Toast for example, allows a restaurant to become a digital restaurant with online ordering and other point of sale technology. One of Matt's favorite smoothie shops didn't have a way to order online when the pandemic hit in 2020. But they quickly signed up for Toast and were able to modernize their ordering system right away.

"It enabled me to get what I still wanted. And I ate there four days a week. It's a seamless transaction. It's easy to give them my money."

Another problem that restaurant owners can fix is how they store data like customer details and other information that gives you insights on how to communicate with your guests.

"I think one of the biggest atrocities in restaurant marketing and small business marketing is they don't actually know who their customers are," he said. "Point of sales are a key way to gain customer data."

As a proud family man, Matt Plapp likens keeping a family happy and healthy to running a successful business.

"I didn't keep my wife's attention for one, or two nights. I kept it for 26 years. "And that's the key to a successful business. It isn't what you do today or tomorrow. It's what you do in a year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years."



NOMINATE A RESTAURANT INFLUENCER — Do you know someone who is killing it on social media? Let us know by emailing or sending the @calibbqmedia team a DM on social media.


Restaurant Influencers is brought to you by Toast, the powerful restaurant point of sale and management system that helps restaurants improve operations, increase sales and create a better guest experience.

Toast — Powering Successful Restaurants. Learn more about Toast.

Popmenu is also a sponsor of the Restaurant Influencers podcast. We wanted to share with our audience this powerful opportunity to help your restaurant reclaim the power of your phone now. Learn more about Popmenu Answering.

Shawn P. Walchef

Shawn P. Walchef is the founder of Cali BBQ Media, podcast host, business coach, and proud dad. Since opening Cali BBQ in 2008, he has grown his San Diego restaurant and media company into a global brand using digital tools and smartphone storytelling. 

As a restaurateur who opened during the Great Recession, Shawn learned to use the power of the Internet to stay in business. During the Pandemic, Cali BBQ developed a scalable growth plan that is three times more profitable than the traditional full-service restaurant model.
Email to get in touch.

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