When Ideal Media purchased the Restaurant Business franchise from VNU about three years ago, the publisher realized it needed to break through a cluttered landscape of food industry magazines and Web sites. “We had to adopt the motto of ‘think different,’” says vice president and group publisher Scott Allmendinger. “Our guiding principal was to embrace Web 2.0 initiatives, not Web 1.0.”
That included dropping the 100-year-old Restaurant Business brand for MonkeyDish.com (a monkey dish is a shallow side dish bowl used in restaurants). “We asked, how can we send the strongest signal possible to our audience that this is not just another repository for print?” says Allmendinger. “Walking away from a 100-year-old brand was a very hotly contested decision, but that’s what we did. The term monkey dish—if you know what that is, you belong on the site. If you don’t, it’s not for you. We picked that term to convey, ‘We understand what it’s like for you.’”
Ideal Media hired a director of new media away from Reed Business and positioned the site as a collaboration of content partners, including the Culinary Institute of America, which jump-started the site’s video business by providing 170 videos. AC Nielsen offered a database of local demographics so restaurant owners could write business plans and expansion plans on hard data from local markets—“something that’s hard to do in print, but something that the Web excels at,” says Allmendinger. One well-known consultant for the restaurant business folded his own site into MonkeyDish because he was so impressed with it as distribution vehicle for his content.
Ideal Media outsourced the design to Luna Graphics and the engineering (based on open source CMS Joomla) to PCG (Performance Communications Group). The navigation bar offers premium features, including an Ideas tab, a Buying tab (restaurant operators spend 13 hours a week buying for their business), a Translation tab and even a weather widget (restaurant owners keep a running log of the weather year-to-year, which can heavily influence business).
Lean Budget, Big Return
MonkeyDish was developed on a tight budget of less than six figures, according to Allmendinger. “The real heavy lifting came in strategy and concepting and picking the right vendors,” he adds. Visits to the site are up 19 percent and page views are up 56 percent, while the average time spent on the site is up 60 percent since the relaunch. “The video player is one of our biggest surprises,” says Allmendinger. “People are watching almost 2,000 hours of video every month.”
The site also offered new opportunities for advertisers. “We needed to emphasize engagement over display advertising,” says Allmendinger. “The manufacturers are also our content partners. They have a huge amount of expertise themselves.”
MonkeyDish reduced the total number of display opportunities in favor of sponsorship opportunities. While Allmendinger wouldn’t reveal specific dollar figures, he did say MonekyDish is running close to double its initial revenue projection on a month-to-month basis and the site is 60 percent sold out on sponsorship opportunities.