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Shawn Walchef on Consistently in Digital Storytelling

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About this episode

In this week’s episode of The meez Podcast, host Josh Sharkey interviews Shawn Walchef, the founder of Cali BBQ Media and Cali BBQ Restaurants. He is also the celebrated podcast host of Digital Hospitality and Entrepreneur’s Restaurant Influencers.

Shawn is not only a restaurateur but also an expert in digital media and storytelling. During the episode, he emphasizes the importance of taking time, making mistakes, and consistently learning. According to Shawn, storytelling is crucial in creating an emotional connection with customers, and he believes that technology can make barbecue more accessible to people.

Shawn talks about his philosophy on curiosity, involvement, and vulnerability in business. He believes in seeking information, getting involved, and asking for help. He shares his experience of interviewing successful individuals and how asking thought-provoking questions can reveal a lot about a person.

The podcast touches on the importance of connection in digital marketing and the long-term approach to building relationships. Shawn advises entrepreneurs to focus on being authentic and raw in their online presence, rather than trying to be commercial, believing that personal stories can add value to one's online presence and that privacy and storytelling can coexist.

Where to find Shawn Walchef:

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(2:47) Shawn’s background

(6:31) Why Shawn is so interested in storytelling

(9:35) Shawn’s framework for telling stories

(10:06) The difference between digital marketing and social media

(14:45) The importance of learning new things

(18:37) Balancing personal and business storytelling

(22:15) The importance of understanding your audience

(25:34) Digital marketing is like the tortoise and the hare

(29:18) Simplifying your message

(32:34) Partnering with Entrepreneur

(38:37) Restaurants using PR

(41:34) What’s next for Shawn?


Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]:

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world-class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.

Josh Sharkey [00:00:25]:

My guest today is Shawn Walchef. Shawn is the founder of Cali BBQ Media. And Cali BBQ Restaurants, a multi-unit restaurant group out of San Diego. On top of being a restaurateur. Shawn's also quite the guru of digital media and storytelling, which means of course, he's also a public speaker and a celebrated podcast host with several shows including Digital Hospitality and in collaboration with Entrepreneur Magazine, a show called Restaurant Influencers.


We learned a lot today about leveraging digital media to grow your brand. Though I think of all the great nuggets of wisdom I heard, my favorite was probably when Shawn quoted lovable Winnie the Pooh.  Enjoy the show.


All right, Shawn, welcome to the pod.

Shawn Walchef [00:01:25]:

What's up, Josh?

Josh Sharkey [00:01:27]:

We started chatting like two weeks ago for the first time, and although I'd seen you online, I didn't know much about you and I left that call just so amped man. Just hearing how you approach what you do with Cali BBQ, Cali BBQ Media, and obviously you're way more than just, you know, a restaurateur or someone who does media.


I was just really fascinated with your approach. You said that we build our barbecue, like we build our media - low and slow. That really struck a chord with me. Also, just as a chef, barbecue is like this great equalizer where it doesn't matter how good of a chef you are, or how much experience you have. If you want to be good at barbecue, you've got to just start and screw up and test and ask questions and be patient and learn and understand fat content and temp and time and spice ratios and the type of wood, and that doesn't happen overnight.


That's something you've got to like to learn over a long period of time. And what I heard from you as you were talking was obviously I learned a lot about digital media, which we're going to talk about today and your approach. But what I heard more was that you clearly have this craftsmanship approach to what you do and you love your craft.


And I walked away thinking like, man, this guy's creative. So that's why I've been so stoked to talk to you because I obviously think that the audience can learn a lot about digital marketing and your approach, but also I want to dig into how you operate. So maybe we can just start by talking a little about, like, all the businesses that you have and initiatives, and then we'll go into some of your philosophy around digital media and things like that.

Shawn Walchef [00:02:47]:

Yeah, so we own a barbecue media business in San Diego, and I know that doesn't make any sense until I start to explain why we own a barbecue media business. We have five barbecue locations. We're going to be celebrating 15 years coming up in April. We have a master smokehouse. We have two ghost kitchen locations and two stadium locations.


Our whole goal moving forward is to do slow food fast, so to leverage the craft of barbecue using technology to get it to more people. The problem with great barbecue is that it takes time and it takes expertise. What we've figured out after spending 13 years pre-pandemic, learning how to market our business, brand, our business, make incredible barbecue, host incredible events, is that ultimately we need to create a solution to get more barbecue to more people so they don't have to wait in line.


You know, the problem with all the greatest barbecue brands is that people find out about them and then they line up. And then when they line up, once you're out, you're out. What we want to do is leverage technology to make a more profitable and more sustainable business so that we can lean more into creativity, into storytelling, into media, into consumer packaged goods, into so many different things.


Adding new profit streams to a restaurant P&L, because running a restaurant's really hard. I never opened up Cali BBQ in 2008 with my business partner. The goal wasn't to just open up one restaurant in Spring Valley, California. The goal was always much bigger. And you know, sitting here 15 years later, having brands that I work with on the media side, the best technology, hospitality, technology companies in the world, companies like Toast that I create content for.


I know that we're just at the beginning of the internet. And that's a crazy thing to say. I interview tech founders. You and I met online. We had an incredible conversation. I'm so excited about the work that I do because we're just at the beginning of the race, and the problem is, back to what you say, building media, like building barbecue, is that everyone wants to be the rabbit in the race.


Everyone wants to be the hare. We want to be the quickest unicorn that just sprints off the line. We want to be Usain Bolt, but just like barbecue, just like media, just like technology, the people that win are the tortoise. They're the ones that are willing to take the lumps and show up day after day after day, and consistently work on something uncomfortably failing miserably, miserably, making a lot of bad brisket, miserably, making a lot of bad podcasts, miserably, making a lot of bad videos, stuttering in my videos, making bad blog posts.


But by doing that, we get to a point where we realize nobody has it figured out. The biggest companies in the world do not have it figured out. They allocate millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and media. Yet they don't know what we've been able to learn in our little barbecue restaurant on Troy Street.


I mean, if you Google “8910 Troy Street” and you'd look at Google Earth where we're located, you will realize why this guy believes in the internet as much as he does. Because we would be out of business if it wasn't for that.

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