Friday, May 2, 2014

5 Questions Answered By Someone Awesome - Scott Wise

You are awesome. 
I'm excited to start this new feature on my blog. I find someone that I think is awesome and ask them to answer 5 questions. You can find more about why I am doing this here

The first person I am starting with is Scott Wise, the owner of Scotty's Brewhouse in Indianapolis. You can check out Scott's bio and company history here

Here is what I know of Scott... he is a social media master.  And his joint has the best wings ever. 

Scott has done away with "traditional" media and he does all his promotion on social media. His twitter feed is full of specials for his restaurants, but also interesting stories, family stories and Indiana pride. 

Now for the awesome part. It was my second visit to Scotty's Brewhouse and let's just say I was having a craptastic experience. And I tweeted it. Blow by sad blow while I was waiting for my friend. After my friend arrived,  we were enjoying our adult beverages and nachos, watching the Colts and the Browns. Ok, I was watching the Browns. And then something weird happened. 

Staff from all areas of the restaurant came up to us, checking on us, chatting about the game. It went from zero staff interaction to 100 in about 20 minutes. Around half time, a man sat next to me and said, "So, I understand there are some problems today. What can I do to help?"


Turns out, Scotty was at home, reading his Twitter, and called the restaurant (with a name like ClevelandChick and wearing a Phil Awesome Dawson jersey, it wasn't hard to pick me out), and got the GM to hustle his hiney into the restaurant to fix things.

One of the Brewhouse Managers set the Browns pennant up for me. 
How often do you go out, have crappy experience and have to deal with it? Too often in my book.  Years later, as an extra touch of awesome, one of his staff brought in an old Browns pennant and surprised me with it at my spot at the bar. Awesome.

Scotty took that moment, and turned me around as a guest. I very easily could have never stepped foot in the restaurant again. But, I turned into a regular. That was pretty awesome.

Early on, he had a financial choice to make; to cut staff or cut traditional marketing...he went with keeping his staff and moving to social media. If you want to see how to do social media right, follow him here.

I asked Scott 5 questions and here are his answers. I hope you learn something. I sure did. 

5 Questions answered by Scott Wise

1.     I know you because you are the Father of Indianapolis Hospitality Social Media. How did you get involved in social media?

Hahahaha, I’ve never had it phrased that way; but, I like it.  Makes me sound a bit older than I care to acknowledge – cough – 40 is the new 20 – cough!  I have always found technology interesting, so part of me just liked to “geek around” to see what the latest tech was and how it could be used in my industry.  For example, we had iPads at our tables at Thr3e Wise Men in 2010…  you are seeing them a lot now; but, I guess I just like trying to be the 1st to use innovation in the restaurant segment.  Being first, however, can also mean you get to work out all the bugs on technology as well, and we’ve been bitten by that too.  But, the important part that I always try to remember is to not just use a technology to say I’m using one.  I see too many people do that…  usually the big box companies that a bunch of suits sit around a table with no true knowledge of tech and say, “I keep seeing these QR thingies, we need to get a QR.”  And, then they use it improperly and wonder why “tech doesn’t work for them.”  

When I use technology, it has to do 2 things for 2 different groups of people:  it has to save my company and/or the guest, time and/or money.  So, back to your original question, it wasn’t just that I was geeky over technology – I saw a window where the world had changed, we went digital and I think I may have just chosen to go “all in” quicker than a lot of other people that were still just “dipping their toes in the water” to see if this stuff would really take off.  I believe that I am my typical customer.  I believe I am very “average Joe.”  And, there were things I was doing in my life that changed – for example, I quit walking outside to get the paper to read it in the morning and I quit listening to most traditional FM radio stations.  Why?  Because I got the newspaper, and not just 1; but, 4 or 5 different ones, emailed to my inbox every morning and I read the stories online.  And, I quit tuning into FM radio and used my XM receiver to get radio while driving, or I listened to my iTunes account in the car…  So, knowing those things, I thought to myself, “why would I put an ad in the paper or on traditional radio, if I’m a typical customer and I don’t use those mediums?”  Why not put the ads or marketing where people are gravitating – the web…  and figure out where they are all going and how to get that message in front of them.  Enter social media.  

The 2nd part of that story and why I got entrenched so quickly was the recession…  in 2009 I had to save my company about $500,000.  My CFO said, “you can lay people off or you can cut marketing out.”  I chose the marketing path as I didn’t want to lose my people.  Well, as a Marketing/PR graduate of THE Ball State University (Go Cardinals – Chirp! Chirp!), this was tough – how am I going to get my message out to people if I have no marketing budget?  Ahhhhh, the “free medium” of Social, right?  And, that’s when I went all in.  It started, as funny as it is to hear today, with MySpace (Facebook, at that time was only for college kids) and I used MySpace exactly like I use Facebook and Twitter today…  when they opened the gates for the public to enter the FB world, I was first in line.  And, when Twitter was created, I was one of the first accounts.  I just had a feeling this was the way the world was going to get their new and info.  So, I guess, being the 1st one to the party and figuring out how to use it pretty uniquely, made me a “Father of the Hospitality Social Media industry,” huh?  Going back to those suits at the Big Box…  it is one thing to have the technology – it is a whole other thing to figure out how to use it properly.  And, everyone has a different methodology.  Mine seems to work for me; but, that doesn’t mean it would be the correct strategy for someone else.  

The most important thing for me is to have fun with it – to make people laugh, to engage and communicate with people (the most important) and to listen/read as well as talk…  At the end of the day, I call it “Digital Bartending.”  The great thing about social media is allowing me to have a conversation to someone like you in Cleveland, a customer sitting at the bar in Mishawaka, another customer sitting at Scotty’s in Downtown Indy and another in the bar in West Lafayettte…  I may sit behind a desk; but, I can still engage with guests, fix problems that occur and give great feedback to my team members from a tweet telling me how awesome John Doe server was for them…

2.     When in Indianapolis, I can sit in your restaurant and get tweets and messages from you, sometimes I think you are hiding in the next booth. How has twitter improved the guest experience in your restaurants?

I may have answered some of your next questions in my long diatribe above; but, I’ll elaborate on some…  I check Twitter the entire day – I think part of our success is not just the responsiveness from me, the owner, but, we do it quickly and we answer every single tweet that tags us.  There are times where I wish my management would take care of an issue before a guest thinks to involve me and Twitter…  but, I would never be upset by the guest doing this…  it is the digital world of customer service that we now reside.  My view is to embrace it and use it to improve our operations…  if a guest lets me know we have failed them in some way, I am thankful for them telling me this.  “You can fix what you don’t know is broken.”  The “digital eyes” of our world has actually allowed me to save money.  We got rid of our Secret Shopper company several years ago when I embraced the social world and saved over $100,000 a year we were paying them…  now I have guests that let me know the bad and the good.  The positive tweets are just as beneficial as the constructive ones, in a different sense.  I think we all respond better to positive reinforcement rather than negative…  so, when a guest tells me a specific server or bartender or manager gave them great service, I thank the person tweeting me; but, then I also email the employee and show them the tweet and tell them “thank you for giving great service – YOU are the reason this company is successful!”  And, I mean that.  I do it for all 1,000 employees and 9 restaurants every day.  Hell, I even know when a Browns fan (Cleveland Chick) is served her beer in a Godforsaken Steelers mug at Scotty’s, right?  J 

3.     You encourage your staff to be involved in social media and that is something a lot of companies would run away screaming from. What would you say to those companies that avoid social media like they would a stinky fish?

When you were a teen living at home, did your parents ever tell you not to do something?  Whether you were planning to do that thing or not, sometimes the challenge alone by your parents was enough to push you to do something you probably shouldn’t have done.  That same thing applies to a company and social media.  Sure, there are all kinds of preventative and protective measures a company should take.  They should have a dialogue and talk about the proper ways in which to use the medium.  Let them know you will eventually hear or see something they have said or done that they probably shouldn’t have.  (And, you get to sound just like Mom and Dad when you come home past your curfew…)  So, instead of telling someone they can’t, just tell them to be careful, understand you are watching over it and to be smart about it.  For example, when I talk to my team of servers I tell them, “I’m not going to see every one of your tweets, but, trust me – people love to let me know when/if someone in my company says or does something they shouldn’t.  So, eventually I will find out.  Instead, use the power of social media for the greater good – meaning, if you are serving tonight, why not say, “come see me at Scotty’s tonight for $2.50 pints – ask for me to wait on you!”  You just gained extra tips when your friends come in to see you!  Fish only stink until you marinate them with Mo’Fo’ Mustard and put them in some bad ass Fish Tacos from Scotty’s… 

4.     You are a respected and successful entrepreneur. What is one piece of advice you wish someone had shared with you before you started your business?

Understand the complexities of a Balance Sheet.  It took me years to always look at the Income Statement and try to run our company from just that.  The importance and knowledge of what a balance sheet means is directly connected to the success of an entrepreneur.  Always sleep on a big decision.  Don’t act too quickly, get emotionally involved and make irrational decisions.  I’ve always found it is great to go exercise, do some research and get some sleep – never give an answer to a big question, a big meeting or big decision without doing these things first.  Don’t surround yourself with “yes men and yes women.”  Let people challenge your decisions and listen to them.  Don’t feel like you have to agree or take their advice; but, always listen – their thoughts may help you think of something you hadn’t previously.  And, don’t be afraid to fail and make mistakes.  My second restaurant lost $1 million.  It took me 8 years to pay it all back.  And, I learned more in the 3 years I ran that restaurant, than 10 years running this one.  Just don’t make the same mistake twice.  Lastly, learn to get away from work.  Love your wife, partner, parents, children and don’t forget to have a life outside of work.  The world will remember you for your relationships and what you meant to the world, not for that year you had a big profit.  Do something good in the world, give back, lend a helping hand to those in need and always be philanthropic in nature with your time and life.

5.     Last question, who do you think is awesome and why?

My mom and dad are 2 of the most awesome people I know.  I’m so thankful to have great parents that have made me whom I am today.  My wife is the most awesome person for putting up with me.  The wife of an entrepreneur can be a difficult one and I would not be as balanced or the person I am today if I wouldn’t have met her over 20 years ago.  My kids are pretty damn awesome and they helped turn daddy into less of an obsessive compulsive person and learn to love life more than work.  Leaders, Sports Figures and others that inspire me?  Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, Pat Tillman, Dick Hoyt (Google it), Steve Jobs

Thanks to Scott Wise for participating in my little blog experiment. If you are in Downtown Indianapolis, or anywhere in Indiana for that matter, check out Scotty's Brewhouse. Order the wings. Seriously. 


  1. I am lovin' this new feature and the article! Nice job! He really does sound awesome.

  2. Thanks so much! It has been a lot of fun. I'm really enjoying seeing a different side to people.