I hope springtime is treating you well. It’s definitely keeping us busy here at First Watch with lots of travels, some fun menu creation, a new Spring menu in all our restaurants that’s getting some fantastic feedback, and lots more. I wanted to write this post to take you behind the scenes of our seasonal food photoshoots!
I know you’ve seen those mouthwatering photos that we share on our website, table cards, window posters and Sun eClub emails. Well, those beautiful materials are the product of the hard work of our crew of about 8 – our culinary and marketing teams, our partners at ACME Brand Studio, Mary who makes sure our fresh food is looking photogenic, and our talented photographer friend, John Deeb. Here’s a look behind the scenes!
The thought process, recipe creation and planning for our seasonal menu items are usually done far in advance – It’s not uncommon for us to have each one planned out up to a year in advance! Two or three months before each seasonal menu launches, I get to visit our brothers and sisters in Tampa at the First Watch on Henderson Blvd., where we host these fun photoshoots five times a year. Tom, Brandi, Sekou and the rest of Team Henderson are always so helpful when we come in and take over the restaurant for about 6 hours – You all rock!
After months of testing and tweaking recipes and working with our purchasing and distribution team to iron out sourcing logistics, I get to make some of our latest and greatest, not-yet-introduced dishes for the camera! There’s a lot that goes into each dish at the photoshoot that you may not think of – everything from which plates to use, which way each item on the dish should face and which of our fresh juices or coffee will complement the dish better, to things like trying to make sure a ball of fresh mozzarella doesn’t look like a hard-boiled egg in the photo!
I usually arrive at First Watch Henderson around noon on photoshoot day, so I can work with the team in the kitchen to prep all the goodness that we’ll be using for the photoshoot after the restaurant closes at 2:30. We spend some time chopping, slicing, juicing (and taste-testing!) before having a quick lunch while the staff closes up shop for the day. Since Tampa Bay is our test market, our 12 restaurants there are always serving different menu items from the rest of our restaurants. So it’s always fun to have lunch in Tampa – but that’s a story for another blog post!
Once the restaurant is closed, the staff is finished with their work, and our crew has loaded all their gear in, then it’s time to get the party started. We spend about an hour on each dish – preparing it with the freshest ingredients, arranging them on our plateware, and shooting from lots of different angles, from various distances and using different backdrops to figure out what works best. It’s a fun and fascinating team effort that I look forward to with each new menu.
After we’ve finished shooting the three or four new seasonal dishes, then we usually move on to the Fresh Juice Bar! We introduce at least one new juice with every seasonal menu. These are fun to shoot, but can be difficult with obstacles like melting ice and condensation. Here are some pictures we took while John was shooting our Morning Meditation and Kale Tonic a couple weeks ago!
It’s really cool to see these new menus through the whole process – from inspiration and experimentation all the way through to testing in our Tampa Bay restaurants and eventually full execution at First Watch locations nationwide. Without lots of dedication and expertise from our marketing team and creative experts, we wouldn’t have the beautiful photography you see us use on our window posters, our website and those cards on our tabletops! It’s really a combination of happy, passionate, talented people and a love for food that make this whole “work” thing lots of fun!!