The Boston Globe recently spotlighted a practice that gave pause to fish eaters in this seafood mecca. It was about a literal “bait” and switch taking place at area restaurants and food stores. The stories exposed discrepancies between what fish is on a menu and what you’re actually eating. “The five-month investigation showed that consumers routinely and unknowingly pay too much for less prized fish or buy seafood that is something other than what is advertised on menus. Nearly half the 183 fish samples reporters purchased at restaurants, grocery stores, and seafood markets were sold with the wrong species name.” Here’s a hint: be careful when ordering the red snapper.
But, as part of the series, Beth Daley and Jenn Abelson wrote a sidebar that revealed something interesting about marketing.
The Globe showed what some in the industry are doing to prove the fish they are serving is what they promised. It used fisherman Steve Arnold to tell the story of Trace and Trust, a program developed by fishermen and chefs to provide quality assurance to their customers. Immediately after hauling in black sea bass off the coast of Rhode Island, Arnold began taking pictures of the fish with his phone and then tweeting and emailing the photos. “Orders began rolling in before (he) even got back to shore.” The next night the fish found itself on the plate of diners at Boston’s 606 Congress restaurant in the Renaissance Hotel. Under the program, wait staff provide the diners an ID number and a QR code that allows them to use their smartphone to confirm where and when that fish was caught.
Not only does Trace and Trust allow fishermen to market themselves and sell their catch quickly, it provides them and restaurants the competitive advantage of verifiable freshness. Which is pretty important for those selling fish, especially in light of the Globe reporting. The approach transcends the fishing and dining industries. It’s a model for how all kinds of business – large and small – must begin to think about technology, transparency, social media and the new rules of marketing and communications.