By Jessie Eden
A Facebook group, 70,000 local members strong, is going out of its way to promote positive food experiences throughout Cincinnati.
Chowdown Cincinnati was created in 2018 by Travis Setter and Brandon Quillen who saw a need for a positive outlet among the Cincinnati food scene.
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They aren't alone -- people caught on to the mission and in just 30 days, the group had five thousand members.
"The idea for Chowdown was birthed from the frustration of how negative and unforgiving people can be online when reviewing restaurants and businesses," said Quillen.
"Sometimes people can be incredibly passive about how their negative reviews can truly impact someones life. Businesses are run by people who just want to feed their families and we just knew we could somehow create a platform where they could be lifted up and promoted without the fear of being attacked by some unknown online nemesis."
Both Brandon and Travis felt that it was vital to fight back within the restaurant industry with some positive power.
"It’s important because too often negativity and the public platforms where it runs rampant is left unchecked. Businesses are left with very little recourse and in essence are no longer in complete control of their success," said Setter.
"Chowdown is local and has an arguably greater influence in the local restaurant industry than Google or Yelp. Everything our community needs to become balanced and self sustaining, it already has."
|'Chowdown Cincinnati' is shaking up the food scene with positivity.|
The group has helped several different restaurants across the Tri-State area.
"The ultimate goal of Chowdown is to provide restaurants and food-related businesses with services they can genuinely rely on," said Quillen. "We aren’t going to write about their misfortunes and promote eye-catching headlines to get views. We want to see them succeed pure and simple. We have no other goal than to create a healthy, vibrant, and positive food scene in Cincinnati."
It's not just restaurants either. Meghal Patel from the Ameristop in Bellevue said Chowdown Cincinnati mentioned his business and now business is booming.
"We are a small convenience store you can find the stuff we carry almost everywhere...but not the soft serve ice cream we have. Some people are literally driving almost 45 minutes to an hour to just get ice cream here because of Chowdown Cincinnati," said Patel. "In the past few weeks, we are sending out ice cream quite a lot for a small store like ours. We greatly appreciate what the Chowdown community gave us in a positive way and all the reviews are great for the business and community."
And by booming, Meghal says he is selling 150 to 200 gallons of ice cream a week for the past month and a half!
Another business positively impacted by Chowdown Cincinnati is Bourbon House Pizza in Florence, owned by Mary Brandstetter. Fort Thomas Matters also recently reported that they'll be opening a second location in Newport by Aqua on the Levee.
"Because of Chowdown's exposure, it has brought in people from all over Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It has brought in customers that may not have known about Bourbon House Pizza. These are customers we may not have reached before," said Brandstetter.
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"We love the fact that Chowdown is so positive about their experiences. Things happen in every restaurant, it's not constant...but one time incidents sometimes happen and you may have something that happens one time. Then, you get a bad review and that makes TEN customers decide not to come in. It's great that Chowdown goes against that format, it's wonderful because everybody tries really hard in the restaurant industry so this shows the other side to customers."
Since Chowdown Cincinnati's mention, Mary says people have been stopping by from all over.
"We have had a lot of people going through to Kings Island or The Creation Museum and normally, we don't get a lot of Ohio residents but now they are regulars and come in maybe once a month!"
Mary also said, as a small business owner, she appreciates the extra help getting people in the door. "The fact that Chowdown respects restaurants -- we love that. Travis and Brandon are such good people. The group has over fifty thousand members and it shows. As a small business, the group has given us a lot. For them to come out and get to know us, like Travis did, it just meant a lot."
Chowdown Cincinnati is gaining new followers AND new food adventures every day according to Brandon. "We’ve experienced a lot of transitions and growing pains, but the group is well ahead of pace to be at 100,000 strong by the end of 2021!"