By Grace Huang
While finishing my senior year at Newton South High School, I started an internship with the chamber in an attempt to narrow down what I might want to do in the future. I was initially interested in interning at the chamber because I would be involved with the Spring Seasonings tasting event that happens each spring, an event where forty local chefs showcase their offerings. Although I am interested in business, I’m also very interested in food: I write food reviews, read about food history and watch food documentaries and food channels on YouTube. The chamber internship seemed like the perfect mix for me.
And then because of COVID-19, Spring Seasonings had to be canceled. Instead, I was fortunate to be the first ever virtual intern at the chamber, in the midst of a pandemic, and still ended up close to the restaurant scene, albeit virtually.
When I began my internship at the chamber, restaurants were (and still are) struggling and the chamber devoted a lot of time to helping restaurants and advocating for them. One such effort was the creation of takeout/delivery and outdoor dining directories, which was my first project for the internship. While adding restaurants into the directories, I was able to learn more about what each of my local restaurants had to offer. I’m especially proud of the directories because they attracted 1100+ views in the first week, representing more than 25% of the website’s overall traffic during that time.
To bring awareness to the directories and dine local messaging, I planned a marketing campaign that included writing social media post prompts, selecting photos to accompany them and researching various platforms to share the content on. I worked closely on this project with Tiffany Chen, the chamber’s Member Services Manager who is responsible for most of the chamber’s social media activity - she helped me modify and tweak the messaging as needed. The project also allowed me to compile a list of 200+ prospective members for digital outreach and expand members’ profiles for better searchability on the chamber’s website – both important contributions to the chamber’s operation.
As I became more involved with the restaurant project I was able to Zoom in and witness the weekly Restaurant Group meetings, a group of restaurant owners who share their concerns and resources and organize group efforts on behalf of the local dining scene. I learned how restaurant owners interacted with their landlords, their neighbors and suppliers. When the chamber team was on break, I had the opportunity to represent the chamber at the weekly meeting to ensure it ran smoothly and report back.
And recently I’ve witnessed how the restaurant owners, the Newton-Needham Dining Collaborative, pulled together to create a social media marketing campaign. By sharing ideas, customer feedback and personal insight during the meetings, exchanging lengthy email chains with additional input and reaching out to local marketing agencies during their free time, the group is hoping to launch its campaign any day now.
Unlike my plan to focus on my love of all things food-related, the internship provided a bigger picture of the business world and let me know that there are endless opportunities that may be of interest to me. In terms of restaurants, I learned there are many key stakeholders beyond just the restaurateurs and those working in the restaurants – they are the foundation of our local economic vitality. I learned the same about our other local businesses, as I gained new understanding of other member industry segments through attending various committee meetings, webinars and Zoom networking events.
As my internship at the Chamber ends, I will soon begin studying Economics at Barnard College. And since I will be starting off my college journey by staying in Newton and studying remotely, that restaurant directory will come in handy.