Please Note: You are viewing the non-styled version of Where to Eat. This website employs technology that your browser does not support. If you are using an older browser, please learn why you should upgrade. Thank You.
|Home | Restaurants | Catering | Events & Insider Info | About Us | Press | Contact|
What People Are Saying...Return to Recent Articles and Press.
A Business Plan with a Ponytail
By Hayley Kaufman, Globe Staff, 7/29/2001
Eight floors up in a Back Bay office building, high above the rubble
of the dot-com implosion, Jill Epstein answers the phone at her desk,
flashes a smile, and sets about building a business the old-fashioned
way: one relationship at a time.
Now, Epstein is hoping to replicate the success of ''Where to Eat'' with
a second edition on the West Coast, while continuing to expand the flagship
If Epstein's cautious business philosophy doesn't sound glamorous, her
perch at the center of the city's roiling restaurant and bar scene certainly
looks to be. One evening a few weeks ago, the 1994 Boston University grad
(her degree is in graphic design) threw a chic roof-deck party at the
Colonnade Hotel to celebrate the second anniversary of ''Where to Eat.''
Nearly 300 of Boston's hottest chefs, restaurateurs, media types, and
assorted beautiful people made a point of being there.
Ever the fashionable hostess, Epstein wore one of her signature hip ensembles
- lime green beaded top from Barneys, Banana Republic red bootleg pants,
Charles David black mules with white stitching. She worked the crowd effortlessly,
greeting guests by first name and cooing over the food, the weather, the
turnout. Her chestnut ponytail bobbed like a cheerleader's.
It was a warm reception for any publisher, but especially one who focuses on the restaurant circuit, known for its souffle-like egos and competitive juices. But then, such goodwill reflects the genius of Epstein's publication: It's all good news, all the time.
Unlike guides that rate restaurants on food and ambiance, Epstein's book
dispenses with reviews entirely. Instead, chefs or owners buy a page and
fill it as they see fit: with new seasonal menus, photos of themselves
or their restaurant, even favorite recipes. Meanwhile, introductory blurbs
quote favorable reviews from the Zagat guide, as well as every local newspaper
and magazine Epstein can find. And if, for some reason, there aren't any
glowing words to be culled from other publications? Epstein lets the restaurant
owners and chefs pen their own, highlighting the food, wine list, lunch
scene - whatever they think the selling points are.
''When we first started it, everyone was saying, `So when are you going
to start doing reviews?''' Epstein said. ''But I don't think anyone really
cares what I think about a restaurant. What we do is listen to our [restaurants]
to find out what they think people should know.''
Meanwhile, big companies - law firm Edwards & Angell, consultants
Ernst & Young, and Hammond Real Estate among them - are also ordering
up stacks of ''Where to Eat'' guides, having their corporate name printed
on them, and passing them on to their clients.
Still, Epstein says her stints as a hostess at Lydia Shire's restaurant
Pignoli, at retailer Louis, Boston, and as an intern at Boston Magazine
have served her well, acting as a primer to the local scene and honing
her customer-relations skills. Watching her father's Worcester-based paint-supply
business prosper over the years also helped.
''We want to be part of the community in every market we go into, whether
we decide to grow vertically or laterally,'' Epstein says. ''I think that's
how we set ourselves apart now. It's really about bringing people together.
Creating a community. It's so easy to do that in Boston.''