By: Rachel Tabacnic
Happy Friday! To continue our new series of Q&As with some of the reporters we have worked with over the years, I tapped Sam Oches, editor at QSR Magazine and long-time friend of Fish. I first met Sam four years ago at a cocktail party for Franchise Expo South back in January 2011, where we argued over LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and heading to the Miami Heat. (He’s over the moon now that LeBron is back!)
As the editor of one of the national restaurant trades, Sam has featured several of our clients including Dunkin’ Donuts, McAlister’s Deli, and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. (You can check out more stories from Sam here.) Sam is based in Durham, N.C. where he lives with his wife, Katie. You can follow him on Twitter at @SamQSR to see what he's up to.
Do you accept PR pitches and, if so, what's the best way for you to receive them?
I happily accept PR pitches, in fact, rely on them to assign a large chunk of our content. Email is always the best way to receive pitches. Sometimes PR folks send pitches to our freelance writers, or otherwise don't reach out to me directly. I don't know if they assume I'm not approachable or what, but let it be known: I prefer that pitches be sent to me! Send them to our associate editor, Tamara, too. Between the two of us, we'll take care of you.
We all follow you @SamQSR. What's your take on getting pitches through Twitter, yay or nay?
Well, I certainly don't mind receiving pitches by Twitter. But those pitches are more likely to slip through the cracks (and from my mind) than what's sent via email.
What's your biggest pet peeve about working with PR reps?
How much space have I got here? :) Just kidding. Kind of. I've got a few pet peeves, for sure (though I recognize that PR folks have pet peeves with editors that I surely, unknowingly, fall into. If that's the case, please tell me!). A big one is promising a story or a source and then failing to deliver. It's kind of crazy how often this happens, where an overexcited PR rep can't deliver their client after we've agreed to their pitch. Some others include: sloppy press releases; an overabundance of cliche buzzwords (enough with "mouthwatering"!); following up with a phone call to make sure I got the press release (trust me, I got it); not sending a photo with a press release, especially if it's news of a new menu item, store design, etc. (related: following up with me after I've posted the press release with a generic brand image asking if I can swap out the photo); and confusing me with my competitors. *Steps down from soap box.*
What kind of story ideas are topping your list at the moment and what do you wish you received more pitches for?
Obviously I love unique stories. I love to hear about something new and fresh that's happening in the industry, even if it's just at a small independent restaurant. That could relate to just about any subject, but right now we're definitely looking for fresh stories related to healthy eating, smart sourcing, upscaling food items, enhancing the brand experience, giving back to the community, and investing in the future of the industry.
I'm also a sucker for human-interest stories; we love being able to tell the stories of passionate operators and franchisees, social responsibility efforts, grass-roots work, etc. So those are probably what I'd love to see more of.
What does it take to be featured on the cover of QSR Magazine?! Will a pretty picture cut it?
Well a pretty picture certainly helps! Really though, the cover is a huge decision that we never take lightly. It starts three or four months before print, when we assign our features. Our team discusses the feature well and which story lends itself best to the cover spot. Once that's decided, it's a matter of deciding whether a person from the story best represents its message, or whether it's best expressed through a food image, store shot, or maybe something conceptual. If we decide to go with a person (usually half of the time), we choose someone who is important to the story and generally well known or upcoming in the industry.
Aside from being the Editor at QSR Magazine - what has been a major accomplishment that you are proud of?
I spent the last year as president of the International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC), which was a real honor and allowed me to better connect with the foodservice industry. For those of you foodservice editors and publicists, who aren't already involved with IFEC, go check it out at www.ifeconline.com and become a member. It's a fantastic community, and I was proud to lead it this year.
If you weren't a writer, what profession do you think you end up in?
That's a tough one. I can only imagine being a writer in some capacity; if I weren't a journalist, I'd try to write fiction full time, something I currently do as a hobby. But if we were to consult 18-year-old Sam, he would probably tell you that the only other possible career I could commit to besides writing is being a rock-star drummer (OK, even present-day Sam clings to that dream).
You write about food all-day long... what's your favorite meal after a long day of work?
My wife Katie and I live in Durham, NC, which is a fantastic, booming food town, so I eat far more meals out than I should. We aren't terribly picky, and love everything from burgers and Indian to sushi and barbecue. But, ultimately, it doesn't get a whole lot better than pizza and beer, whether that's at home or out on the town.