Clips Email Marketing column: Chef Takes Guerrilla Marketing Online

Chef Takes Guerrilla Marketing Online

David F. Carr, 07.27.10, 06:00 AM EDT

Taking reservations and collecting money online for an underground restaurant.


Russell Jackson speaks not very plausibly about maintaining “plausible deniability” about the years he ran the San Francisco “underground restaurant”SubCulture Dining.

In talking about his experiences, Jackson uses the phrase “if it actually happened,” as if it were all hypothetical. Then again, now that he has gone legitimate with a traditional brick-and-mortar, health-department-inspected restaurant called Lafitte (, he is promoting it on the Web and promising a “crazy intangible element that made SubCulture Dining work so well for so long.”

Jackson was part of a foodie movement in cities like San Francisco that achieved a small cult following for arranging gourmet dinners in people’s homes or other ad hoc locations. SubCulture Dining cultivated an air of hip exclusivity; you supposedly had to be “in the know” and with the right connections to know when the events were happening.

I spoke with Jackson to learn about the online marketing campaign he used to make SubCulture Dining successful, especially since that success helped generate the buzz that led to the opening of his above-ground restaurant. The process, he admits, took longer than he had expected. (More at

This is a case study of event marketing with EventBrite for an “underground dining” restaurant. Interesting one for me to report that I’ve done quite a lot of custom event marketing work with my web development clients, using my own scripts and (more recently) WordPress plugins to handle RSVPs and email invites. There are always advantages of having something custom built for your own purposes, but I’m impressed by the range of functionality EventBrite offers.

Chef Jackson and his business were also undeniably fun to write about.