“The Rhode Island cupcake community is competitive and very vocal. Everyone has a favorite and no one is afraid to talk about it. Loudly.”
Jim Nellis does not mince words. Well, he didn’t in that sentence. He does occasionally mince words. Okay, he often minces words. After food-fighting, Nellis’ number one talent may actually be word-mincing.
Nellis is the founder and owner of RI FOOD FIGHTS, an incredibly successful marketing business that has ballooned in the Rhode Island culinary scene over the past eight years. He knows how to use social media and how to turn social media response into real life success in business. He also has so many ideas running around in his brain that, yes, once in a while, he’ll happily mince a word or two — but not when he’s talking about numbers.
“The RI FOOD FIGHTS brand is growing. We have 100,000 views per week on Facebook and over 32,200 followers on Instagram.” Nellis is not blowing smoke. RI FOOD FIGHTS has one of the largest social media followings in Rhode Island, and for good reason. RIFF has infiltrated New England food-fans like no other entity.
RI FOOD FIGHTS typically focuses on month-long eating events based around a single food item; January means chicken wings, May means burgers, October means tacos, November means pizza, etc. For one of these month-long events (usually accompanied by a punny name like “Lord of the Pies” or “Big Burger Blowout”) a consumer can expect to pay between $20 and $25 to get a “passport.” An RIFF passport will then provide you with a huge number of coupons from restaurants that offer one complimentary food item of the month (like a slice of pizza, or six wings). “How many restaurants?” you ask? It’s typically around 24 to 28, but I’ve personally seen the number go up to 34 restaurants for one of these events. Meaning the consumer pays $25 for around 25 burgers over the course of a month, and then gets to vote on what burger (or slice of pizza or taco) is the best in Rhode Island.
Does it sound crazy? It is. The value for the consumer is outrageous. To find out how it shakes out on the restaurants’ side of things, I talked to John Sepulveda from Feast Sandwich Company in East Greenwich.
“Participating in an RI Food Fight can propel a restaurant from relative obscurity to cult classic over the course of one month. We track analytics on all our activity, the RI Food Fight has created a surge of repeat business that would have taken us years to acquire. We have been able to successfully create a social media platform, a repeating customer base and a staggering customer conversion rate and we have never spent a dime on traditional advertising methods. We are the proof of concept that shows RI Food Fights works if you know how to work it.”
Nellis adds, “We are analytically driven. The return on investment for new customer acquisition using our platform is greater than any current form of marketing. It’s that simple.”
Heavy hitters continue to take part in RI FOOD FIGHTS’ events; Boneheads’ Wing Bar, Knead Donuts, Troop, Tomaselli’s, El Rancho Grande, Warwick Ice Cream, The Sandwich Hut — the list goes on. But the month-long events are just part of the story.
RI Food Fights’ 8th Annual Great Annual Cupcake Championship will hit the WaterFire Arts Center in PVD on Sunday June 23rd. The event is dedicated to finding out who makes the best cupcakes in Rhode Island. It’s one of many annual day-long events organized by RI FOOD FIGHTS, which also include the Spectacular Cookie Smackdown, the Incredible Ice Cream Throwdown, and Bacon and Beer Fest.
“The cupcake event was RI FOOD FIGHTS’ first ever throwdown, and it is the event of record for finding who has the best cupcakes in RI. This event has sold out seven years in a row.”
For $20, you get to sample cupcakes from more than a dozen different bakeries around RI and vote on your favorite. There will be over 7,000 cupcakes under one roof! This is accompanied by free beverages from New Harvest Coffee Roasters and Yacht Club Soda. Last year’s winners include Sweet Indulgence and Celebrated.
I can attest to the fact that these events are more than just a delightful and delicious afternoon. They are the most effective way to be introduced to, and involved in, the forever-changing Rhode Island foodie landscape. The amount of unbelievably impressive restaurants, bakeries and eateries that have come my way via RI FOOD FIGHTS is astounding. The Cupcake Championship is yet another shining example of a chest full of riches on RI FOOD FIGHTS’ treasure map through our culinary scene. The easiest way to participate is to follow their Instagram page at @rifoodfights.
When gauging the reaction from Rhode Islanders, to the great events that RI FOOD FIGHTS has provided over the past eight years, Nellis’ unintentional catchphrase pretty much sums it up; “Dude. Epic.”