Who is Mark Prinzinger?
Mark Prinzinger is a sales and marketing professional, food influencer and co-founder of the food blog Happy Hour Philly. Happy Hour Philly has more than 14,000 Instagram followers. Mark is also the founder of PHLto.com and previously worked at May Media Group. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. Mark Prinzinger lives in Philadelphia, PA.
While Mark Prinzinger is originally from Pennsylvania and grew up around the Philadelphia area, he lived in Los Angeles for a while before moving back to Philadelphia. Mark Prinzinger co-founded Happy Hour Philly with a doctor friend in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He was just super stressed out about COVID. And he came to me one day and he’s like, ‘I just really need to de-stress. You like to drink. I like to drink. We both like to go to happy hours. Why don’t we start an Instagram page where we just go to happy hours and post about it?’. And I’m like, ‘Sure, let’s do it’. So we just started doing that to hang out and have fun. And it blew up. We had people contacting us to do promos for them and stuff. And that’s how it got started.”
Happy Hour Philly
The Instagram handle Happy Hour Philly currently has just over 14,000 followers. While it was initially set up as a fun project, it eventually became a means of highlighting the restaurants that were still operating.
“A lot of these restaurants were doing take-out only or had very limited hours. And so we really wanted to highlight the restaurants that were still operating and bring them as much publicity as possible. There just wasn’t a lot of information in the beginning of the pandemic about who was open, who wasn’t open and what they were offering. And things were moving so quickly with the pandemic. One week, someplace might be open from Wednesday through Saturday and the next week they might only be open Friday and Saturday.”
Philadelphia has a wide range of food and drink establishments which means finding new restaurants to feature is relatively easy, Mark says.
“I’ve lived here for like eight years now and there’s still bars in the city I haven’t gone to just because there’s so many of them. I feel like you could be a lifelong resident and still try out new places on a weekly basis. A lot of people don’t realize Philadelphia is such a good food city. We have James Beard winners here, we have former Top Chef contestants here. There are just so many great restaurants.”
He was also drawn by what he considers a more authentic society.
“You can go to pretty much any bar in the city, whether it be, you know, Jean-Georges, or, you know, a dive bar like Oscar’s Tavern, and you can sit down at the bar by yourself, have a drink and start a conversation with somebody. And it’ll be a real conversation. They’ll talk to you, you’ll find out about them, have drinks together and it’s something that you really can’t find in Los Angeles. No disrespect to the West Coast.”
Tips for Foodie Influencer Success
Collaboration Over Competition
Mark Prinzinger subscribes to a philosophy of collaboration between food influencers and not competition.
“I go out with other food influencers on a weekly basis. There’s a nice community built around it. Maybe that’s a Philly-specific thing. But I find that you really can open up your horizons, find out about new restaurants, new food trends, a drink that you’ve never had before or a new cooking style that you haven’t heard of before.”
Food Over Backdrop
He is of the view that foodie photos should focus on the meal and not finding an Instagram-worthy backdrop.
“Don’t get me wrong. I think having a nice decor and having a good vibe is important. But I’m just not the biggest fan of having a backdrop with neon lights that everybody takes a picture of as soon as they step into a restaurant. You can look at my Instagram and I never take these pictures either on my business or personal page. I feel like anybody can take a picture in front of a neon sign but to be more authentic I think is to go into a place that is actually about their food or their drinks.”
Instagram Over TikTok
He believes that despite the rapid rise of TikTok, Instagram will remain the more impactful platform for food influencers.
“A lot of food influencers are putting their eggs in the TikTok basket. But I think Instagram is always going to be more relevant to people who are actually trying to find restaurants or bars or interesting things in the city just because the content is more digestible. I don’t know how much information somebody can take from those TikTok clips and say, ‘Oh my God! That place is awesome!’. I love making TikTok videos but I think Instagram is more pertinent, more searchable, more community-based and more authentic to food and drinks.”
Creative Freedom and Favorite Campaign
Mark Prinzinger works with major restaurant groups, independent restaurants and alcohol companies. He points out that his most successful shoots are those where he is granted creative freedom.
“Sometimes, restaurants have a very specific idea of what they want shot and it might not necessarily translate well into a visual. And at other times, I go into places and they give me the menu and they’re like, ‘Pick whatever you want’. Those are typically much more successful shoots because restaurant general managers, owners or whoever you’re working with, might not understand what is going to work well on an influencer account, and what the food trends are outside of their own restaurant.”
His favorite Happy Hour Philly campaign was an Instagram live broadcast at the beginning of the pandemic. The event was sponsored by Jack Daniels and took place at Moonshine Philly in south Philadelphia.
“We did this cooking competition and asked anybody from the audience if they wanted to be in our cooking competition. And we had this one guy who had actually been a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen. And after he came up, nobody else wanted to compete against him. Finally, this one guy sitting there who had had a few drinks, offered to participate. He’s like, ‘My name is Three-finger Bill’.
And he literally had three fingers. During the competition, he actually cut one of his three fingers to the point where we had to stop, bandage him up and give him a glove. Three-finger Bill was almost Two-finger Bill. It was a really fun time and both of them made really good food.”
Dining and Non-Dining Recommendations for Visitors
Mark Prinzinger recommends three restaurants for anyone visiting Philadelphia for the first time.
“My favorite restaurant in Philly right now. They are in old Kensington. It’s a really small place but they do food really well. It’s farm-to-table. Everything is fresh. They have a rotating menu. So whenever you go there, you get a different experience. Although tables are a little hard to get sometimes because they’re so small.”
Second, Oscar’s Tavern.
“It is one of the few dive bars left in center city. It’s cash only. It’s not a high end cocktail bar and is very dark in there. It’s just authentic Philadelphia as compared to some other places where you might not get the same experience of the community. Long island iced teas are what they’re known for. They come in a very large glass. I’ve never had a bad time at Oscars and I’ve been there many times. So you can always go in there and have a good time. People are very friendly and nice.”
Third, El Techo Philly.
“It’s a rooftop bar. They have this glass retractable ceiling. So in the winter time, you can still see the sunlight but in the summer time they open the roof. You got nice views of the city and they have really good cocktails.”
For an activity outside of dining, Mark Prinzinger recommends attending sports games.
“We’re such a big sports city. I had a friend who was out here from San Diego and we went to a Sixers game. He is not a sports fan at all but it was such a good game and the crowd was so into it. There was just so much energy in the Wells Fargo center which is where the Sixers play. He loved it and had such a good time. Go see a Philly sports game. Whether it be the Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Fliers, Philadelphia Eagles.”
One Mark’s pet peeves is the assumption everyone in Philadelphia loves cheesesteak.
”Whenever you tell people that you’re from Philadelphia, the first thing they always say to you is cheesesteaks. Maybe I don’t represent all Philadelphians, but I very rarely eat a cheesesteak. Typically, the only time I do is if it’s somebody visiting who is not from the area that wants to come visit me and they’re staying for a few days. They always want to get a cheesesteak. it’s more of a tourist trap type of thing. There’s just so much more to Philadelphia than our cheesesteaks.”
For anyone looking to keep tabs on what is happening in Philadelphia’s food and drink space, Mark recommends following foodies on social media.
“I wouldn’t even say there’s a specific foodie to follow. You start following any of the hundreds of foodie accounts in Philly that are probably suggested to your Instagram. Next thing you know, you’re just going through your feed and literally every picture you see there is going to be food or drink somewhere.”