Who is Michael Patterson Jr.?
Michael Patterson Jr. is founder of the Instagram page dudewheresmytacos. He is a food blogger, photographer and influencer in the San Francisco Bay Area. His page has more than 27,000 Instagram followers. As a food influencer, Michael has worked with several hospitality brands including Visit Concord, Visit Walnut Creek, World Famous Hotboys restaurant and Broderick Roadhouse. He lives in Stockton, CA.
Michael’s journey to becoming a food influencer started when he noticed that the most liked pictures on his Instagram account were food-related.
“Also, because I travel a lot, my family and friends would hit me up whenever they went somewhere or were in town. ‘Hey, what’s the new spot?’ or ‘Where are you eating?’. Even at work people would always ask me where to eat. A lot of places nowadays put 90 percent of their effort into the image of the restaurant. It’ll be a cool space and look very appealing. But then the food will be lacking flavor. The ‘energy’ should be in the food first.”
He has been a food blogger for nearly four years now. While he is on this full time now, he did it part time for about three years. Michael lives in Stockton but most of the brands he works with are in the San Francisco Bay Area. He identifies restaurants to visit based on recommendations from his followers, looking up reviews on sites like Yelp to find places to eat in an area he is in, and responding to restaurants that reach out to him directly.
His foray into the business of influencer marketing formally started when one of his followers suggested he try out the burgers at Broderick RoadHouse Walnut Creek.
“They were like, ‘You always talk about burgers. This is the best burger you ever had’. And I was like, ‘Alright’. I went there. The burger was amazing. Broderick RoadHouse liked my content and they asked me If I wanted to help them with marketing. My Initial answer was no. At the time I had a full-time job. I was going to school. No way I’m going to be able to take on anything else. But they were persistent. And, you know, here we are. That’s how everything started with it being a business.”
Rolla Ghaben, the co-owner of Broderick Roadhouse Walnut Creek, also owns World Famous Hotboys, Lita Walnut Creek, Batch and Brine and about eight franchises of Mels Diner, Michael says. He has to approach each brand’s marketing campaign differently.
Most Memorable Collaborations
He considers his work with World Famous Hotboys as his most successful.
“I literally started that. It’s an ongoing campaign now but I really built that following up from one follower to almost 40,000 on my own by just marketing or word of mouth. We never paid for promotion.”
He has had some memorable one-off projects with the cities of Concord and Walnut Creek.
“My collaboration with Visit Concord was pretty good. They had their Comfort Food Week and I sent out videos for them. We visited Doppio Zero Concord, Puesto Concord and Concord Tap House. And then we included the Hilton Concord. I also did video work for a drink competition for Visit Walnut Creek and was a judge. So those are two really big and successful city campaigns and I was proud of the work we did with that.”
Measuring Campaign Success
As far as metrics to gauge campaign success go, Michael is keen on the numbers.
“When I do my Instagram Reel, picture, some stories, shout out on my feed, and even sometimes do a giveaway, I would want to see an increase in following on your page and also know how it impacted your business afterwards. Most of the time, I think likes and follows usually lead to sales.”
The impact of likes and follows on sales does not always happen immediately though there are exceptions.
“My newest client Lita Walnut Creek has only been open a month and it’s been really successful just because of the influencer event I hosted, all of the work we’ve been doing with the photography and the video stuff. We opened in the middle of January and it’s already booked through April. That’s crazy for a restaurant. A lot of people are disappointed they can’t get in. We don’t have commercials on TV. We’re not running yellow page ads. We’re not doing any of those things. It’s purely off of social media.”
Michael is careful not to promise results.
“As a content creator, you know what your followers like. That doesn’t necessarily mean every post is going to hit. If every time I have posted a selfie I got a thousand likes, I could post one day and get a hundred likes. And it could be for various reasons. Wrong hashtag. Wrong timing. A network outage. You can never guarantee results. All I can guarantee is my work. When I get hired, it is to create content. You pay me to promote your restaurant as a content creator so I can take pictures and create Reels for you.”
He informs the client that he won’t automatically post campaign content on his own Instagram page.
“If It’s good and ‘dude-approved’, I’ll put it on my page. If it’s not good, I can’t put that on my feed but you’ll still receive all the content. I’m not going to say anything negative but I can’t put it there because people will go there. I know everybody has different types of flavor palates.
Something I think is good might not be good to you. But I want to at least be able to stand on the principle that I thought it was good. I’m not a ‘bad review’ guy. I always try to focus on the positive. But the second I start lying and saying everything’s good like most bloggers in the Bay Area, I won’t differentiate myself.”
Michael cautions against a fixation with an influencer’s follower count alone as a measure of their potential impact.
“Everybody is an influencer. We’re walking billboards. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have. If I follow your Instagram and you’re always at a certain shop, I’m going to think that place has to be good and want to try it. Like with World Famous Hotboys, you see people with these hoodies. You see people with these hats. You see people with the sandwich. You see people always tag us on their stories. And we do that because we want everybody to feel like they’re a part of the page.
I feel like that’s what’s going on with Lita Walnut Creek right now. Even though we have professional pictures I’ve taken, we still use user-generated content to encourage people from the micro to the mega influencers to just regular Instagram people to post us on their feed. That’s free advertisement. So that’s what I embraced. I get Yelp Reviews. I get Instagram reviews. I get good feedback on Facebook. All that stuff at the end of the day lead to sales.”
He sees being taken seriously at a professional and personal level as his biggest challenge as an influencer.
“This is one of the things people don’t take seriously. When I say that, I mean by restaurants and in my personal life. For example, I remember early on this place reached out to me to do marketing for their list of 30 restaurants. And when I would ask how much they are paying per restaurant, they kept avoiding the question.
Like just stuff like that. On friends or family, even though people know I do this and it’s my sole source of income and that following, liking, commenting on Instagram is free, they still don’t get to the point where they support me on Instagram or are supporting this business.”
Despite TikTok’s soaring popularity, Michael has not had as much success on it as Instagram.
“I use TikTok but the problem is TikTok is all based on sounds and algorithms. So if I don’t want to lip sync stuff, dance or use trending sounds, this is not going to work on TikTok and go viral. With TikTok, what they want for food accounts is more like reviews.
So like, ‘Hey man, I got this new cup of coffee from Joe’s coffee shop. It’s amazing’. They want reactions and stuff like that. Can I do that stuff? Yes. But I’m lazy. So I’ll take my Instagram Reels, put it on TikTok and let it do what it does. But it doesn’t really work the same on TikTok, because the professional videos on TikTok will never hit like they hit on Instagram.”
Bay Area Restaurant Recommendations
Michael has a number of restaurant recommendations for anyone visiting the Bay Area for the first time.
First, World Famous Hotboys in Oakland.
“There’s the vibe you get there. It’s a different kind of thing. And then we just got ranked the number one chicken sandwich in California. And it really is a unique chicken sandwich. Most chicken sandwich places are trying to duplicate Howlin’ Ray’s in LA who were one of the pioneers of the new culture of the Nashville chicken sandwich. World Famous Hotboys is different from that. We made our own thing.”
Second, Teleferic Barcelona in Walnut Creek.
“That’s not even a client but I really liked the aesthetic there. And their cocktails are amazing.”
Third, Main Street Kitchen in Walnut Creek for brunch.
“They probably have the best French toast you have ever had in your life. It’s a little bit expensive. But I’ve never regretted going there.”
Fourth, Batch and Brine in Lafayette as a secondary brunch option.
“The food’s good. In the summer and the spring, there’s that outdoor aesthetic. We have really good music. You can literally just sit there and enjoy. It’s a really good setting.”
Fifth, 1515 Restaurant in Walnut Creek for a multifunctional establishment.
“I’m not sure about Sunday but on Fridays and Saturdays, on the top of the restaurant they have a bit of a club, bar, dance floor. So you eat, drink and go upstairs to party. All at the same place.”
Sixth, Capullo Cocina Mexicana.
“They have really solid Mexican food. There’s bottomless mimosas every weekend. They have a DJ and a mariachi band every other Friday. Almost every day of the week they have some drink special you can get bottomless margarita and stuff like that.”
Michael is working on a food concept.
“I am working with a couple of different chefs to kind of curate a menu. I’m hoping to start doing pop-ups by the summer. Something that’s definitely like ‘dude-approved’. You know, it’s gonna be good. We have to come up with like 20 recipes.”