Surprise in style

Updated: Feb 3, 2019


How my former student job as a waiter actually became my launching platform as photographer and filmmaker? And how, because of this, my film's protagonist became a hero for the neighbourhood's female population and nearly the opposite for the male half? The answer is a one-minute video.


Project: 'surprise'


I started working at Koen & Sandra's restaurant, Broosend Hof, some 5 years ago. Nowadays still, whenever I'm in Belgium, I regularly help out for a shift. It remains to be great fun. And the appreciation is great every time I show my face in the restaurant.


Simon Sinek said it already: "People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.". Koen & Sandra are the personalisation of this. Their restaurant goes so well because customers simply feel (and taste) the love for hospitality.


So when the day came, Koen came up to me and asked for a favour, I of course said 'yes' already before knowing what it would be.


He would as a surprise arrange a birthday lunch -chef style- in the middle of the forrest for Sandra en her friends. I was to help set up the whole thing and to take some pictures documenting the happening. Her friends, taking her for a walk, were of course in the masterplan too. Only Sandra had no clue what was going to happen that day.

So having everything arranged just in time, we spotted the group of four coming. The cellist started playing 'happy birthday' (Ewout Lehoucq, very talented music player). Instead of taking pictures, I tried filming.


I had not long ago discovered the red button on my photo camera, so I'd spontaneously take it for a try.


Back home I made a 2 minute edit of it. Koen & Sandra thought it was great, and they started showing it to everyone. Among them a cousin of Koen who runs a communication agency. He suggested to keep it under one minute and publish it on social media to use it for the restaurant's promotion (check his -dutch- post about it: https://www.sigmund.be/blog/52-seconden).


Both Koen & Sandra and me, we felt it would be fair to show part of their private life on their restaurant's Facebook page. The restaurant is quite intimate anyway. And the concept is so personal that every single one of their fixed customers is known by name (and very often what they do or don't like to eat).


So one day, we just threw it online.


Within 24 hours the video got 5000 views (back then the page had about a 1000 likes), today it's on 22.000. Just a few days ago even, Koen was out and still got a remark from a man who's wife had seen the video. Now he had to get to the same 'standard' of surprises for his wife. We're more than two years later, and still people are talking about it!


Conclusion: both for me as for the restaurant this turned out to be a valuable experiment. Koen & Sandra realised the value of social media and the power of moving image for their restaurant's marketing. A new (female) customer base opened up - although their husbands were now expected to follow Koen's example.


For myself, I realised the power of honesty in video. Nothing is 'played'. No one knew either I was filming instead of taking pictures. The story is simple, yet it worked more effectively than any 'good camera' could have possibly have made up for.


Next project we took it a bit further. The concept slightly changed, although our principal cast remained the same. A short film called "The Philosophy of a Chef". Next time more about that one.

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