Four Things Radio Can Learn From "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"
July 10, 2012
It's always interesting to see how the same basic concepts that lead to successful radio stations often appear in other mediums as well.
For example, anyone who watches the Food Network is probably familiar with the long-running show "Diners, Drive-In's and Dives," better known to its legion of fans as Triple D, hosted by the colorful Guy Fieri.
For anyone not familiar with the show, Fieri, a restaurant owner and celebrity chef, travels the country highlighting the down-to-earth cuisine found at three unique American creations: local diners, drive-in restaurants and dive bars. Each episode highlights three establishments and features Fieri interviewing the owners and local patrons and helping cook the restaurant's signature dish. Created in 2006, the show has never deviated from this tried and true format and the result has been a dedicated legion of followers who often travel out of their way to visit the places profiled on the show.
While cooking shows may seem pretty far removed from radio, when you take a critical look at Triple D's success, you find many of the same hallmarks that lead to successful radio stations: consistency, localism, personality and a feeling that the show's host and participants are truly having fun.
Six Years of Consistency
There has never been an "upscale" episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." The show hasn't departed from its stated mission, or in radio terms, its format. You'll never see the show profile a fancy French restaurant or expensive steak house. I'm sure it's been tempting, but the show has always stayed true to what the audience expects and the reward has been intense loyalty.
That consistency is also visible in each episode. Season after season, Fieri has opened each show in his fire-engine red Mustang by announcing that he is "rolling out" to check out some of America's best hidden hangouts. As each restaurant is profiled, the package is very similar with clips of interviews interspersed with Fieri helping in the kitchen and tasting the signature dish.
The only way the show ever breaks from its regular pattern is when celebrities appear to promote their own establishments or their local favorites. Triple D has featured a variety of famous guests including Kid Rock and other musicians, Martin Sheen and numerous other actors, politicians, athletes and other well-known chefs.
These special guests provide something unique for the audience without ever causing the producers to deviate from the show's basic premise. I realize that, described this way, the show might seem dull. But that consistency is a big part of its success and the same is true in radio.
In radio we see repeatedly the most successful radio stations in nearly every format are incredibly consistent in delivering what their listeners expect and tune in for every day. And, as with the guests on Triple D, successful stations often find ways to change things up and keep it interesting for their longtime fans without losing sight of their audience's expectations.
A National Show with Local Appeal
As Fieri travels the country he introduces each establishment by talking about the community it resides in. He recounts the history of the restaurant, the owner's ties to the area and other tidbits of local color that really set the scene around the restaurant he is about to profile.
Then, during the kitchen segment, he goes out into the crowd to talk with customers who add even more local flavor by talking about how long they've been eating there and what the place means to them personally and to the surrounding community.
Triple D's local reflection is a good reminder that the most successful radio stations also ingrain themselves in the community, quite often in very similar ways. They understand and talk about the important establishments in their local community and find ways to involve their station's "patrons" as a part of their programming.
Love it or hate it, Fieri's over-the-top surfer-turned-chef turned TV personality is a big part of what makes Triple D successful. The Food Network could easily replace him with a lesser-known host or even do the entire show using a faceless voice talent as the narrator of each segment.
But it wouldn't be the same.
Fieri's combination of quirkiness, knowledge and genuine enthusiasm for these independently owned establishments is the glue that really holds the show together.
Once again the same is true for radio.
Time and again we hear stories of talent that help drive ratings for their stations because listeners connect with hosts who talk about the music, the news or the local community, often with that same combination of knowledge, enthusiasm and even quirkiness that Fieri has.
Enjoy Every Minute
The final element that the producers of Triple D seem to understand -- and this is often easy to lose sight of -- is that they should be having fun. Despite having chronicled how to make hundreds of burgers, sandwiches and tacos, Fieri still gives off the vibe that he's thoroughly enjoying talking to the restaurant owners about the "secret" combination of spices that adds a special flair to their signature dish. And when he takes a big bite, it sure looks like he is really savoring the flavor and texture of each dish.