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Cheese is one of his favorite things to eat, and his job requires him to talk about the beloved creamy and rich accouterment often.  

But many food pronunciations still stump Chris Gruler, co-owner of the video restaurant- review site ScottsdaleRestaurants.com.

The struggle in saying “Gruyére,” a melty French cheese popular in all-American dishes like mac-and-cheese and grilled-cheese sandwiches, reveals the raw and approachable nature upon which his young company is built.

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Gruler runs ScottsdaleRestaurants.com with his friends and business partners Troy Smith and Miguel Norigenna. They launched the Scottsdale-based company in 2015. 

“We’re not foodies by any stretch of the imagination. We’re three generic dudes who mispronounce food names all the time,” said Gruler. “I love cheese, and I butcher cheese names all the time.”

But his lack of pronunciation hasn’t slowed the restaurant-review site’s growth, which delivers the men’s first-hand experiences at each establishment via a 4- to 5-minute video.

Turns out not being pretentious works 

The site currently features about 85 reviews and has experienced a 20 to 35 percent monthly increase in viewership since launching, Gruler said. In peak dining-out months, it can spike, like it did November 2016 when traffic shot up 50 percent.

In that first year or so, the website focused on Scottsdale eateries. But over the past nine months, the site has broadened its reviews to include Phoenix and Tempe restaurants.

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The site has gained a following that has led to known Arizona foodies and bloggers doing occasional guest reviews. But the unpretentious and everyday-man personality of the reviews by the founding hosts has built a special trust and bond with viewers.

This connection can yield results. According to a 2016 survey by consumer research firm BrightLocal, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 54 percent will visit the website after reading positive reviews. 

Gruler talked about their first video, which was done at Rehab Burger Therapy in Scottsdale. He laughed as he admitted to how inexperienced they were at the time.

Since then, they said they’ve learned that viewers love more product shots and watching the men’s reactions as they bite into a burger or sip a cocktail.

“Oh wow, looking back… you could tell we didn’t know what we were doing. Now, we’re more straight to the point and have better video,” he said. “We’re getting better at telling the story.”

But Rehab Burger Therapy owner Wiley Arnett said he had zero complaints and was so pleased with the response from the initial review that it sparked another for the joint’s  second location in Tempe.

After ScottsdaleRestaurants.com gave a Best Burger in Scottsdale nod for Rehab’s “Porkster” — a burger piled high with barbecue pulled pork and cheddar — Arnett said he saw an increase in that specific burger’s sales.

“It’s easy to mentally go there with video than a still photo,” Arnett said of the review site’s big advantage. “That’s what brings in new customers.”

Three generic dudes  

The three friends said the idea came when they were mulling over business ideas and realized mainstream review sites featured text and photos only.

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They said video would set their site apart and that they could capitalize on their respective professional experiences and skills.

Gruler, a former professional baseball player with the Cincinnati Reds, owns a boutique digital agency and has branding experience.

Smith, a civil engineer who left a large firm to start the site, is skilled with content writing.

Norigenna is a cinematographer and editor who runs his own company.

To get reviewed, restaurateurs submit their business information online. They are not charged for reviews but are asked to donate up to $350 worth of gift cards, which are given to the site’s VIP members, who receive e-mails when a new review drops.

Gruler, Smith and Norigenna said they ask for their meals and drinks for review to be comped and request restaurants share the video on their social media platforms.

Banner ads and quick, non-skippable pre-roll videos that tout companies — these have included Red Bull and Budweiser — help generate revenue, Gruler said.

Restaurants can pay to be part of a restaurant directory and happy-hour listing. ScottsdaleRestaurants.com also throws parties that draw advertisers.

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Focusing only on the positive

Gruler said they’ll review just about every kind of restaurant, although he said they avoid large, national chains.

They also steer clear from saying anything negative. This is also what differentiates them from sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor.

If something falls short — once, a restaurant served them cold mac-and-cheese — Gruler brings it to the manager’s or owner’s attention. That’s as far as it goes, and it’s not mentioned in the review, he said.

“If one person has a bad day or one bad experience, they can go off and really affect (a restaurant’s) bottom line,” Gruler said. “We’re bringing to the table the positivity aspect of it and staying focused on what a restaurant does well and what it has to showcase.”

What: ScottsdaleRestaurants.com

Where: 8100 E. Indian School Road, Suite 103, Scottsdale 

Employees: Five 

Interesting stat: 89 percent of consumers have researched a restaurant online before dining there, and of those, 33 percent review other consumers’ reviews prior to dining, according to digital marketer AIS Media.

Details: scottsdalerestaurants.com 


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