Ajenda Public Relations is a national full-service PR, marketing, and creative agency based in Orange County, CA, and specializing in the hospitality and franchising industries. They pride themselves on being highly creative and coming up with engaging campaigns & activations for their clients to reach consumers and attract media attention in unique ways.
We caught up with owner Jennifer Morris to find out more about the company, the current state of the F&B industry, and Orange County’s culinary scene.
How did you come into this particular career/industry?
I’ve always been in the hospitality industry, from very corporate chains to more fine dining, I love the whole industry. My first job in high school was actually at an old-fashioned A&W where we did car-hop service, and then I worked my way through college at a variety of restaurants. I went to school for apparel merchandising at CalPoly Pomona, and then I got into fashion PR, which I actually didn’t love, it’s a little too vapid and I felt a little like a fish out of water moving from a small town and ending up in Los Angeles to get a start in the industry. So I went back to working in restaurants, which I knew well and this was around 2009 when businesses were starting to dabble in social media a little bit, but there wasn’t a lot of knowledge about it yet. It was kind of like the wild wild west. I started doing the socials for the restaurant I worked for at the time, and it was kind of a natural segway into the PR world as well. I used the knowledge I learned in the fashion PR industry and applied it to the hospitality PR I started doing, and combined my love for restaurants with the experience I had in social media. All of my passions came together, it was a great fit, and I’ve been doing this for 12 years now.
What do you find unique about the F&B industry right now?
Well, I know everyone is so sick of hearing the word “covid” right now, but I think for better or for worse, it has had lasting implications on the industry. Resilient owners have found amazing ways to rise up and adapt to this new environment. Whether it be through offering take-out or amping up their online presence and rewards program, I think restaurants have been so uniquely resourceful in figuring out ways to combat rising costs in order to still be profitable. The restaurant industry hasn’t really been known for being the biggest money-maker in the first place, so the rising costs from covid were really an extra challenge to overcome in the industry.
How do you approach working with new business owners?
We always approach it as “no one size fits all.” Every restaurant is unique, so we’re constantly listening to what clients need, and we pick up on both verbal and non-verbal clues, like if they need someone to be more involved and hands-on or if they prefer us to handle things with our own expertise in a more hands-off manner, which I think is really important. As an agency, we really pride ourselves on listening to our clients and taking a pulse on what they need proactively, and anticipating their needs. When we’re talking to clients, we never want them to have to ask us to do anything, we want to have already been on top of the game in that sense. We also aren’t afraid to be honest if an approach we see isn’t working, or if anything I notice during a project is something that a client might not be ready for yet, it’s important to have that direct communication.
What is a service that your company provides to the F&B industry that has a big impact but can be initially undervalued or overlooked?
As an agency, we really pride ourselves on our ownership and our senior team is very hands-on. A lot of larger agencies might court clients, and once they find them they might assign them to a junior, entry-level team, whereas at Ajenda everyone is hands-on. Every email that comes through to Agenda PR is seen by multiple eyes and a response is formed very intentionally, even if there’s only one person assigned to that communication with the client, there’s always a lot going on behind the scenes to form a response. For me, that’s always been really important in delivering what I promise in a proposal or in a meeting with a potential client.
What’s one restaurant you would recommend to somebody visiting from out of town, a place that’s locally loved in Orange County?
I’m such a creature of habit, I’m not very good at trying new restaurants, but one of my favorites is a client that I’ve worked with for 10+ years. Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen has two locations here, and the reason I love them, although I’m biased, is because their food and their margaritas are consistently so good. I’ve probably dined there over a hundred times and I’ve never had a bad meal. The menu there has so many tried-and-true options. They use the best, fresh ingredients and premium tequila, and the service is always so friendly. Also, if you’re in Southern California, you of course have to eat Mexican food.
What Now Media Group shares daily restaurant news in 24 US cities and counting, but we’re also dedicated to the continued support of brands as they grow in this busy market. We pride ourselves in knowing the best in the business when it comes to restaurant industry experts. Whether you’re opening a new restaurant or growing an existing one to multiple locations, What Now’s Preferred Partners can help you every step of the way.