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IAM1778 – Marketing Expert Focuses on Restaurant and Food Brands

Podcast Interview with Christina Orso

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the CEO Chat Podcast, host Gresham Harkless Jr. speaks with Christina Orso, a Boston-based marketing expert who specializes in working with restaurant and food brands. Christina shares her experience as a former marketing director for a well-known restaurant group and how it led her to start her own business, where she works with multiple brands on all things digital marketing.

Throughout the episode, Christina provides valuable insights on various marketing efforts, including social media, photography, influencer collaborations, email marketing, and more. She emphasizes the importance of understanding a brand's audience and tailoring marketing efforts to meet their needs. Christina also shares her thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant industry and how brands can adapt their marketing strategies to succeed in the current climate.

Overall, the episode offers valuable advice and insights for anyone looking to improve their marketing efforts, particularly in the restaurant and food industry.

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Christina Orso Teaser 00:00

What I would tell my younger self and what I would tell anybody that's curious about starting a business is just go for it. I was very resistant of starting a business just because of those little fears of what am I gonna do for health insurance?

How am I gonna go with not getting a paycheck every two weeks?

Intro 00:18

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs and founders, without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:45

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, or what I like to call the CB nation architects, those that are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focusing on knowing thy numbers. I could hear the phrases from Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank, and if you understand or don't understand exactly what numbers is, think finance, economics, accounting, capital, investment, funding, bootstrapping, anything that's around numbers. So, We have to understand how important it is to know your numbers and how important that is for you to forecast, make decisions, and to be able to truly strategize around your business and do that successfully.

Things are gonna be a little bit different obviously, this month. So look for CEO hacks and CEO nuggets and interviews that focus around this. But more than everything else, make sure that you know your numbers because they're extremely important to the life of your business.

Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today, I have Christina Orso of Christina, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Christina Orso 02:11

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Gresham Harkless 02:13

Definitely super excited to have you on. Before we jump in, I want to read a little bit more about Christina so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Christina is a Boston-based marketing expert who focuses on restaurant and food brands. As the former marketing director of a well-known restaurant group, blogger and influencer, she decided to go out on her own to work with multiple brands on all things digital marketing.

Christina helps her clients with a variety of marketing efforts, including social media, photography, influencer collaborations, email marketing, and much, much more.

Christina, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Christina Orso 02:46

Yes, let's do it.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:47

Awesome. Let's do it then. So to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more about how you got started in your CEO story.

Christina Orso 02:55

Sure. Yeah. So as you mentioned, I was full-time with a restaurant group in a marketing role and all the while I had worked with various companies as a kind of side hustle, helping them with their marketing and kind of getting a feel of what it would be like to work with a variety of brands. I have an incredible mentor who was my former boss of the company I was with before, who encouraged me to do what I had always been curious about, form an agency of my own, working with multiple brands, restaurants, and food brands.

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After many, many conversations and exploring the idea of finally going out on my own, it was about a six-month period where I had told my former boss, I think I'm gonna do this. Then, less than three months later, it was like, okay I'm pretty much jam-packed. Like I have to quit my job now. So yeah, I had a food blog when I was younger, always just really enjoyed, a huge foodie myself, and very interested in restaurants.

But on the marketing side of having a blog, I really learned the ropes of marketing without having a marketing background or education. So yeah, now I work with a ton of restaurants in the area and a couple of food brands and it's all in the digital marketing world. So yeah.

Gresham Harkless 04:01

Nice. I definitely appreciate that and that journey and I think so many times people don't realize all the steps like you mentioned, having a food blog when you were younger and all of those things.

To me, I don't know if you feel the same way, build up into who you are and what you end up being. So when you were able to have such rapid success, it wasn't just because you woke up one day and said, Hey, I want to start this business. It was because it sounds like you've been quote and quote training for it for a while.

Christina Orso 04:23

Yeah, it's really interesting if you think about it, because yes, you do see people's businesses on a very surface level. You're like, oh, and you don't really think about how they got there and the behind the scenes. Me starting my blog at 25 years old and doing it for fun and writing because I was passionate about the restaurant industry, I even had no idea back then that it would turn into an actual business 10 years later.

Gresham Harkless 04:44

Yeah, that's one of the beautiful things about, especially in this past year, but definitely in many years to come I imagine too. There are so many things that are rapidly changing that a lot of times it sounds like if we go through with our passion, sometimes we try those things out, they can manifest themselves into things we never could have thought of when we started.

Christina Orso 05:01

Yeah, I totally agree.

Gresham Harkless 05:03

Awesome. Awesome, awesome. So I wanted to drill down a little bit deeper, hear a little bit more on how you're working with your clients. Could you take us through a little bit more of that?

Christina Orso 05:10

Yeah, so for my restaurant clients, everyone is local. I work with them in a digital marketing sense. The primary service that I offer is social media. I'm also unique as a business owner because I do photography as well, and there are often people who do what I do, who contract out the photography. But I do both.

So it's photography, social media, influencer marketing, email marketing, a little bit of website stuff, and copywriting. So it's all things under the digital marketing umbrella. Each restaurant that I work with has a different package of what their needs are, depending on what they offer and who they already have in-house.

So I come in and fill the gaps. But for every restaurant, it's photography and social media at the very minimum.

Gresham Harkless 05:51

Yeah, that makes so much sense. I can imagine, and correct me if I'm wrong, especially for these strong, I guess image heavy, personal social media sites like Instagram and probably Pinterest and sites like that. The imagery is so important so that you're able to have that perspective when you're also managing the post to mean that seems like it can go hand in hand.

Christina Orso 06:08

Yeah, definitely. For restaurants and food brands, we eat with our eyes. The first thing when you see something, you're like, now I have to go get that. The benefit of having a Facebook and an Instagram is that we push those photos out to make people drool and wanna come right over.

Gresham Harkless 06:23

Exactly. Exactly. Would you consider that to be what I call like your secret sauce, the thing you feel sets you apart and makes you unique? Is it that ability to couple both of those, to be able to get those people to drool and actually come in for your brand?

Christina Orso 06:35

Yeah, I think having come from not only having a food blog and taking a ton of pictures, before it was cool to take pictures of your food. I was doing that and then everyone would make fun of me and stare, the flash would go off the table. Now I do this for a living, I'm like, I told you guys this would be important one day. But yeah, I think really being able to capture an image and make it say wow on the internet is crucial.

I think that's where a lot of these restaurants are lacking on their social media as they're not putting, consistently delicious, drool-worthy photos. Not everything is gonna be hashtag food porn, but presenting it in a beautiful, curated way on your feet is very important to get people in the door.

Gresham Harkless 07:15

Yeah, that's absolutely huge. I love that you've been able to couple both of those and you were ahead of your time it sounds like as well too.

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Christina Orso 07:21

Yes. Without even knowing it. Yeah.

Gresham Harkless 07:22

Exactly. Exactly. That's why a lot of times we just have to do what feels right. If it feels right to take a picture, then you go for it and next thing you know you have your agency and everything.

Christina Orso 07:30

Yes, definitely.

Gresham Harkless 07:31

Yeah, but I love that you said we as people because I think that so many times, especially related to digital marketing and so many things in business in general, we forget why we're doing what we're doing and we're doing it for the clients.

You said that phrase eat with your eyes because I think that basically puts the client, the consumer, the customer that can come in at the forefront. I think so many times we forget that in our businesses.

Christina Orso 07:54

Oh, totally, totally agree. Yep.

Gresham Harkless 07:56

Awesome, awesome, awesome. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Christina Orso 08:08

Sure. I have a couple of things. So the first book that like really, really helped me is called Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau. So even though I was in my full-time job, my former full-time job, I had high side hustles all the time. I didn't even know what it was to call it a side hustle, but this book basically teaches you how to take your side hustle into an actual business. I was already feeling out the idea of doing this when I found this book.  But I still to this day will go back to the book and like just reread certain sections. Because it really reiterates, like If you have a passion or a hobby that you're really into and you can make money out of it, here's how you can do it and here's how to stay organized and the steps that you need to take. So I love that book.

An interesting tip that I've learned along the way is to really get to know yourself as a person as far as when you are productive. Most people think like coming from a nine-to-five job when you go out on your own, that you need to wake up at the same time you used to and start your day and finish your day around the same time. Of course, you can do that, but I think it's really important to start to recognize like when your peak productivity is. For me, when I was younger, I was definitely a night owl, but as I've gotten older, I've become more of a morning person. But I also recognize that if I get up early and turn out a couple of hours of work, I burn out really quickly as well.

So I try to, after a couple of hours, take a mini-break, go for a walk with my dog, and run some errands, because if I sit at my desk and turn out six hours, it is just not as effective if I take breaks. So I have a very high and low type of productivity. But I recognize that and I just go with it instead of forcing myself to get things done in a certain time block, if that makes sense.

Gresham Harkless 09:48

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I appreciate you for sharing that because I think so many times we hear that so and so gets up at 3:00 AM and they do this, that, and the third, and we automatically hear okay, that's the recipe for success so I have to be able to do that. But I think that person who is able to be successful isn't doing it because they heard somebody else to do it. They did it because that was what worked for them. If we listen to certain people that have been successful, we'll hear that so-and-so wakes up at 3:00 AM where another person might wake up at nine and stay up until 11.

Christina Orso 10:18


Gresham Harkless 10:18

Or one and that's when we start to understand. We just lean into ourselves.

Christina Orso 10:21

Exactly. Yeah.

Gresham Harkless 10:23

I love that book as well too because I think so many times we forget that some of the really phenomenal things that are created are because people are passionate about it. And especially in this day and age where you can start to connect directly to consumers and direct to people with things that you're passionate about, here's where brands, opportunities, and businesses can grow from there at a time, before where it wasn't necessarily as possible.

Christina Orso 10:45

Yep. Definitely.

Gresham Harkless 10:47

Awesome. So I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. This could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client or if you hopped into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Christina Orso 10:59

Sure. So my previous answer with knowing when you're most productive is kind of part of that, but I also think that like what I would tell my younger self and what I would tell anybody that's curious about starting a business is just go for it. I was very resistant of starting a business just because of little fears of what am I gonna do for health insurance? How am I gonna go with not getting a paycheck every two weeks?

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All those little insecurities that you have, you need to throw them in the trash and just do it. Just go and just figure it out along the way. There's gonna be a lot of questions and uncertainties your first couple of years of business and you can get off to a rough start, but have a mentor, ask tons of questions. There's so much information on the internet network as much as possible, and just go.

I think too many people, including myself, spend too much time worrying about it not working out. You just have to figure it out along the way. If you really put your mind to something that you wanna do, you'll figure it out.

Gresham Harkless 11:57

Absolutely. And I think there's a quote that kind of came to mind when you were saying that I think it's somebody's trying to take off the fly and it's like, what if I fall? But the alternative is but what if you fly? I think if we never, ever try that, then we never have that opportunity to see those things come to fruition. As you said, even in your hack, I think so many times we forget too that our trying doesn't have to be mortgaging our house or taking out a hundred million thousand dollars, whatever loan, in order to make that happen. It can start off as a hustle, things that you're interested in and start to grow from there as well.

Christina Orso 12:28

Exactly. Oh yeah. I think that I came up with the craziest reasons of why I shouldn't start a business, why it was too risky. When I look at back at that now, I like laugh at myself. I'm like, what was I thinking? I had no idea.

Gresham Harkless 12:39

Yeah. But I think it's something that we all kind of experience, you know, in addition to like imposter syndrome and all those things that sometimes come up that stop you before you even get started. I think if we can tap into, people like yourself that have had those fears and had those frustrations, myself included, and decided to do it anyways and are in a better place as a result of it, hopefully, it can help inspire so many other people.

Christina Orso 13:00


Gresham Harkless 13:01

Awesome. Awesome, awesome. Christina, I want to ask you now my absolute favorite question which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show.

So Christina, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Christina Orso 13:12

For me, it's about doing something that I'm super passionate about, but also that is helping brands grow. When I see the impact that my team and I are able to make with just simple things of improving the photography or really creating a consistent social media feed, things that I am excited to do every day when they make a difference for a brand, that's the whole reason why I started a business.

It wasn't for those selfish reasons of wanting to make more money or go out on my own as much as it was to actually work with a variety of people, network like crazy, and really make a difference.

Gresham Harkless 13:47

Yeah, that's phenomenal. I think that, when we have our mission, our vision, our why, as our North star as far as what it is that we do, then it starts to help everything align. And I think so many times we get caught up in the how, what exactly we're doing. But that impact piece that you spoke to, really rings true for me. Because I think when you start to really stay in your zone of genius, do things that you're passionate about and you're able to make an impact, that's when things go to another level.

Christina Orso 14:12

For sure.

Gresham Harkless 14:13

Awesome. Awesome, awesome. Christina, truly appreciate that definition and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is just pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best they can get ahold of you and find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

Christina Orso 14:28

Sure. Yes. So to learn more about me, my website is Just my name and my Instagram is the same thing at Christina Orso. I'd love for you to follow along.

Gresham Harkless 14:40

Awesome, awesome, awesome. We will have the links and information in the show notes as well too so that you can see all the awesome things that Christina is doing, and of course some of that hashtag food porn as you mentioned as well too.

So truly appreciate you for taking some time out and all the awesome work you're doing and I hope you have a great rest of the day.

Outro 14:56

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast, powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Get your driven CEO gear at This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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