In this edition of Meet the Media, we are getting to know Alicia Kelso, a Senior Contributor at Forbes. A journalist at heart, Alicia has spent her career covering the restaurant industry, specifically the B2B side and it’s innovations. Read more about her below:
What was the path to your current career/job?
I’ve been a journalist my entire life, starting at a weekly newspaper, moving to a daily, moving to magazines – all sequential growth opportunities. I thought I’d be a long-form magazine journalist my whole life, but I took on a B2B role in 2009 after I relocated for marriage. I was writing about the restaurant industry and I loved everything about it – the people, the service, the creativity, the logistics, the nuances. When my son was born, however, I was traveling more than I was comfortable with, so I took another job in higher education to spend more time with him. I felt a void almost immediately and realized I deeply missed the restaurant industry. So I started freelancing for trade publications as much as I could at night and on weekends and it led me to a contributor role at Forbes.com, among other publications, covering the restaurant industry again. My void is filled.
Which of your stories are you most proud of?
All of them are worth telling or I wouldn’t write them. If I had to pick one that is most memorable, however, it would be my first byline for Forbes in March 2018. (It was a story about Starbucks doubling down on food offerings).
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Having the opportunity and the privilege to talk to the smartest, most creative, most inspiring people in one of the biggest, most impactful industries in the world.
What skills have you found to be most useful in your job?
Knowing how and what to research. Context is everything and it is incumbent on us as journalists to have a deep knowledge of our subject matter.
What is something unexpected that you have learned from your career?
Again, just how hard I fell in love with B2B and, now, business writing in general. I have always been the creative, pop culture-centric writer who wanted to work for Rolling Stone. Now I’m writing about digital makelines to maximize operational efficiencies at major restaurant chains. It surprised me how creativity can translate to business writing sometimes, when appropriate.
What do you look for in a story?
Impact. What works. Case studies and strong returns on investment. That is what cuts through the noise most for my readers. If I can write about something that worked, and how it worked, it may help other operators in the restaurant industry. This industry is hard – margins are thin, retention rates are low, customers can be difficult – so it’s important to give readers something helpful and valuable. There are also the drama stories – angry franchisees, missed sales expectations, etc. – but I prefer the positive ones.
What does your day look like at your job?
I still have my full-time higher education job at the University of Louisville. I shift my attention to my journalism career around 4:30 every day when I get a daily assignment from my editor at Restaurant Dive. That takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to finish. Then I sign off, spend time with my family and sign back on after my son goes to sleep to either write or research and to go through all of my pitches. I spend time in the restaurant space every Saturday and Sunday, too. After more than 12 years covering this industry, it never feels like work.
Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
My colleagues at Restaurant Dive and Forbes are second to none. All of the journalists I follow who cover the restaurant industry – whether at a trade publication like Nation’s Restaurant News or Restaurant Business or at a business publication like the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg – are tremendously talented.
Fill in the blank:
- If I am not working, I am… Spending time with my family and friends, running, swimming, listening to music
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… I’m not sure I can answer this one because I interview incredible people all the time
and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.
- The last concert I attended was to see… Brandi Carlile in Nashville.
- My favorite thing about Seattle is… I do not live in Seattle, but I am a UCONN women’s basketball fan, which means I’m a Seattle Storm fan by default. We traveled to Chicago to see Sue Bird play one last time before retirement and I have a cat named Stewie, after Breanna Stewart.