Sometimes the most obvious things are the easiest to overlook. This just may be the case for Bon Appétit, which is set to launch a new city guides vertical on its Web site Monday.
“We’re at this time now as a brand where we’re constantly trying to stream our assets into so many different platforms,” said Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport. “One thing I realized we hadn’t done is take advantage of all our travel and restaurant authority that we’ve accrued over the last five years….We have a very well-traveled staff, and we’re not necessarily sharing that with our readers.”
A food site providing tips about where to eat, shop, stay and drink in different cities is hardly a revolutionary concept, acknowledged Rapoport. What makes Bon Appétit’s city guides somewhat different is that the list is small and all the locales have been tested by the title’s network of editors and sources. The guides, which will offer all new content, will launch with 10 cities to start: Atlanta; Austin, Tex.; Charleston, S.C.; Chicago; Los Angeles; New Orleans; New York; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco and Seattle. Bon Appétit will roll out five more cities — including Philadelphia, Miami, Washington, D.C., Boston and Las Vegas — by July, and may consider international cities down the line. The guides will be updated frequently and comprise “high” and “low” dining destinations. Shopping recommendations won’t touch on fashion, but instead target the home, kitchen and design sphere. Above all, the guides allow Bon Appétit to build scale — and hopefully drive traffic — with more content, as the publication can fold in more “best of” stories, videos and images into the guides.
Rapoport noted that his team, which includes executive editor Christine Muhlke, deputy editor Andrew Knowlton and senior editor Julie Kramer, have provided “pro-tips” that go beyond what to order at a certain restaurant and address deeper issues like where else to have a drink in the neighborhood while you’re waiting for a table to open up.
Scrolling through the new vertical with Carey Polis, the editor of bonappetit.com, Rapoport noted that each Bon Appétit city guide is optimized for mobile phones and features an integrated Google Maps experience so users can quickly find the best places near them in a single tap.
While an app may be in the works down the line, the editors offered that the guide is the first Bon Appétit product to make use of Condé Nast’s in-house designed universal platform called “Co-Pilot.” Sister site Epicurious is already on the platform; eventually all of Condé Nast’s titles will be on the universal platform, which will allow the publisher to compete at scale from a digital advertising and Web traffic perspective.
Chase Sapphire Preferred is a launch sponsor of Bon Appétit city guide. Charleston Convention and Visitor Bureau joins Kia Sportage as sponsors.
Rapoport said the guide launch has been timed to Bon Appétit’s May travel issue, which will hit newsstands on Tuesday. The 174-page issue is Bon Appétit’s biggest in terms of ad pages since 2008, the company said. It added that The Food Innovation Group, which includes Bon Appétit, Epicurious and Shoppers Network, will end the month up 15 to 20 percent in revenue. A spokeswoman declined to provide revenue or ad page figures.
The issue highlights America’s “best food cities,” and includes three separate covers of food — surprise! In typical Bon Appétit style, the covers show tight, colorful shots of a donut, ramen and oysters, paired with bold, graphic cover lines.
“It’s that fine line between utilitarian but really beautifully designed utilitarian,” Rapoport said, drawing a parallel between the print magazine and the digital guide.
“It should be clean and simple but stylishly — so kinda like my Saint Laurent sneakers,” he said, kicking up his white Court Classics. “I wanted the Saint Laurent sneakers of city guides.”