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Shawn WalchefRestaurateur Shawn Walchef is the Founder of Cali BBQ, an award-winning comfort barbecue restaurant with three locations in California. Shawn also leads the Digital Hospitality podcast where he discusses hospitality trends and innovative business strategies with fellow entrepreneurs and restaurateurs.


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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Shawn Walchef shares the unique lore behind his barbecue media company
  • Incorporating web and digital strategies in the hospitality industry
  • Shawn discusses the benefits of businesses becoming their own media companies
  • The power of social media brand engagement

In this episode…

In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen is joined by Shawn Walchef, Founder of Cali BBQ. They discuss the importance of understanding digital and technological trends and implementing them for business growth, brand engagement strategies on social media, and competitive advantages for restaurant owners. Shawn goes on to share what benefits businesses can take advantage of by taking control of their media presence.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode


Today’s episode is brought to you by SpotOn. SpotOn has transformed the merchant service industry by providing the tools and support your business deserves at a price that puts money back into your pocket!

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:04  

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show, powered by Rise25 Media. We featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world

Chad Franzen  0:20  

Chad Franzen here co-host for the show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best-in-class payment platform for retail. And they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant where they combined marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spot This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to or email us at Shawn Walchef is owner of the award-winning Cali comfort barbecue in the San Diego area. It’s the founder of Cali barbecue, media and host of digital passport hospitality, a podcast and video series that explores the ways that successful businesses and entrepreneurs have merged traditional business methods with innovative digital strategies that harness the power of the internet. Shawn is also a marketing coach and a new dad. Shawn, thanks so much for joining me. How are you?

Shawn Walchef  1:29  

Doing great. Thanks for having me on the show, Chuck.

Chad Franzen  1:31  

Yeah, great. Great to have you. Hey, congrats on being a new dad. How’s that going?

Shawn Walchef  1:36  

I’m learning every single day. And then once I figure it out, I learn again. Isn’t that how it works?

Chad Franzen  1:42  

Absolutely. what’s your what’s your child’s name?

Shawn Walchef  1:44  

My son’s name is Killeen. He’s five and my daughter’s name is Mila. And she’s three. Okay,

Chad Franzen  1:50  

what’s the best thing about being a dad?

Shawn Walchef  1:52  

Best thing about being a dad is? It’s a great question. That’s it’s the greatest job in the world. Everything that anyone tells you about having children. It exceeds that beyond any expectation. Seeing your son’s eyes. I just got to spend a month in Bulgaria with my wife, my son, my daughter, my wife is Bulgarian. So we spent a month over there in her village in Bulgaria and you know, just going to do the things that they do in the village pick a tomato or pick a cucumber and to watch the son, my son, you know, his joy of, of actually enjoying this tomato that came right off of the vine or, you know, to watch him watch fireworks. These are all just the simple pleasures in life of being a dad.

Chad Franzen  2:34  

Yeah, absolutely. That’s it sounds great. Hey, before we get into your Cali BBQ Media, I like your hat. Tell me a little bit about your restaurant, Cali BBQ and what a customer might expect from Cali BBQ.

Shawn Walchef  2:46  

So we are a barbecue media company. And I know that doesn’t make sense and never makes sense when I share it on stage or share it on a podcast. But I always explain it because we’ve been in business for 15 years, we have a single unit barbecue brand that has now three barbecue restaurants soon to be five barbecue restaurants in the San Diego area. We have two ghost kitchens, we’re going to open up to stadium locations. And essentially, what we’ve learned doing barbecue in San Diego was to rely on the internet. We opened in a very difficult location in San Diego in 2008. The first iPhone came out in 2007. And really we’ve leveraged everything we’ve learned from Google to Yelp, to Facebook to Instagram to now TikTok to LinkedIn to YouTube to now we’re podcasting. But we teach business owners how to do what we did, which is to tell your own story. We waited so long to build a great business where people would come in, eat our barbecue, and then all of a sudden we’d have legacy media come in and tell our story, whether it was the news, whether it was a newspaper, whether it was the radio, and nobody came. So we ended up just learning how to tell our own story and use that smartphone in our pocket to publish content online. And now we teach other business owners how to do it. But yeah, we’re Cali BBQ dot media in San Diego.

Chad Franzen  4:00  

So how did you so you opened you open the restaurant in 2008? Were you a media company right when you started or were you just

Shawn Walchef  4:06  

No, no, we were just we’re a breakfast restaurant. Actually, we weren’t even a barbecue restaurant. So we were a breakfast restaurant. We added a sports bar we added a dinner service and really we’ve transformed our business over the last 15 years to what we are building now which is the Amazon of barbecue we can no longer discriminate as restaurant owners how to get people food, you know, I spent 15 years building a brand building a marketing company, a media company to get people to know what we were doing and are part of San Diego and there’s 3.3 million people in San Diego. You know, we were fortunate that people would drive 45 minutes and wait in line on our on an NFL Sunday to get a brisket Benedict. But now we can’t think like that. We have to use technology leverage delivery UberEATS DoorDash GrubHub to get people barbecue on their terms. So that’s why we’re opening up more distribution locations. That’s why we’re removing seating from our restaurant, so that we can actually put more meat on the smokers and serve more people more barbecue.

Chad Franzen  5:03  

Was that kind of like an aha moment that made you discover that technology and the internet was so important?

Shawn Walchef  5:09  

Well, yeah, I mean, it was it was out of pure necessity. We were failing, you know, failing as a business to pay our bills and figure out how to get people to come in and, and support us. And once we realize that Facebook was a thing back in 2008, and 2009, set up a Facebook page started responding to Yelp reviews, started caring about Google caring about our website, all of those things led to where we are now, which is, we have full belief that every single business, you know, our thesis with our digital hospitality businesses, every business needs to be digital first. You know, the problem with brick and mortar businesses is that we think of our website as secondary. Our website needs to be the most important thing we have, not only our website, but the content that we put on the online every single day on TikTok on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Instagram, all of those things matter, because that’s your brand story. That’s your heartbeat. That’s your digital heartbeat. When when somebody comes to find out well, who’s Barb Cali BBQ, or who’s Shawn Walchef, and they go to the internet, internet’s going to tell them, they’re going to tell them exactly what you need to know.