IMC Grads Create Marketing Strategy for 'Beat Bobby Flay' Chef

May 24, 2016


  • Tapas 51 in Pineville serves global small plates from award-winning Chef Aaron Rivera. 
  • Rivera was recently on Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay" program.
  • Each semester, the IMC capstone course seeks local clients in all fields. 

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA — Chorizo sliders, shrimp arepas, chili-rubbed brisket tacos—Tapas 51 in Pineville packs a punch with dishes like these on its menu. After dining on these bold flavors, Winthrop University Professor of Mass Communication Padmini Patwardhan asked Tapas 51 Chef Aaron Rivera if he would like to be the client for her spring 2016 Integrated Marketing Communication Capstone course.

Fast-forward four months later, and Rivera now has stacks of marketing proposals and suggestions from Winthrop students.

Patwardhan said Rivera was very pleased with her students’ marketing ideas and plans to use some of them in the future, especially with his recent victory over Food Network star Bobby Flay on the channel’s “Beat Bobby Flay” program.

Each semester, Patwardhan looks for interesting clients in all sectors, from non-profits to multicultural organizations to healthcare providers. The project brings real-world experience for students, allowing them to bring together everything they’ve learned and apply it, she said. 

Five teams of students created proposals that included multiple components: research and understanding that particular industry—what the trends are, etc.; consumer research—determining the audience; focusing on the audience; and putting the messaging together to create an integrated branding and marketing strategy.

For Tapas 51, students found that while the restaurant prides itself on locally sourced ingredients and food, the local food scene is already popular in Charlotte. What makes Tapas 51 stand out, they determined, is Chef Rivera and what he brings to the table—literally.

“They found a lot of people knew what tapas are, but didn’t know what tapas-style dining is,” Patwardhan said. “How do you make that brand accessible and something that people recognize?”

With a $2,000 budget, ideas included a summer brunch series; a logo redesign; different restaurant seating; a food truck game, in which restaurant-goers could track Rivera's food truck, The Chrome Toaster; and a separate website that would better identify Tapas 51 within the Provecho Restaurant Group. 

“You can come up with a lot of different creative solutions,” Patwardhan said of her class’ project. “There’s no one solution to a creative problem.”

For more information on Tapas 51 and to see if Winthrop students’ ideas will be implemented, visit the restaurant website and social media page. For more information on the project itself, contact Nicole Chisari, communications coordinator, at 803/323-2236 or

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