Inside PRSA Austin Happy Hour

I was little nervous walking into the PRSA Austin happy hour in September. Networking is something I’ve been trying to improve on over the past year or so. After all, Networking is an important part of building your career.

But I was put at ease when I walked into the Underground at Max’s Wine Dive and saw fellow PRSSA members and other recent graduates I’ve met at past events. I also really liked the atmosphere at the happy hour. It was much more casual than a PRSA luncheon, and even if you’re not 21, undergrads are encouraged to attend.

Signature Fried Chicken from Max’s Wine Dive that’s on my list to try! - Photo: Culture Map Austin

After mingling and snacking on the delicious sweet potato chips, we settled in for our guest speakers. The topic: Food & Beverage Public Relations. Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Global Marketing Manager of Whole Foods Market and Lisa O’Neill of Newton O’neill Communications shared their insights into the industry.

Cathy Cochran-Lewis discussed the increasing number of restaurants with community tables, the rising popularity of pork, craft brewers, and the growing number of sustainable, organic and local products.

A few notable restaurants in Austin with the community-style tables are Barley Swine, Contigo and Salt Lick. People are talking like this is a “new thing,” but community tables are actually a centuries-old practice says Cochran-Lewis.

“The communal seating is a social setting…it’s about embracing and sharing,” Cochran-Lewis said.

The trend of pork-based menus is evident in the restaurant, Bacon, which opened last month. Cochran-Lewis specifically mentioned heirloom pork, a type of ‘quality’ pork from pigs that are raised on free range farms.

Bacon’s menu features traditional items like BLTs to unusual sides like they’re corn fritters with bacon aioli and their unique bacon cookie. Photo: Bacon Facebook

Cochran-Lewis mentioned craft brewers, small and independent beer breweries, are growing in Austin and the US. An informative blog about Austin craft breweries can be found here. Last, she touched on sustainable food options such as grass-fed beef, sustainable and organic production, and local and artisan markets as a signature Austin trend that is becoming popular in other big cities as well.

Lisa O’Neill indicated the ‘something for everyone’ menu is becoming attractive for many restaurants. This means gluten-free, food allergy conscious, vegetarian and vegan options are developing into necessary elements of Austin restaurant menus. Sites like and Texas Gluten Free provide lists and reviews of Austin-area restaurants that cater to these food choices.

Lucky’s Puccias, a food trailer in off West Fifth, is one of the most highly rated vegetarian restaurants on Photo: Yelp, Lucky’s Puccias

I encourage members to attend PRSA events and happy hours because you learn trends in the industry and get to make new contacts and friends. Check the PRSA Austin event calendar for more information.

Which of these trends do you see growing in popularity in Austin? Do you have a favorite communal style or vegan restaurant around town? Comment below and share your opinions and reviews!

President, UT PRSSA

Follow Rachael on Twitter @rachaelsperling and check out her Food Trailer blog at