February 23, 2021

Storytelling lessons from the oldest restaurant in Florida


One of my favourite case stories in my latest book Magnetic Stories comes from the Columbia Restaurant in Florida. Founded in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant, Casimiro Hernandez Sr, it is the oldest restaurant in Florida, and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. I loved this case story so much I produced the video above that summarises my thoughts.

Extensive use of stories

I was first alerted to Columbia’s use of stories as they include them on their menus as well as scattered throughout the various sections of their website. The 224-page wine list reads more like a storybook than a wine list. They share a short story of each winery they purchase from, and another story about the wine maker.

The history page on their website is also written as such an engaging story that it could easily be the script of a movie. It is the first time I have read a story about how a company started and wanted to know more.

The decision to use stories

I contacted Columbia to find out more. One of the first questions I asked was when the company made the decision to use stories so heavily. I got the feeling it wasn’t a couple of years ago, but maybe it was about ten years ago. This was when storytelling was starting to gain some traction in the business world as a legitimate way to communicate. The answer blew me away …the decision was made in 1946. They hired a journalist who wrote a newspaper column five times a week, sharing stories of the characters of the restaurant. …both customers and employees.

The second- and third-generation owners’ commitment to storytelling has clearly continued to this day. They share stories of their customers extensively on their social media sites as well as utilising storytelling as an integral part of their induction program. They even produced a coffee-style book for their 100th anniversary.

A true commitment to brand storytelling

This is a true commitment to storytelling and brand storytelling at its best. They really do use stories to connect with customers and engage employees. If you want to read the full Columbia Case Story you can access that free sample chapter here.


Gabrielle’s latest book Magnetic Stories: Connect with customers and engage employees with brand storytelling is available now for pre-order.

  • Buy five books and Gabrielle will give you another copy of Magnetic Stories that will be personally numbered and signed by her.
  • Buy ten books and receive a signed copy (as above) plus a free ticket to her virtual Your Stories Your Brand two hour workshop on 25th March, valued at $250/ticket.

To receive your free gift, simply buy your multiple copies (five or ten) from any online supplier prior to 1st March and email your receipt of purchase to Elise. Don’t forget to include your postal address as well so we know where to send your books.