April 22, 2013
→Public Relations isn’t the same old game it used to be. This is especially true in industries such as hospitality, where user review sites, social media pages and bloggers have pushed the mainstream media out by talking more frequently, and in many cases louder. And let’s face it; these days, everybody’s a critic.
Restaurants, in particular, have an increasingly great challenge to stand out in a crowded market. Infinite dining options and information related to procuring, cooking and serving food—recipe websites and mobile apps, chef-driven culinary shows, Pinterest and Instagram—have elevated expectations on taste, presentation and nutrition worldwide. Very little is “unique” anymore.
Even casual dining restaurants have been forced to elevate their gastronomic virtue, with once low-key neighborhood haunts being pushed to step up their offerings to retain customers with increasingly sophisticated palates. Today’s comfort food is yesterday’s Le Bec Fin. Who hasn’t been to a local joint lately where a beer and a burger has transformed into a high-end, boutique brew with an “intense flavor profile,” and grassfed, fried-egg and organically grown, caramelized shallot version, served with truffle fries and exotic sea salt. And the worst part, is that everyone else is serving this stuff too, so no matter how far you, and your culinary staff go, you’re never really too far ahead on the wow factor.
This creates a challenge for both restaurant owners and their supporting marketing and PR teams. It also provides an opportunity to build a lasting relationship and an equal partnership. Because we all know, in this day of hopped up marketing, restaurateurs can’t do it alone, and neither can PR pros. If you want your publicist to do his/her job—to help share your vision with potential customers—then YOU have to really nail down what that vision is.
Your rep can do that with you by asking the right questions and helping you define what is newsworthy and what will get lost in the noise, assisting with ad creation and placement, social media strategy and overall branding to help propel you higher and higher.
The right questions should include: What promotions work with your demographics and budget, what types of events match your marketing and time budget, what ad placements have worked in the past; which haven’t? Who is in charge of social media during service? During the day when the kitchen is prepping? Is there an in-house camera? Who has smart phones and apps that can jump in and post? What servers get the most love from customers? What’s the craziest dish ever experimented on in the kitchen? What does the staff think about the menu? Are they in sync with concept? Do they know the menu in and out? Can they be story sources for bloggers, vloggers and reporters? And, to you the restaurateur and perhaps chef, what do you love about the restaurant and what do you want your patrons to experience when they are in here. Is that happening? If not, why?
If you are in tune with all of the above, the answers should flow easily. Otherwise, you need to have your manager step in, because if you don’t know what’s up, there is no way your PR team can do its job. You need to demonstrate responsibility for conveying your vision, strengths and weaknesses. Then, working with your PR team, you can set a strategy and start getting your hands dirty with promotions, media outreach, events, chef, sommelier and even server profiles/Q+As that show a different side of the restaurant.
Again though, YOU need to take responsibility, and stay in-tune with how every aspect of your restaurant matches the original concept and excitement that you’ve had since opening night.
Everyone gets that you are dealing with myriad other issues/responsibilities, but even down to social media, it’s up to you to connect with your staff on what is share-worth throughout the day. You, and they, have an inside view with ongoing opportunities to upload photos and show off the exciting things happening behind-the-scenes, whether it’s the delivery truck rolling in with an assortment of fresh-off-the-farm or just plucked out of the sea ingredients; gorgeous flowers for table arrangements, fresh-baked pies or other “just in” items; cool tableware, a new coat of paint, a hip coffee vendor that you’re tasting that week for possible menu inclusion, a staff meal creation that turned out to be so good, it was voted on as the next night’s special… the opportunities are never-ending. WE will find a way to take these shareable moments to your customers, but it is up to you to make them happen.
Remember, you are the brand. WE are the messenger. Together, the chances of your vision being transmitted accurately, go up exponentially.