by Alisha Zaveri
There was once a time where restaurants depended on foot traffic primarily through word-of-mouth. You heard about a new opening or an updated menu via family, friends or work colleagues. Let’s just say, that time has gone. Today, more than ever, positive online restaurant reviews are crucial to the success of a restaurant business. Patrons are no longer just looking for good food; but a great overall experience. Factors like how Instagram-worthy is the food, how many influencers have posted about the restaurant, if credible publications made matching recommendations and more all play a role in deciding where consumers would like to experience their next meal.
Restaurant PR, when done right, creates significant positive impact for the restaurant. It is especially powerful since earned media coverage, the foundation of PR, results in unbiased articles which consumers trust.
Our current social and economic environment has put a high premium on trust and reputation, which for restaurants and hotels translates to the positioning and strength of the brand. Good PR, in its most simple form, should align the brands objectives and successfully communicate them to consumers.
Ways to Pique Media Interest for Your Restaurant:
Pitch Local Angles: News that is relevant to your community is going to interest regional magazines and newspapers. Whether you’re hosting a community lunch, sponsoring an event or work with a food and hunger-based charity to donate leftovers, all these efforts provide for a ‘local’ angle which can be pitched to non-food journalists.
Position the Spokesperson as an Expert: If the owner / founder of the restaurant is the official media-facing spokesperson, position them as an expert in all things hospitality. Pitching business angles, entrepreneurship stories, economic models etc. is a great way to step outside of the “food” world but still garner relevant coverage.
Leverage the Executive Chef: In today’s society, chefs are trending. Leveraging the experience of the chef, their travels, their education, etc. is a strong way to build credibility for the restaurant as a whole. Cooking classes, live demos and interview opportunities gives journalists more information which lends to a more wholesome story.
Research Trends and Be at the Forefront: The food landscape is constantly evolving. With ingredients and cooking methods being ‘in’ one day and ‘out’ the next, you should be aware of the changes and alter your media approach accordingly.
Offer Complimentary Meals to Journalists: The best way to secure coverage is for the journalist to experience the restaurant and food first-hand. Invite them for a complimentary meal (while being mindful of each publication’s policy) — this gives you a chance to meet them in person, introduce them to the executive chef and even create a long-lasting relationship.
Sponsor A Cookbook: Cookbooks aren’t going anywhere, even if that means we now access them digitally. Millennials and GenZ are enthusiastic about cooking and recreating recipes for at-home consumption. Sponsoring or writing a cookbook is a way to dive into the literary sphere and network with other chefs and authors.
How Influencers Are Driving Traffic to Restaurants:
Today, restaurants are becoming increasingly aware of the power social media influencers hold, but many are still unsure of how the process works. Working with the right kind of influencer is as important as finding the right journalist for your story. You want to make sure that the influencer is relevant to your business, provides for the same aesthetic through their photos and is trusted by his/her followers in providing recommendations for where to dine.
How Influencers Affect Our Dining Choices:
71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media references and recommendations. (Source: Stackla)
69% of millennials have photographed their meal at a restaurant for their social media. (Source: Maru/Matchbox)
30% of millennials would avoid a restaurant if they didn’t like their Instagram profile. (Source: Zizzi)
The average 18-35 year-old spends over 120 hours each year browsing photos and videos of food on Instagram. (Source: Zizzi)
3 out of 4 customers have used social media (Facebook or Instagram) to decide on a dining spot, based on comments, tags and photos from others. (Source: Emphathica)
In short, whether you’re opening a new restaurant or a new location, launching a new concept, approaching a milestone anniversary, hiring a hot new chef or bartender, facing competition in your neighborhood, would like to stay top-of mind with old customers or are looking to attract news ones, a strategic public relations campaign which includes influencer outreach, will give you a strong chance to survive in this over-saturated market.