More Than Just Food

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Posted: October 6, 2014, 2:13 p.m.
by Amber Patterson.

Restaurants are dreams turned into serious business for today’s chefs. They are learning that it takes more than just food and word of mouth to get customers to fill the seats every night. They need social media pushes, sponsorship opportunities, promotional packages and much more to bring awareness to their food offerings.

Food and beverage public relations is a world not often explored in the classroom or in the kitchen of most restaurants. Although major firms like Edelman, APCO and Jackson Spalding have food and beverage clients, there are few PR firms that have found their niche in the restaurant industry.

Kellogg and Caviar, however, decided to take on the restaurant industry. Started by Elizabeth Kellogg in 2011, Kellogg and Caviar holds a clientele of mostly popular New York restaurants. It offers consulting services, social media, traditional public relations, content marketing and an array of services that can be found at any firm. The twist is how it applies these services to a restaurant. People do not just want a place to sit and eat dinner; they want an experience. You have to give them something to tweet about or put on their Instagram feeds.

Chefs should be able to focus on their love of cooking and leave promotion to the professionals. A great example is dealing with critics, whose reviews can determine if a new restaurant in town sinks or swims. So how do chefs and restaurant owners prepare for their visits? Krista Conlin, founder and CEO of KC Projects, explained the art of navigating critics.

“In this world of social media, everyone’s a critic,” Conlin said. “Any customer is a critic.” 

This reality takes the pressure off of having to give one person the ultimate experience at their establishment, and trades it for the pressure of having to make each individual customer feel special. They must remember that one bad review can outweigh nine good ones.

Conlin also noted another component of the restaurant industry that she loves — the use of visuals.

“It is so easy to tell the story, because it is so visual,” Conlin said. “There is always good content.”

Another side of the food and beverage coin is brands. All the brands that we see line the shelves of the grocery aisle have a public relations team behind them. Sabina Gault, president and CEO of Konnect Public Relations, found her niche for brands through a love of products that truly stick to their promise.

“Like most PR, we tend to work for and represent the things we love. So one of the first food and beverage accounts I brought to my company was one that I really loved and ate all the time,” Gault said. “To this day at Konnect we hold high regard for the products we work with and we believe that one should truly care for the brands they work with. Otherwise being genuine is a little harder.”

While public relations professionals find joy in entertaining critics and hosting events, Gault finds joy in the development of the products of brands like Krave Jerky and Sweet Leaf Iced Tea and also checking out the competition . . . well, tasting them.

“Products in general are really fun to work on. Food and beverage specifically attract a community of people interested in what they put in their bodies day in and day out. Whether you are talking about a healthy, no-sugar-added chocolate or a kale chip or version of a baked potato chip, brands like these keep entrepreneurs innovating,” Gault said. “The funnest part about food and beverage brands many times has to do with trying out all the products — their competitors’ and any others’ that can serve as inspiration. At any time you should be able to go into a food and beverage CEO’s office and find an array of competitors displayed on a shelf.”

Whether it be a restaurant preparing for opening night or a brand wanting to rebrand itself to fit into a health-conscious world, public relations makes a perfect side dish for any restaurant or food brand.

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