Keep PR in Your Pantry: Restaurant Marketing

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Published on April 9, 2019, at 11:00 p.m.
by Gabby DiCarlo.

Opening a food business is no easy task. In fact, many restaurants fail within their first year of opening due to poor planning. Contrary to popular belief, making a profit isn’t the only requirement necessary to run a successful restaurant. Besides abiding to state laws, federal regulations, health codes and finance guidelines, restaurants often overlook how public relations and marketing cannot only increase profits, but also bring the business to new notoriety and praise while still telling a story. 

Many restaurants start as a daydream or an idea in the middle of the night. Others are sprouted from years of rich culture and traditions passed down from parent to child or grandparent to grandchild. 

Mashama Bailey (NY Times)

Mashama Bailey, sous chef and partner at The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, took her drive to be a black woman in a professional kitchen along with the traditions of her grandmother’s cooking and opened a restaurant in a Jim Crow-era Greyhound station. Bailey kept many elements of the station as-is to contrast between where her relatives were once segregated and where she, a black chef and owner, stands now. The Grey’s menu tells of Bailey’s French culinary training, local Southern ingredients and a passion to push the bounds of Southern cooking past tradition. Each element of her restaurant emphasizes the brand and her story. 

Including PR in early plans to build a restaurant can be the key to long-term success. Not only are there agencies that specialize in restaurant consulting, such as Baltz & Co in New York City, but there are also restaurant “fixers” that can help owners meet their business goals using PR and marketing tactics. Here are a few ways PR can help elevate a restaurant: 

Menu

When turning to a PR agency for consultation, menu design isn’t typically at the forefront of a business owner’s mind, since they already have a vision and the type of food they want to serve. It is important to tell a cohesive story with the menu and share the brand through the food and how it is described, arranged and prepared. Having a menu that tells a story invites the consumer to join in on the journey and, based on what elements are emphasized, can also help sell dishes and hit the bottom line. 

Brand experience

From the second a consumer hears of a restaurant, whether it be through word of mouth or a Yelp search for _restaurants near me_, they are interacting with the brand. Viewing a logo can make or break a customer’s interest in paying money to eat at a restaurant. They will make a judgment on how the food will taste, if the food will be safe and how much money it will cost, all based on the logo or opening page of a website. 

When consumers walk in the door, everything matters: how the waitstaff treats them, the quality of the food and even if there are mints on the way out the door. Each aspect of the restaurant is a face-to-face brand interaction that needs to be emphasized. 

Design 

A vital part of a restaurant’s experience is its atmosphere. Yes, guests are there principally for the food and beverages, but where they eat the food and what environmental factors help or hinder how they consume those are crucial. Again, each element that a consumer interacts with affects your brand image. 

Are the booths high enough so that customers don’t hear the exchanges of those behind them? Are the lights so dim that they can’t see what they’re eating? Does the theme of the bathroom connect to the theme of the restaurant? If the kitchen is close to the dining area, will that entice or throw guests off? These factors are important to the diner and will affect if they return to the restaurant and how they share it with those in their community. 

That’s what the food industry and PR have in common — a message to be told and a unique venue to tell it through. The world of food PR is the exquisite crossover combining passion, the arts, grit, grace, culture and a whole lot of ingredients. Food PR is more than just press promotions; it extends into each component of the restaurant both physical and intangible. 

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