Actionable tips and advice from leading PR professionals to ensure your restaurant maintains an ongoing media presence.
We would all love to believe that food and service speaks for itself. But it often takes more than mouth-watering dishes and front of house professionalism to ensure a restaurant continues to drive interest and conversation.
Now more than ever, chefs and restaurateurs are having to think creatively about how they continue to tell the story of their business. For this reason, many often lean on the insights, advice and services of dedicated PR professionals. Individuals with the knowledge of how to spin a salad into a story and the contacts to see them told through magazine pages, news segments and dare we say it… through the Instagram stories of influencers.
Dylan Reed, CEO and partner at KREATE believes PR creates brand awareness and strengthens a restaurant’s storytelling ability by “helping to generate relevant media placements which drive the desire to dine, drink and visit the venue.” He says that customers continue to look to media outlets to drive their dining choices and that securing editorial coverage is still an important part of any restaurant media plan.
“Public Relations allows a restaurant to control and direct the narrative, beyond the framework of their own channels,” adds Ali Smyth, co-founder and director of agency Electric Collective. Having worked with countless food and hospitality venues across media relations, endorsements, events, experiential activations and more, she says PR continues to provide “invaluable insight into the media landscape.” Experienced publicists “authentically align a venue” and ensure it is always “top of mind” to both media and customers.
Are there different types of PR?
“Traditional PR builds around traditional media platforms,” adds Smyth, citing coveted online and print “listicles” as a key example. Others include “VIP and influencer creative strategies along with collaborations, endorsements, alignments, sponsorship and media partnerships, experiential activations, digital and social media management.” She believes good PR to be ever-evolving and adaptable to change based on the needs of the business.
What is ‘earned PR’?
“Earned PR relates to a published story or endorsement which has been generated by a third-party, such as a journalist or media outlet,” says Reed, who goes on to explain that unlike investing money in paid advertising, earned PR offers “stronger credibility” as the story being shared has been “independently verified by a third-party”.
Do you have to pay for PR?
PR like any service has a cost, be it financial, time-related or a combination of both. It’s an investment in the business and should be considered as such. However, there are a variety of different approaches that can be deployed to suit a particular campaign, budget, or business objective.
Smyth says that bringing an agency or specialist on board can be invaluable and can be scoped on a monthly retainer or a project-based fee to better fit individual budgets. “Committing to a long-term goal with a trusted and well-connected publicist will create long-lasting, symbiotically authentic relationships,” she says. However, PR can be generated by present team members too. Sharing newsworthy announcements with local outlets, critics and bloggers can help to keep your brand top of mind. Consider guerrilla marketing and guest articles for industry magazines as another way to get your name and brand out there and deepen your online SEO presence. Alternatively, look at collaboration opportunities with partners that come with more PR clout.
Vince Estacio of NAÏM restaurant regularly partners with Fable Foods, a maker of high-quality meat alternative products, for special degustation evenings. It’s proven to be an effective way to help widen broaden his customer base whilst accessing his partner’s larger social media presence.
What makes a good PR strategy?
Alongside passion and experience, Smyth says that a good strategy combines in-depth briefings with a genuine desire to “build a better brand”. A strategy should always have the client’s core beliefs and best interests at heart. “Setting realistic goals based on timelines and clear outcomes and deliverables” is also important, as is engaging with a long term strategy that delivers incremental success. “The aim is to strategically build the brand in an authentic way via outside the box thinking, traditional platforms and creative avenues,” she says.
If you’re going it alone, think about who you are and what your brand and business represent. Every story, PR stunt, offer or initiative should speak to this identity. It will give your business a more profound individuality and help it to stand out from the crowd.
How important is experiential PR?
Newness and excitement drive interest and engagement. It’s for this reason that many leaders look to incorporate experiences into their PR plan. “Integrating stunts, cleverly branded experiences and public activations into your PR strategy will assist in generating editorial coverage,” explains Reed.
Lean on your brand identity and PR strategy to inform experiential ideas. Shalom Bitton, the owner of Brisbane steakhouse Smokey Moo, created a dog-friendly time slot to attract early diners to a traditionally quieter part of their service. Joy, a 10-seater restaurant also in Brisbane, focuses on just 10 customers at a time where every dish is made and served by the head chef Sarah Baldwin. While Butter in Sydney has collaborated with six other chefs on a Ramen series to drive cross-pollination of customers.
What to look for in a good PR partner?
One of the main attributes of a great PR partner is access to strong media contacts and a desire to build a credible brand over time. But another attribute to look for is honesty. Smyth says a “transparent and realistic appraisal of the current brand position” is essential in creating a strategy in the first place. This means better alignment with like-minded venues, talent, projects and supportive third parties. “Being able to sit down and brainstorm over a bottle as a team never hurts,” adds Smyth.
Reed agrees, adding that any good PR plan should also include “measurable goals” to enable owners and partners to better “assess a campaign’s success and determine if it achieved the desired outcome.” Whether you hire a crack team, bring in the pros or decide to go it alone, PR will no doubt form a useful part of your wider marketing campaign.
And when in doubt, look to others for inspiration.