restaurant business plan

Restaurant PR-
Making the News!

The reasons restaurateurs think about hiring public-relations agencies are as varied as the types of food they serve. Some operators hire an agency to launch a new restaurant, and others bring one on board after an establishment has been open for a certain period.

Each situation, like each restaurant, is individual. And you can uncover no magic formula to determine whether you need that kind of representation.

Clearly it is not for everybody. On the other hand, it can be used to create excitement, buzz and traffic in a way that ordinary paid advertising often can't. But if you find yourself wondering if this is the time to add a new voice to your restaurant, here are some questions to ponder:

What is your PR objective?

You can determine the answer by working backward. Think about what's most important to your bottom line. Aside from the obvious explanation -- to increase profitability -- assess which of the following you are seeking: More visibility? A repositioning strategy? Brand recognition? A higher profile for the chef? Awareness for a new off-premises catering division? Investors?

Do you want straight public relations or a combination of public relations and in store marketing?

A carefully crafted, targeted public- relations campaign will raise both media and consumer awareness of your restaurant. Combining in-store marketing with public relations will help sustain the public-relations effort as well as provide a constant stream of activities to increase sales and generate favorable press coverage.

Here's how it works. Let's assume you have a successful, established seafood restaurant. In the summer business slows down because you're not on the water. This is where creative marketing coupled with public relations can score. By running a four-course lobster dinner from July 1 to Aug. 31, one of summer's favorite foods now has a new twist. This generates more interest.

By changing the menu weekly, your restaurant can receive attention for two months. You can hopefully even charge a premium price.

Do you have the time to work with an agency?

Public relations should be an integral part of your overall business plan. In order for the public-relations program to be effective, good communication is critical. If you cannot devote the time to work with an agency, delegate a key member of your team to be the contact. A publicist is like any other employee. By providing guidance, information and feedback on a regular basis, you increase your chance for success.

What you don't want to do is hire one and then not be available to work together- no one knows your business like you do, and without your input the agency will not be very effective- or worse- they will be off target and actually do more harm than good.

In restaurants, there is such a thing as bad publicity!

If you do decide an agency is for you, the following tips will help you select the right one:

  • Be clear about your goals every step of the way.

  • Call peers who are pleased with their agencies and set up initial consultations.

  • Be realistic. Do you want an agency that handles public relations alone or one that also can provide marketing or advertising services or both?

  • Find an agency that understands your business and has worked in the industry before.

The best publicists are information brokers. They can link a restaurant to its audience and the media, allowing the restaurant to focus on what it does best -- accommodate guests.

By doing some homework, you will know when and if an agency can create and sustain momentum for your eatery by adding the right seasoning to your recipe for success.

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