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Seven Tips for Marketing a New Restaurant by Pure Public Relations + Marketing.

November 23, 2010

Have you wondered why some fledgling eateries succeed, while others bite the dust?

Restaurant marketing is much more than placing ads and sending out press releases. It’s about how well the person in charge of promoting the restaurant knows the owners, how they do business, and how the restaurant operates. It’s how well the PR person knows the menu, the food, and the clientele.

During my career, I’ve worked for restaurants all over the country. Drawing from my hard-earned experience, here are seven ways to help ensure a dining establishment’s success.

  1. Forget a “one size fits all” model. In my years with Chipotle, they did not advertise, but employed a grass roots approach, and focused strictly on the customer. On the other hand, at Bonefish Grill, we adopted a wider marketing strategy that worked well as the number of locations grew.
  2. Establish brand awareness. What does the restaurant have to offer, food-wise? Experience-wise? Community-wise? Just who or what is Restaurant X? Some restaurants choose not to provide discounts or coupons. It’s just not their style. So tell the story of who they are.
  3. Advertise. Once you create brand awareness, then you can think about advertising. The brand identity should be reflected in every kind of promotion you do, whether it’s TV, radio, print, web, or social media.
  4. Track marketing dollars and ROI. You will want to focus your budget in the areas you have targeted as those which will grow the business, and redirect funds when something isn’t working.
  5. Generate publicity. Some examples of good restaurant PR may include: offering the restaurant’s signature recipes to the local food or “taste” section; secure and appear cooking segments on television that highlights a seasonal dish available at your location or get the cook out of the kitchen and participate in fundraising or ‘taste of’ events. (Hint: Don’t schedule any of these time-consuming initiatives on “truck day”, which is the day of the week the restaurant gets its food distribution). Once again, you’ve gotta know the operation in order to market most effectively.
  6. Reach out to customers (and get their feedback). A server or a manager may ask a customer how their meal was. If they say “fine” when they really mean “not so good”, and the staffer lets it go, an opportunity is missed. Fine is never what you want your customers to say about you. Fine is not a response that will motivate them to tell their friends, families, colleagues or neighbors that your restaurant is worth the trip. Though a less-than-satisfactory meal might be rewarded by not having to pay for it, or an “it’s on us the next time”, letting those customers go without getting detailed feedback about their experience brings me to my final tip…
  7. Fix mistakes and acknowledge unusual circumstances. Honesty is critical. If you dismiss a customer or insult their intelligence, you will lose that customer. They have choices, and if they are unhappy, they will take their dining dollars elsewhere – and tell others about it. And believe you me, there won’t be a “next time” to redeem yourself.

Roll with change

Some things you simply cannot help. Case in point: the current oil spill, which has affected fishing in a large area of the Gulf of Mexico, is impacting seafood availability and pricing in some areas.

Other extraordinary situations that could affect a restaurant are recalls on products like vegetables, or natural disasters, such as hurricanes, blizzards, floods, earthquakes and tornados.

Just remember that knowing the business is the key to marketing the business. This goes for all types of companies, not just places to eat.

If you keep these things in mind when signing on to do marketing and PR for a restaurant, your chances of tasting success will be that much better.

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