In today’s foodie culture, word of a new restaurant can garner lots of interest and buzz. For marketers, leveraging that excitement can be a rewarding – yet daunting – task. From turning a restaurant into a destination, to identifying local critics and influencers, the months leading up to a grand opening are a test of placemaking and promotion.
Below are some tips from Aimee Cicero, BG’s PR events manager, for those who are about to, or are in the process of, launching a restaurant.
Go Big, Literally
Guerrilla activations can be a fun, fresh way to drum up anticipation before opening day. To help generate buzz around the grand opening of a restaurant, hit the road and do some footwork to pull people in. The key is to draw attention through intrigue—consider working up a mystery, skit, or performance out in public.
BG recently executed a guerrilla strategy with P.J. Clarke’s before the grand opening of their first Philly location in 2018. A life-sized burger was custom-made and deployed around the city in a conspicuous, branded truck.
The food item, along with a digital photo booth, traveled in a radius around the restaurant’s location – stopping at highly trafficked areas for the public to engage with it, take photos, and post them on social media channels. Meanwhile, representatives from the restaurant handed free samples of food, coupons, menus, T-shirts, and other swag for people to take home and remember the brand. Check out some of the fun here.
Create Experiences for Media
Ahead of launch, local journalists will be interested in getting a sneak-peek of the restaurant before it opens to the public. This typically involves hosting a media preview, where reporters and influencers can enjoy a sampling of the menu and get some face-time with the chef.
However, media efforts shouldn’t stop there. Some journalists are looking for more than just a “one-size-fits-all” event. Some might ask for an interview with the owner or a chance to tour the space privately.
Using your discretion, take some time to organize a handful of these one-on-one press opportunities with relevant media. Make sure to do your homework on each reporter as they will likely approach the story from different angles. While one might be interested in learning about the restaurant’s cocktail offerings, another could be curious about its origin story.
Find Ways to Stay Relevant
Once the initial hype dies down, it can be tough to find ways to keep making headlines. Even so, there are a number of ways to keep new customers coming through the door on a daily basis.
One of the best ways to do this is to continually find ways to get involved with the local neighborhood or city. Once your restaurant has been around for a few months, and you have a better sense of what your customers are looking for, you can start coming up with programming and events that align with their interests. Whether it’s weekly happy hours, quizzo nights, or partnerships with animal shelters or other nonprofits — creating a reason to frequent a restaurant will be key to establishing a loyal clientele.
Another way to bring the community into the restaurant is to bring the restaurant to the community. Participate in local festivities and street fairs where you can sample food and introduce your brand to consumers. And don’t forget the business community either! Look for speaking opportunities and networking events with local chambers of commerce and professional organizations. There, you can tell your brand story and make meaningful connections with other business owners.
To survive the toughest days in the restaurant business, a new venue needs to quickly build an audience that will champion its food, drinks, and ambiance. Sometimes, gestures as simple as handing out coupons for free drinks and appetizers to neighbors can go a long way towards building a reputation. Sometimes you have to think out of the box — but always make sure to keep your restaurant top-of-mind for old, new, and potential customers.