The challenges that the Metro New York City restaurateur face have never been greater. From exploding rents, obscene overheads and a truly demanding diner with a sophisticated palate, restaurateurs realize that marketing their properties has become crucial to their daily success.
Tracy Nieporent, of the revered Myriad Restaurant Group, has been working in marketing for over 25 years to help meet the challenges of opening and sustaining restaurants.
For many in the food service industry, when the name Nieporent is mentioned, Tracy’s brother Drew comes to the forefront. The restaurant impresario emerged from Cornell University almost four decades ago to forge a legendary career. With Drew creating the vision, Tracy valued the opportunity to join and help market a great team, and the Myriad Restaurant Group has continued to be one the nation’s great success stories.
It’s really quite simple, according to Tracy Nieporent who in his role as the director of marketing and partner, oversees public relations, communications, promotion, advertising and charitable events for the Myriad Restaurant Group.
There are many ways restaurants can achieve success through marketing, Nieporent pointed out. “You, of course, try to get the word out in as many different media and as effective and professional a way as you can,” explained Nieporent, who guesses he’s helped open between 30 and 40 restaurants with Myriad. “And you just keep going. You have to realize that every day, it’s like Bruce Springsteen says: He wants to play a great show every night, because the person in the audience that night may be the only opportunity he gets to see him.”
He added that people often set a certain standard of excellence for themselves, and it’s the same with restaurants. “It doesn’t really matter what meal you served yesterday. The guest that you have there today, that’s their experience,” Nieporent noted. “With marketing, it’s imperative to make sure people understand your message clearly.”
From the launch at Tribeca Grill to the legendary Nobu and Batard, one key to success have been the ability to utilize the latest marketing tools to bring their eateries’ story to their customer base. As a result of that consistent success to attract new customers and keep existing partrons coming back, Tracy Nieporent was asked by the legendary Danny Meyer to succeed him in leading the marketing efforts for New York City’s Restaurant Week.
“It was an honor in 2003, when Danny and Cristyne Nicholas of NYC and Company invited me to become the Chairman of NYC & Company’s Restaurant Committee,” Tracy noted. The veteran marketing executive relishes the challenge of helping to guide the marketing vision for the 25th anniversary of Restaurant Week in New York City in 2017.
The almost month-long event features full-course meals at some of the best restaurants in New York City for more modest prices than are usually charged. Restaurant Week is held twice a year and participating restaurants in New York City offer prix fixe lunches and dinners. At the finest restaurants, this can be a fraction of the usual prices.
Tracy Nieporent’s attention to the changes in the marketplace and the marketing tools at his disposal have been a continuing challenge. “Before the Internet, the company used traditional media to get the word out. “You bought an ad in a news magazine. Obviously, PR has always been an important part of what we do. What makes us different, however, is that we had a treasure trove of articles that were written over the years. Yes, the Internet has changed a lot but the basic things are still the same. Do good work and that basically wins people over. It’s very hard to market something that’s mediocre. It doesn’t mean that everything we’ve ever done has been a grand success. Some things, some concepts, have succeeded amazingly and others haven’t done as well. But the bottom line, it’s just common sense. You really try to be clear with your message.” People read restaurant reviews and have certain expectations. “But you have to make sure that you fulfill them,” Nieporent stated. “It’s as simple as that.”
Restaurant Week has quite a history, too. “Back in 1992, the Democratic Convention was being held at Madison Square Garden. New York was going through difficult financial times. They were looking for something to create some interest for the delegates, but also to create a spirit in the city where people would be excited about something. And basically it was Tim Zagat, Joe Baum and Alan Stillman who had this idea to do a restaurant week – a three-course lunch for $19.92,” Nieporent remembered. “I went up to a meeting at the Rainbow Room and I was fairly new to the industry at that time.” “And I’m watching these guys who are the Mt. Rushmore of the culinary world at the head of the table and I listened and I paid attention, and I thought, this is a pretty good thing,” Nieporent recalled.
One of the keys to success that Nieporent has brought to the event is the standard that has been created for restaurants that wish to participate. “There’s actually 14 criteria that have to be met for a restaurant to be accepted to the Restaurant Week roster, “Nieporent explained. They include the Zagat and other culinary ratings, whether they have critical press, what reviews they’ve gotten, do they have a critically acclaimed chef and owner? Do they have any notable affiliations? We want it to be quality restaurants. It’s not elitist,” Nieporent said. “But we want it to be restaurants that when, people look at it, they say, yeah, those are the places I want to go.” In addition, under Tracy’s encouragement the event has expanded to include both summer and winter events. And the length of the program has grown as well, with typically 3 weeks in the Winter and 4 weeks in Summer.
The New York City restaurant industry doesn’t have a bigger local sports fan that Nieporent. He lives and dies on every Mets home run, Jets touchdown, Rangers goal, and Knicks basket. So when it comes to keeping score he’s a keen observer of the numbers of his favorite teams. He takes the same approach to tracking the success of New York City’s Restaurant Week.
“The first year we had 50 restaurants participating. This summer? Close to 400,” Nieporent said proudly. “We’re in 40 neighborhoods across the entire city, serving 34 different cuisines. It’s not just Manhattan-centric and you really can travel the world from a culinary standpoint and never leave the city limits. And there’s not another culinary program in the entire country that can compare with that.”