Hospitality PR: DIY or Hired Pro?

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  • RATIONAL USA
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • Easy Ice
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  • Imperial Dade
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  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Atosa USA
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Day & Nite
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Inline Plastics
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We all wish our business performed like Field of Dreams – build it and they will come. It’s not the world we live in anymore. Great food and service, solid kitchen talent, and an atmosphere to match are sadly, not enough. So, how does one get the right information to the right people?

The answer is simple. Promotion. The execution – not so simple.  Ever since social media became a major influencer, restaurant reviews from “professionals” were 86’d, and way too many restaurants began popping up, the formula for effective marketing has changed. If you thought the restaurant industry was saturated, imagine how overloaded media and social media outlets have become. How does one play the game and stay relevant in today’s communication frenzy and unpredictable dining culture? The answer is PR /
Marketing.

Budget

Whether you’re ‘goin’ it’ alone or with a PR professional, your business plan must include allocated funds towards marketing. The essentials are:

  • Professional Photo Shoot
  • Branding
  • Website
  • SEO
  • Social Media Management
  • Social Media Monthly Advertising Budget
  • Advertising
  • Graphic Arts
  • In-house Hosting of Tastemakers and Social Media Influencers
  • Off-premise Events
  • Social Media Collaborations
  • Donations
  • PR Professional

The challenge with this checklist of essentials if you are new to playing the game is knowing what these components can and should cost in your market. This is why a PR professional has tremendous value when you are putting a business plan in place. If your plan is to do your own PR, I suggest bringing a PR consultant on board to, at the very least, flesh out these numbers with you and set you on the right path.

DIY or Hired Pro

If you have the (experienced) manpower on your team and are able to incorporate dedicated time into their schedule for marketing efforts, then managing your own PR can be quite rewarding and you can save a significant amount of money each month. Keep in mind, while we like to think that the rest of the world conducts business between 3-5 PM and then again after 11 PM, sadly, this is just not the case. Whoever your dedicated marketing person is must be able to function in PR mode throughout a normal business day in order to connect with the appropriate people, facilitate requests, manage social media, and create opportunities. Ask yourself and your designated in-house marketing representative the following questions:

  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Inline Plastics
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • RATIONAL USA
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • RAK Porcelain
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • Day & Nite
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Imperial Dade
  • Atosa USA
  • Easy Ice
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Do you have access to branding, website, and photography talent that has a stellar reputation within the foodservice industry?
  • Do you have relationships with your regional media outlets, editors, and writers?
  • Are you a proficient writer?
  • Are you connected to your community and its influencers?
  • Is social media your second language?
  • Which all-access media outlets reach your audience?
  • Advertising: Print or digital? Email or social media?
  • Which events in your area are important to be a part of?
  • What sorts of collaborations make sense for your business and your concept?
  • What types of marketing materials are needed for in-house and off-premise marketing efforts?

If you know the answers to and have knowledge of at least 6 out of these 10 questions, you may be able to pull off your own marketing efforts successfully in-house. If not, read on.

Working with a PR Professional

You’ve decided to concentrate on your restaurant and hire a PR pro to lay down a strong marketing foundation for your business and keep up with the day-to-day promotion of your restaurant.  The same criteria that went into finding your chef or manager should follow suit when looking for the right publicist.

One size does not fit all. It’s important that your publicist specializes in the food service and hospitality industry. Bonus points for restaurant publicists who actually have restaurant experience. Their knowledge of food, beverage, operations, and restaurant culture will be essential when navigating their way through your restaurant and being able to communicate properly with you, your staff, the media, vendors, partners, and influencers.

Reputation is key. Your publicist is representative of your restaurant. Their ability to communicate properly, utilize their standing within their field, and garner positive attention on your behalf is what you are paying them to do. Your PR rep should come with a large “Rolodex”, a respect for the industry, and an undeniable passion for what they do.

Trust your publicist. Granted, this is earned. But if you’ve hired the right one, take their lead and be receptive to ideas. Provide answers to questions promptly. Follow through on your end by providing a restaurant experience they can be proud of when hosting events for tastemakers. You are a reflection of them just as much as they are of you. Be that client that makes it easy for them to get the job done. And while they are there to take things off your plate, a really outgoing publicist is going to be adding a bit to your workload by coming up with creative ideas, implementing promotions, and needing you to execute these ideas with them.

Managing Expectations

Expectations are important to manage when starting any PR program. A thorough campaign should outline not only the process but the potential outcomes and timeframes. Any publicist worth their reputation will take the time to lay down a strong foundation first and ensure that all of the tools needed to manage a successful marketing program are in place. Priorities include; compressive website; properly managed and visually appealing social media platforms; solid content and storytelling throughout all outreach; a portfolio of professional pictures; and planned strategies. Once these are in place, the fun can begin!

PR is a process and should not be rushed. Proper media outreach should be consistent but never all at once.

Your publicist knows how to navigate these waters and properly enhance your media and social media presence with a crafty and gentle touch, allowing for not just impact, but traction. From there, such garnered attention needs to be properly leveraged, making a typical media placement last in the eyes of the consumer. While there are never any guarantees with regard to media placement, a robust marketing program provides the majority of what is needed to communicate properly and stay relevant within your market. Media attention is fun and effective but it is the most impactful when it runs in tandem with numerous other PR and marketing efforts.

PR campaigns are not just for new restaurants. It’s never too late to implement a new or updated marketing plan for your restaurant, no matter how long you’ve been operating. PR happens – all the time.

  • RAK Porcelain
  • Easy Ice
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Day & Nite
  • RATIONAL USA
  • Imperial Dade
  • Atosa USA
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • Inline Plastics
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
Linda Kavanagh
Linda Kavanagh is the founder of MaxEx Public Relations, LLC. Prior to launching her company in 1997, Kavanagh spent ten years in the culinary field, ultimately leaving the kitchen side of the business, trading her apron in for the almighty press release. Kavanagh’s experience in the restaurant industry adds another layer to her skillset, separating her from other publicists. Kavanagh is also the director of the New England Culinary Group, a 501(c)(3) professional organizational and support arm for the food service industry.