Know who you are and communicate that message to the right audience, advised public relations industry experts at a panel discussion hosted by OpenTable at The Restaurant Show’s Business Bootcamp on Wednesday, 10th October.
Participating on the panel was Gemma Bell, Gemma Bell PR; Nicky Hancock, Sauce Communications; and Caroline Warwick, Crisp Media.
“Public relations is fundamentally about communication. It is a tool for communication,” explained Gemma Bell, opening the conversation.
“It is how your restaurant is perceived by the public,” added Caroline Warwick.
“Each individual restaurant needs to know who they are and who their audience is. Then they can determine their unique selling point,” said Nicky Hancock. “Look at the big picture: the trends and landscape,” she added.
Knowing your product
Know who your clientele is before opening. You need to visualise your successful day and communicate that, advised Gemma Bell. “We understand how to reach the customers you want in your restaurant through the right media,” said added.
Sometimes it’s really good to create a story, but you don’t want it to appear contrived. Look at what’s going on in the restaurant world – you don’t want it to be cheesy, advised Nicky Hancock.
“Don’t push something if it doesn’t come naturally to your restaurant,” added Gemma Bell.
Working with a PR agency
“There are different agencies for you,” said Gemma Bell. Remember to do your research and call around, added Nicky Hancock.
“Most PR companies will be honest about what they can deliver,” said Caroline Warwick.
For restaurants thinking about doing their own public relations Nicky Hancock advised, “look at what you can do yourself: create a website with updated photos, social media (set up Twitter and Facebook), contact local hotels, speak to local businesses.”
When working with bloggers, a PR agency can advise which are most credible. “You don’t have to give away free meals unless you see that these guys are good and their reaching the right audience” said Gemma Bell.
“Be creative,” advised Caroline Warwick. “Be realistic and honest – don’t try too hard,” added Gemma Bell.
Public Relations has changed so much, the panel noted. Online is very important, including YouTube, and Twitter they added.
“Food critics are hugely instrumental for the opening of a restaurant,” said Nicky Hancock. “You have one shot. I personally agree that if you’re good and you get a bad review you’re likely fine, but if you’re a bad restaurant that gets a bad review, that could be devastating,” she added.
However, “Don’t rely on critics to PR your restaurant,” cautioned Gemma Bell. Lifestyle press is also very important for reaching the right clientele, she explained.
3 common mishaps to avoid:
- Don’t launch before you’re ready, said Caroline Warwick. Wait until you’re confident it’s right.
- Don’t bombard journalists from every angle, added Nicky Hancock.
- When a critic comes in, don’t try to comp their meal, said Gemma Bell. Critics pay attention to tables around them, added Nicky Hancock.
3 top tips from the panelists:
- Get decent photography, advised Caroline Warwick.
- Be clear who you are and what you do. Don’t get pushy with journalists, added Gemma Bell.
- Talk to your customers, Nicky Hancock advised.