A Simple Guide to PR For Restaurants
Working with chefs & restaurants is exciting, fast-paced and ever-changing making the hospitality industry always in need of PR! From openings to epicurean events, we’re delving into how PR can help the restaurant industry, plus how we work with restaurants and all of the fun stuff in between. From small independent restaurants to larger, hospitality groups, every business needs a different approach, but the same outcome…exposure. Our team ascertains your business’s needs and assembles PR strategies and tactics tailored to you. It’s not a one size fits all solution. As we navigate your brand and individual needs, we find how we can help you and we implement those strategies.
Bettie Bomb is an experienced Chicago-based PR Agency having worked alongside the country’s hottest chefs, independent restaurants, cutting-edge fast casual concepts and more, so this is definitely our jam. Our first PR clients were restaurants and some of the top names in Chicago. Le Colonial, Shaw’s Crab House, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, Mon Ami Gabi and more. We cut our teeth on these restaurants and are happy to see them still thriving in Chicago’s restaurant scene today.
How PR Can Help Restaurants
The main need of restaurants is “more butts in seats.” But how do we do that? Is it internal, meaning what the restaurant needs to do with expanding it’s menu choices, creating a better experience, offering more engaging events, changing it’s hours, etc? Or is it external, which is PR, marketing, social media, positioning to support what they are already doing internally? It’s both actually…we work with restaurants to create programming that not only resonates with the guests but that generates media interest. We also develop a strategy & plan that highlights internal initiatives and positions the chef and/or restaurateur.
The media are interested in ideas that are new, timely, topical and different. What is your restaurant offering that no other restaurant is? Or is it the holidays and they’ve created something super creative for Christmas, Hanukkah, etc? Is there national news that you can weigh on and talk about as it relates to you? These are all ways to be positioned and generate exposure, which ultimately drives traffic to your website and into your restaurant.
Here’s an example: We work with Chez Moi, a French bistro in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Owner and Chef Dominique Tougne worked at the critically-acclaimed Bistro 110, located off Michigan Avenue for 15 years and was known throughout Chicago. Tourists and locals alike loved this restaurant and were sad to see it close. As a way to generate business during a slower time at Chez Moi, we decided to offer a “Tribute to Bistro 110” menu during March. The menu featured signature dishes from the beloved restaurant and people absolutely loved it!
How We Provide PR Services for Restaurants
As one of the top restaurant PR firms in Chicago, we provide an innovative, modern approach to a hospitality campaign, creating the formula that works best for you. From catapulting careers to launching weeks-long reservation lists, Bettie Bomb understands that flexibility and knowledge are key in this ever-evolving industry.
As we said before, it’s not a one size fits all approach, but there is a natural pattern because we are dealing with the same type of business. Every restaurant has a menu with signature items, so highlighting the food, ingredients and preparations will always be key and part of every plan. But here’s where plans start to differ: not every restaurant has a chef to position. This is one of the first questions we ask, because it is key to developing our plan moving forward. For example, we work with Fry the Coop, a Nashville Hot Chicken fast-casual restaurant with multiple locations throughout Chicagoland. Owner Joe Fontana is not a chef, although he has restaurant experience and can be on camera for cooking demonstrations. Our focus started about the food and now has shifted to entrepreneur-focused stories and business publications highlighting his expansion and growth of the business.
Another example is how closely we work with a restaurant. This ultimately depends on the client and what their needs are. We’ve worked with clients who have had us fully invested in their business decisions and the day-to-day operations, but then others who we only talk to every two weeks when they give us updates for press purposes. We’re here to help, but it depends on the type of help you need and clients make that decision.
Some clients require short-term PR for an opening or specific event and others require long-term PR work, wanting us to develop a full PR strategy that is a marathon, not a race. When a restaurant first opens, it’s easy. Media want to talk about things that are new, so naturally a new restaurant opening interests them! You get a big push of opening press in the beginning, but the hard part is managing that press by trying to spread it out as far as you can and then maintaining that press. What are you going to do to garner media interest after the newness has worn off. That’s our job.
Our PR Onboarding Process
When you start working with us, we want every client to understand the process, roles, expectations and most importantly, have open & honest communication. We begin with a kick-off call or meeting, which is a deep dive into your business. We use this time to learn about your goals, objectives, struggles, successes and overall, what you are looking to achieve. What is your message? What are you trying to promote? What story are you telling? We help you determine what is newsworthy and the best approach to communicate your message.
All new clients walk away with a list of deliverables from brand assets to background information, while we get to work on creating a plan of action to best suit your needs. This process happens in the first week and jumpstarts our working relationship into the next step focused on strategy & creating a full-scaled plan of action.
For restaurants specifically, we need all menus and if you have a chef to position, their bio or background information so we can prepare their bio. What promotions or events do you have coming up? Photos! Visual elements are huge, so we need to compile all of your food shots and if you don’t have any, we need to schedule a photographer immediately to build your database. Lastly, but probably one of the most important steps, we need to dine at the restaurant so we can better understand your concept and most importantly, taste the food! This is of course the fun part for us and allows us to better promote your restaurant.
The entire onboarding process gives us the chance to deep dive into your restaurant and understand everything as a whole. We use this time to compile all of the information, develop a strategy and send it to you for approval. This step is crucial as we need a foundation to set ourselves up for success. A launchpad that is organized, tactical and has the ability to change as many things do in this industry!
What To Expect
Restaurants must know that working with a PR agency or publicist takes time. You need to invest the time and energy to send us the information we need in a timely fashion and keep us updated. No one knows your business better than you do, so we will be looking to you for the information or as we call it, ammunition to do our job effectively. When working with restaurants, one thing is certain…communication is key!
As for day-to-day, clients need to appoint one point person for all PR needs to make sure all information is received in a timely manner and media requests are efficiently facilitated. We like to chat with our clients every other week and request bi-weekly conference calls to keep up-to-date on all internal happenings, plus quarterly in-person meetings so we have face time. We provide all calls and meetings with an agenda, which includes an update on activity status such as all pitching efforts, events & marketing opportunities, pending and secured media, etc. We also send over a recap following each call or meeting with tasks for both us and the client.
We want to make sure all of our clients are in the know, so we are constantly communicating via email with updates, check-ins, etc.
As media runs, every media placement is immediately sent to the client via email, including link and media metrics. Media metrics are the calculated impressions, circulation and audience numbers for a TV or radio station, newspaper, magazine or online outlet. Every quarter we send media reports, which is a comprehensive list of all placements for the month along with the press clips.
When working with an agency who is reaching out to the media constantly on your behalf, please remember: if the media contacts you directly, you NEED to let us know ASAP. This happens often and we need to be kept in the loop as we’re actively pitching all media. Even if they receive a pitch from us, they will sometimes contact a client directly.
Overall, this is a close working relationship and the client has to have the time to devote to it. You truly get what you put in and if we don’t have the information we need to position your restaurant to the media, we won’t be successful.
How We Measure Success
We use the goals set in place during onboarding, to develop how we measure your brand’s results and the overall impact of your campaign. For PR, we want to look at media metrics such as audience reach, impressions and print circulation, while for Social Media we focus on engagement, reach and conversions. At the end of each month, we send a full report including these measurements and earned media.
But, these are strictly numbers. The other side is word of mouth and overall buzz. Are people talking about your restaurant organically on social media? Are people coming in after seeing you on TV or reading about your restaurant in the newspaper? Publicity doesn’t necessarily translate directly into sales which makes the measuring process tricky. It’s also not guaranteed.
PR is part of the overall marketing strategy, which can include:
- Social media
- Digital & Content
- Internal Promotions
- Strategic Partnerships
- Off-site events
All of these tactics and forms of marketing work together to create buzz, so the question of measurement is a difficult one. Businesses have to look at all forms of marketing as an investment and a gradual build over time. One promotion might be successful, another one not so much, but you have to be consistent and keep trying. It’s a marathon, not a race and keeping those media opportunities flowing will build your presence over time.
Restaurants We’ve Worked With
We’ve worked with many restaurants over the years, from fast-casual to Michelin-starred chefs, but one thing remains the same…it never gets boring! Some of our past and current clients include Amy Morton’s Restaurant Group, Francesca’s Restaurant Group, Egg Harbor Cafe, Blind Faith Cafe, Pink Taco, SCOOZI!, Vong’s Thai Kitchen, Fry the Coop, Chez Moi, French Quiche, Japonais, Le Colonial, George Trois, Restaurant Michael, Weber Grill Restaurant, Sal & Carvao, Niche, Shaw’s Crab House, MAS, RJ Grunts, Snap Kitchen, Uncommon Ground, The Original Shrimp House and Italian Village.
Client Spotlight #1
Nashville Hot Chicken fast-casual concept in Chicago & suburbs
Since 2018, managed local and national PR campaign for four locations throughout the suburbs and Chicago. Focused on positioning owner Joe Fontana and his Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich as one of the best in Chicago. Handling coverage surrounding new locations opening each year, targeting hyperlocal media in each area. Media coverage includes: ABC Hungry Hound, Windy City Live, Chicago Tribune (#2 Chicken Sandwich in the city), Chicago Sun-Times, WGN’s Chicago’s Best (Best Sandwich), Eater and all local TV!
Client Spotlight #2
A French bistro in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood
Managed local PR campaign (2014-2018) to position highly acclaimed chef Dominique Tougne hailing from the celebrated Michigan Avenue restaurant Bistro 110 and his newly opened French bistro. Handled local media outreach, internal programming, annual event creation, external event participation, private media lunches and media tours. Media coverage included: Michigan Avenue, NBC, FOX, WCIU, WGN, Chicago Sun-Times SPLASH, Chicagomag.com and RedEye.