Whether you run a fine dining establishment or a fast food restaurant, your business must present itself positively to your customers. Excellent food, good prices and decent customer service alone may not be enough to help you compete in a tight market with so many other food service choices available these days. Your restaurant can excel in public relations as a way to advance your business.
Public relations is different from advertising, but both do the same thing: promote your business. There is some overlap, but pubic relations seeks to present information about the company to the general public to cast the business in a positive light.
Your restaurant’s public relations campaign can take a number of approaches. One way to reach customers and to have them come back is to create a loyalty program. For instance, you can develop a card that is stamped after each meal has been purchased. After the sixth meal you might offer one meal free or provide free desserts.
You can avoid the loyalty card by simply giving customers a discount on their next visit. Or you might ask your customers to sign an email registration sheet to receive follow up offers online. You’ll assemble a valuable mailing list that way too.
Public relations also means offering something to the community with nothing expected in return. Or at least with no clearly defined expectancy of certain returns.
Your restaurant might partner with a nonprofit by providing food to support a special event. You might also sponsor a local little league or softball league team, with your company’s name displayed on the front or back of the players’ jerseys. Consider offering a college scholarship in your company’s name or sponsoring summer camp for children with disabilities.
Restaurants can also reach out to new members of the community by teaming up with other businesses to send out welcome packs. Provide coupons to reach new residents and get included in special mailings from the cable company or a phone provider.
Make a Story
Your restaurant’s public relations efforts can be extended by working with your media contacts to get your news out. The story you present should be unique, not self-serving and it should be interesting.
For instance, if you provide food for a nonprofit’s special event, that event could be held at your restaurant. Work with media to announce the event and invite reporters and photographers to stop by and share the news. Contact television and radio personalities, and don’t forget the influence that some bloggers can have on broadcasting an event while mentioning your restaurant’s involvement.
Besides your restaurant’s website, you can engage socially with people online. Facebook and Twitter are two social networking websites that are best used by small businesses.
Establish a Facebook page and provide information about your business. Instead of overtly promoting your restaurant, you might want to share tips with your customers. For instance, your chef might share the recipe for a beloved dessert. Or, your wine waiter might share pairing tips. Encourage your visitors to share your page and your updates.
On Twitter, your restaurant can list daily specials. Like Facebook, you can include photographs of some of your finest entrees. Get included in lists where foodies gather and promote each other.
Public Relations Ethics
When undertaking any public relations campaign, your restaurant must be diligent to follow prescribed ethics. This means providing only accurate information, pointing out and correcting false information, offering attribution when necessary, refraining from compensating media, and posting your ethics policy to your company’s website. If you hire a public relations firm to manage your affairs, make note of that relationship too.