Restaurant PR – for Good Times and Bad

Restaurant PR – for Good Times and Bad

We’ve said it before a thousand times. One of the biggest mistakes brands make when it comes to brand reputation and visibility is to wait until things go awry to request help from PR experts. In contrast, proactive brands in the market understand that good PR is a great way to get ahead of the competition and reach their target market.

With restaurants being one of the most saturated business ventures with a high likelihood of failure, this is even more important. According to a study conducted by the Ohio State University, 60 percent of restaurants don’t last more than a year, and 80 percent don’t make it to five years. So restaurants need an extra edge to compete with bigger establishments and smaller competitors occupying their niche.

Keep PR Hands on Deck

Start by hiring a PR firm as soon as the restaurant begins to build some buzz. PR expertise is beneficial, but expensive, so it’s best to ensure the restaurant is taking off on its own merit before calling the big guns in.

PR experts can then build on that momentum. They can craft stories to share with customers about how the restaurant came to be and put together campaigns to build reputation.

Public relations firms can also get restaurants and their chefs involved in key events that could make a lasting impression on customers. This may involve catering at major events, putting up a stall at popular festivals, or taking part in some of the wine-tasting and Restaurant Week events around the country.
Public relations specialists also help restaurants land placements in newspapers, magazines, and travel blogs, helping them to connect with potential customers. The exposure also improves public perception of the brand as an industry leader.

When Things Go Awry

A bad review is often enough to send things in a downward spiral, if not managed correctly. This bad review could come from not just a foodie with lots of social media influence, but professionals in the culinary field or even a health inspector. However, with good customer service and a calm and apologetic response to bad reviews, restaurants can stay on top.

Restaurants should focus on how to improve for the next review, rather than how to justify or invalidate what was said. This defensiveness could only further sink them into trouble. Having a PR expert on deck to take care of these issues, usually guarantees smooth handling of such incidents.

One example of a restaurant which managed a terrible situation with grace and poise was Chipotle. When faced with unexplained e-Coli outbreaks, the company remained calm, kept business going, and kept everyone up-to-date on every new development; all while they investigated and made attempts to prevent the outbreak from spreading further.

This was not just Chipotle’s great customer service, but a well-oiled and experienced PR engine at work.

Many businesses can learn from this example when crisis hits, especially if the crisis involves a potential health risk to customers. While some people overlook reviews of bad customer service or not-so-tasty food, few will risk their health.

However, Chipotle’s PR team built up trust and a repertoire with customers long before the outbreak, ensuring that the trust persevered even in the face of crisis, allowing business to continue as planned.

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