Will food blogs take over traditional newspaper restaurant reviews? Maybe. Can food bloggers be just as influential in getting customers through your restaurant doors? You bet they can!
According to The State of Food Blogging Survey, almost half of all food bloggers write restaurant reviews. That's huge for restaurant managers. Popular food blogs can get up to thousands of unique visitors each month, and bloggers have the power to create serious hype around the places they recommend.
So wouldn't it be great if food bloggers would come to your restaurant someday soon and write up a couple of raving reviews? Hell yeah! But how do you entice bloggers to visit your restaurant? Here are a few tips for you.
Create a relationship
Don't bother sending press release-type emails to bloggers. They get those all the time and they usually don't leave much of an impression. It's much better to take a personal approach.
The good thing about bloggers is that they're usually pretty active on social media. Twitter is a space where bloggers are particularly active and it's really easy to connect with them through there.
Create a relationship by tweeting back and forth and commenting on their blog. Then once you've established that relationship you can give them a gentle nudge and invite them to your restaurant.
Don't straight up ask them to write about your restaurant. Create an experience for them that will make them want to write about you without having to ask. This really is key. You want their review to be genuine, because their readers will know if there's a motive behind their post.
Freebies and monetary incentives
And that brings me to freebies and monetary incentives. The majority of food bloggers don't make money from their food blog, but the influential ones that you want coming to your restaurants probably do. For them, their blog is their life and their livelihood.
But when you offer a blogger money you're kind of playing in a danger zone. These days, bloggers are pretty transparent about how they make their money - they have to be. That means that when you pay them to write about your restaurant, that post will probably have a clear 'Advertorial' disclaimer.
Offering a blogger a free meal, drink or experience is a little safer. You're inviting them as your guest, and if they have a good time they will want to write about it. As long as you're not deliberately asking for the write-up, you're okay, and offering something free could actually be a legit strategy.
Most bloggers don't write about food in a general way. They're more likely to write about food from a certain angle. That could be Asian cuisine, health foods, street food or any other niche they focus on.
Before reaching out to a blogger, do your homework. Don't reach out to a vegetarian food blogger if you're a BBQ restaurant. But if your bakery makes the best donuts in town, do reach out to a food blogger who mostly writes about sweet delights!
It's a winning situation for both you and the blogger if you get the right match. It's in their interest to write about something that resonates with their audience, and in yours to get your name in front of the right people.
Announce something new
If you're new on the block, that might be enough for a blogger to pop their head into your restaurant. They love discovering new places (and also being the first to discover them).
But if your restaurant has been around for a while, that doesn't mean they'll never visit. You just have to give them another reason to come.
Announcing something new is a really simple way to draw a blogger in. It would be even better if you could offer them a sneak peek into something new you're cooking up.
Got a menu change coming up? Invite a food blogger to test it out before its release and ask for their feedback. Got a new head chef? Offer them an opportunity to interview him or her about their vision for the restaurant. Bloggers, like traditional press, are more likely to cover news.
Offer something different
If you want to stand out, you have to be different. That applies to grabbing the attention from bloggers too. Why should they pay attention to your restaurant? What story can they share with their readers about you?
Maybe it's that people can handpick their own ingredients in your restaurants' backyard. Or perhaps you've got a crazy way to make a banana and chicken combination work.
It doesn't have to be outrageous, it just has to create a spark that makes people want to talk about your restaurant. Think about what your unique selling point is, and use it to your advantage.
Create a unique event
This last idea is a guaranteed winner, and it's one that can tie in multiple bloggers at once: create a unique VIP event for bloggers.
You can have fun with it too! Show your restaurant in an interesting light. Perhaps show the people behind the food. The hyped Lune Croissanterie in Fitzroy, Melbourne recently invited a handful of influencers for a 'Lune Lab experience'. How's that for an exclusive event?
A free workshop with your head chef would absolutely delight bloggers. You could think of other creative event ideas for bloggers, but remember there's one common interest all food bloggers share: food. So make your food the hero of the night.
Getting bloggers to write about your restaurant really isn't a manipulation game reserved for PR professionals. Try to relate to the blogger and what would interest them. Create that relationship and experience. It's what you do for your customers every day, so really, you're already a pro.