The development of a restaurant can be extremely daunting with its many moving parts and it’s easy to miss crucial start-up strategies within the mix of it all.
One you don’t want to overlook is your intended media launch strategy. Today, the word ‘media’ means so much more than your local newspaper outlet.
The worst thing you can do is start your marketing and promotional campaigns one week before opening or simply expect a Field of Dreams “if you build it, they will come” type of scenario to work.
Hint: it doesn’t!
A successful restaurant launch includes building plenty of buzz for the three-four months leading up to the opening. It also means developing what we call a communications strategy to deal with the variety of media outlets both before and after opening.
A strong communications strategy will prepare you for the most effective social, digital, and community-related marketing tools in relation with targeted media partnerships which will then target your specified audience across a multitude of touch-points.
Aside from the established chain restaurants, many aspiring and independent restaurateurs do not have the budget for their own in-house marketing team (or outsourcing an award-winning agency). And that’s okay. In order to be fully present within your community both before and after opening, restaurateurs just need to ensure they have the necessary marketing plans in place.
This means projecting the right voice to attract the right audience. This also means determining the tone of your content, the nature of your interaction, and the overall approach to your brands messaging.
It also means knowing how to handle any third party media attention before and after opening.
To develop an effective communications strategy – you want to focus on three key areas: your social media, your public relations, and your direct-to-consumer channels. Let’s have a look at each.
Within both your marketing and communications plan, you firstwant to develop a social media strategy. There is no getting around this today. Use plenty of simple, cost-effective strategies in the weeks prior to opening to create the buzz you want (and need). These methods will also maximize exposure (to both the public and other media outlets) in addition to early revenue opportunities during what’s known as your ‘honeymoon period’ - the first three months of operating.
This includes developing and/or executing on:
- Social media channels, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, that your target audience actually uses each and every day
- The development of strategic monthly content calendars for each social channel
- The creation of social media contests and sales-driven promotions
- Social media paid-advertising campaigns to further build your targeted community
- Digital marketing partnerships where you can leverage both social media and email marketing
- Food and beverage photography and videography strategies to enhance your visuals
It’s not easy building an online community from scratch. Your social media presence must have a strategy behind it – not a ‘spray and pray’ method of posting a food photo and hoping your target market will engage with it. It is imperative that you’re consistent, unique, and strategic. You also want to build digital partnerships that will help you successfully piggy-back on another’s already built social media community.
Leading up to the opening and for the first one-to-two months after – you want to build strong relations with your local media partners. Pairing this with a strong social media strategy is crucial in developing the awareness you need to get a head start in generating revenue.
- The development of your key brand messages to create consistency and reduce confusion
- The creation, management, and distribution of press materials including a press kit, fact sheets, press releases, and owner/chef biographies
- The development of a targeted media list - online, print, and broadcast. Know beforehand who you want and don’t want to associate throughout your local media. Don’t waste time meeting with media outlets that don’t have the same target audience as you do
- Partnering with key influencers (bloggers) and tastemakers (farmers, breweries, wineries, and other key suppliers to your restaurant)
- The identification and training of your start-up brand ambassadors; this includes ownership, management, and other priority personnel
At a minimum, you want to send out press releases and contact your local restaurant bloggers, podcasters, food critics, and social media influencers. Engage with your local industry dignitaries on social media and then inform them of your newly developed restaurant. Create an invite only event either before or during your soft opening to maximize on their value and to amplify your story.
To tie all of your social media and public relations together to create a winning communications strategy, you want to include a variety of direct-to-consumer campaigns throughout the first 30-90 days of opening.
You want to ensure your target market is seeing your brand across a variety of channels. Pending your choice of concept – you want to entice them to visit your venue approximately three times before the end of your honeymoon period.
You can achieve this by creating the emotion that your target audience is going to miss out on the hottest new restaurant in town (FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out). You can do this by creating the following:
- A variety of menu tasting and beverage pairing events
- Direct mail marketing campaigns to targeted hyper-local neighborhoods
- Community marketing outreach and partnership opportunities (events, donations, and sponsorships)
- Site sampling and street activations by personally taking food samples and marketing material to local businesses (using your developed brand ambassador strategy)
- In-house return visit campaigns that measure the return-frequency of customers
How will you reach the maximum number of targeted customers with the least amount of spending to maximize your return-on-investment? How will you plan to be memorable and stand out from the competition as time goes on? Start early and be creative, imaginative, and bold in all of your efforts while being prepared to handle social media, public relations, and direct-to-consumer strategies.
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|Doug Radkey is the principal owner of Key Restaurant Group, a North American restaurant/bar start-up development agency based in Ontario, Canada. Being in the food and beverage industry for over 17 years has allowed Doug to become a leading voice in the development of feasibility studies, unique concepts, business plans, and operational systems. Learn more by visiting keyrestaurantgroup.com|
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