PR Machine: Do's and Don'ts of Restaurant Openings

Set yourself up for success with a restaurant opening or relaunch

The restaurant opening—new or relaunch—can be an exhilarating rush of realized dreams or a white-knuckled roller coaster ride of doom. No matter the situation, mission-critical flare-ups are waiting around every corner. 

From staffing sorrows to decor disasters, fires rage all around, with new ones ready to spark. With so much emergency management, it’s tough to step back to ensure your bases are covered. To help, here’s a checklist to ensure crowds instead of quiet:

Do play to your strengths. A good marketing and public relations plan is as essential as great ingredients and a capable staff. Know what makes your restaurant special and share it—details big and small—with the media and social sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t forget the small stuff. Take time to vet your own facts. Look for transposed telephone numbers, misspellings of the chef’s name, missing addresses and other inconsistencies like variations of the restaurant’s name. Is it upper or lower case? Does it include “The?” Most importantly, don’t publish or share any menus without prices. Ever.

Do engage your community and ask for support. Social media is a great opportunity to grow a devoted audience. For restaurants, in particular, marketing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be as easy as sharing what you do each day. Still, make sure you have a weekly plan for what you’ll share and stick to it.

Don’t wash your hands of responsibility. Whether you have a PR firm or a staff member handling marketing, you’re still responsible for getting the right information out the door. Establish a process for sharing new dishes, changes in hours and other news.

Do address those devilish details. Due diligence may not be sexy, but it’s “due” for a reason. Are you OSHA compliant? Is your credit card processing secure and updated? Does your insurance company cover credit card fraud? Have you taken photos of the key players, menu items and interiors so they can be used on your website and social media sites alongside menus and restaurant FAQs? Everything should be available for sharing via email, too.

Don’t attempt any promotion or outreach without a follow-up plan. Getting bodies in the door means nothing without a plan to bring them back. If you’re gathering names for a mailing list, for example, have a strategy for how often you’ll send information.

Don’t assume you won’t get reviews on your first night. It doesn’t matter whether you’re officially open or doing a practice run with friends and family. You can bet that guests will be tweeting and Instagramming reviews before night one is over. Be on your A-game to problem solve on the fly.

Ellen Malloy is the founder of Restaurant Intelligence Agency, a web-based tool that simplifies marketing for chef-driven restaurants.