PR Tips to Build Buzz Around a Restaurant Opening

By Katie Lundy
June 26, 2019

Inspire is no stranger to assisting clients with restaurant openings to help draw in diners, in fact, some would say it’s our bread and butter (pun intended).

From a multitude of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants to Fado Dublin to Chuys Polaris – we’re spilling Inspire’s secret sauce to success with these top 5 PR tips to build buzz around any restaurant opening.

1. Grab the Hard Hat

Media like to be under the tent and get the inside scoop. The restaurant doesn’t need to be camera ready to invite in media. In fact, a guided hard hat tour is a perfect way to build excitement around the upcoming opening. Inspire recently worked with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants to conduct a hard hat tour and chef partner announcement for Budd Dairy Food Hall which was attended by just about every major print outlet in central Ohio. The reporters loved taking selfies in their hard hats and getting a sneak peek as the incubator-style food hall came to life.

2. Offer Exclusive Access

While you certainly want to gain as much media attention as possible, it may be worth considering a deeper dive with a particular outlet. Offer them access to a private menu or cocktail tasting. Invite them to a closed-door planning session with company leadership. Allow them to bring their spouse for a fun date night happy hour or dinner preview (Note: Some reporters will have restrictions on what they can accept.) Think about what you can do to reward a trusted reporter with access that no one else will receive. Also, plan ahead and engage a long-lead publication. You could end up with a 4-page spread.

3. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Food Drops

You may not be keen on the idea of giving away free food before you even open, or driving around town delivering food samples to reporters, but putting the effort in really works and often yields valuable media mentions. Deliver samples to the morning TV anchors and they may discuss the restaurant opening on the show. Send dishes to a few local radio stations as well. Be sure to let them know it is coming ahead of time. You may be able to secure an on-air interview in the process. Also, food drops don’t necessarily have to be meals. For the grand reopening and 18th birthday of M at Miranova, we worked to deliver balloons, cookies and gift cards to reporters.

4. Be Selective with Influencers

Today, bloggers and influencers are just as valuable as reporters. They often have loyal networks who are ready to like, share and comment on posts - a great way to raise awareness for a restaurant. Unfortunatly, not every influencer partnership will be beneficial so it is important to do research and set expectations. Make sure you select a handful of food and restaurant influencers who fit your brand and have engaged audiences (engagement is more valuable than the number of followers). Invite them to try the restaurant after it opens and offer to cover the cost of the meal. Be sure to make it clear what is expected (ie. Instagram Stories, a Facebook static post, a blog post, etc.). We often use written agreements to protect all involved.

5. Highlight your Expertise

While there certainly are more items in your PR toolbox to promote a restaurant opening, taking stock of the talented staff should be among the top tactics on your list. Does your bartender or beverage director really shine? They could be great to tap for a media cocktail tutorial. Do you have a talented chef who would be comfortable doing a cooking demo on camera? Is there a manager who has a powerful story to tell? Get to know the team you are promoting. There are always hidden gems worth sharing.