In an era of penny-pinching and cost cutting, operators are struggling to put themselves in front of potential customers in an affordable and personal manner.

But some are finding that sponsorships can be a good way to both draw new customers and set up a positive brand reputation by getting involved with the community.

Dave Magrogan, CEO of the Dave Magrogan Group, parent company of restaurant concepts like Kildare’s Irish Pub and Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar, says his company sponsors events ranging from 5k races to golf outings to fraternity and sorority events.

“What we always try to do is something that promotes our brand, or that we can attend or get involved with so we get the most marketing value out of it,” Magrogan says.

For an event like a 5k, Magrogan says, “getting involved” could include starting or finishing the race at your restaurant, hosting an awards ceremony there, or simply holding registration packets for interested participants behind the counter leading up to the race.

These sorts of actions put your operation and product in front of potential customers, Magrogan says, and also gets you involved with the community.

“You look at these things truly as marketing events, not just giveaways,” he says. “Once you start to look at that, you start to look at the return. That’s probably one of the best ways to really get people to see who you are.”

Magrogan says sponsorships are often misunderstood; restaurants are always lending gift cards or signage to charitable events as a means of seeming involved in the community.

“It’s one thing to just have your name up on a sign and be sponsor of X, Y, and Z, it’s another thing to actually have people enter your building,” he says. “We try to make that a really important part of how we do things.”

For operators who want to get involved with community events, Magrogan suggests negotiating with organizations to make sure there is an opportunity for the restaurant to benefit from future business.  

“Make sure you’re not just throwing your money at something to try to be a good citizen, because at the end of the day, everybody does that,” he says.

Magrogan was a panelist on the “How to Get the Consumer’s Attention” panel at Dine America, the executive leadership conference hosted by Food News Media in Atlanta October 9–11.

By Sam Oches

Charitable Giving, Marketing & Promotions, News