Achieving success in the restaurant industry involves not only good food and service but also a trusted, well-known brand. An essential component of any restaurant’s business strategy, public relations can elevate a restaurant’s image and foster deeper connections with both new and existing target audiences. Let’s delve into some ways PR can be harnessed to take restaurants to the next level.

Be a Standout

By skillfully leveraging a restaurant’s unique story, culinary specialties, Instagram-worthy interiors and more, PR can create a compelling brand image that not only captures customer interest but also sets the business apart from the fierce competition. 

For instance, a restaurant can have an amazing founding story like being a third-generation family business or have an inspiring mission like only sourcing ingredients from local farms or serve culinary delights like an all-vegan dessert menu. However, without PR, those stories might not reach customers. PR leverages those differentiators to their full potential, allowing restaurants to stand out from the rest and attract interest.

Boost Awareness

Working in tandem with marketing efforts, PR can increase brand awareness. Through strategic media outreach, a strong PR strategy can lead to article inclusions in trusted outlets that your audience will see. These articles could span from the introduction of a tantalizing new menu item or the opening of a new location to a notable new employee or a heartwarming charity event organized by the restaurant.

Providing press and customers with a steady cadence of news will keep them up-to-date, engaged and excited about a restaurant’s latest updates. PR efforts will have a restaurant consistently visible and top-of-mind in the media landscape and is an invaluable component of attracting new customers and retaining existing ones.

Build Trust: 

PR can also enhance reputation and boost interest through third-party validation. A PR team can coordinate reviews with food critics and bloggers which will then be shared with their audiences. Moreover, PR specialists can spearhead applications for industry awards and recognitions. Winning an award can further boost the restaurant’s credibility and reputation as a top-tier establishment. Having nationally and locally awarded accolades ranging from culture awards like “Best Places to Work” to community voting awards like “Best Local Restaurant” on the shelf can build loyalty with customers and elevate trust with investors.

Be Prepared: 

Even the most well-run restaurant will have unforeseen challenges. These could range from a food safety concern that needs swift rectification to the inevitable negative review. Many senior PR professionals are adept at crisis management and can swiftly respond to such situations to mitigate potential damage to the restaurant’s reputation. By having a well-crafted crisis communication plan in place, a restaurant can navigate these turbulent waters, emerging with its image intact.

In any crisis, time is of the essence. PR partners will constantly media monitor for coverage and proactively flag situations so restaurant leadership is the first to know. Once identified, PR can quickly mobilize to assess the situation and provide expert advice on how to best respond to a crisis event. Having employees and leadership trained by PR pros on how to handle a crisis situation can also be invaluable. 

For example, if a reporter were to call a restaurant’s food order hotline asking for comment on an E. coli outbreak, a PR-prepped employee would know to redirect the reporter to the restaurant’s PR team instead of giving a spontaneous answer that quoted out of context in an article can be dangerous to the brand’s reputation. In this situation, PR experts can quickly take over communications with the reporter and collaborate with leadership to create an accurate, concise and resolving statement that’ll preserve customer confidence in the restaurant’s reputation. 

See the Impact:

So what does success look like? While it might seem like PR influences intangibles like sentiment and awareness, there are ways to measure PR’s impact. This includes tracking the audience reach of outlets featuring our restaurant or leveraging backlinks to see how many people investigate links to a restaurant’s menu from an article. Public relations management platforms like MuckRack can provide even more advanced analytic capabilities. The software can track competitor media coverage to compare share of voice growth or calculate the ad value equivalency for placements and more. These tools are excellent for tracking progress quarter over quarter toward PR and marketing goals.

In short, establishing a recognizable brand image, increasing media presence, building a thought leadership profile, and proactively preparing for crises are just a few of the many facets of PR’s contribution to a restaurant’s enduring longevity and success. In a competitive landscape where customer trust and visibility are paramount, PR becomes a valuable partner, shaping a restaurant’s narrative, expanding its reach, and preserving its reputation in the ever-evolving culinary world. 

Catriona Harris is the co-founder and CEO of Uproar PR, a forward-thinking, award-winning public relations agency that delivers top-tier results to drive sales and raise awareness for its clients globally. With service offerings in media relations, social media, thought leadership and influencer marketing, Uproar PR continually places its clients at the forefront of national and industry trends. With 60 full-time employees across 14 states, the PR agency works with a broad spectrum of technology, lifestyle, consumer and professional services clients.

Harris oversees the daily operations of the agency and provides the vision for new initiatives and strategies that will drive outstanding results for clients.  Prior to starting Uproar, Catriona was the Vice President of East Coast Operations for a San Francisco-based PR firm that specialized in Tech PR. Catriona grew up in California and graduated with her B.A. in Communications from Saint Mary’s College of California where she was named as Alumna of the Year in 2019. The Orlando Business Journal named her one of the Forty under 40 in both 2009 and 2011 and CEO of the Year in 2017.

Outside Insights, Story