Imagine your favourite local restaurant (not a chain). How did you find out about them? Perhaps it was through word of mouth or maybe they popped up on your social media feed or in the newspaper.
The question of whether restaurants need PR is not always a straightforward one. Some believe that word of mouth and good customer reviews are enough. While there are others who think paid media coverage or reviews from bloggers are essential to running a successful restaurant.
Most local businesses rely on word of mouth; people tend to be more inclined to try somewhere if a friend or family member has recommended it.
But, is word of mouth enough?
Take one of my favourite independent restaurants, Francesca’s in Jesmond.
They are certainly lacking in social media presence. There is a Facebook page that has not been posted on since March. They have no website and I doubt it would have even crossed their minds to set up an Instagram or Twitter account.
Yet go to the restaurant and you will see it is packed. It has been a popular choice for years, my mam recalls being taken there as a child.
They have had a long time to establish themselves as a firm favourite among families and students alike.
Restaurants like Francesca’s have all the PR they need. They rely on word of mouth and a steady string of regular customers who keep coming back time and time again.
Perhaps it could be said that only bad restaurants need PR? The good ones do what they do best; good food, good service and a nice atmosphere, and let their customers do the rest for them.
Do it right and you don’t need to pay anyone to promote you.
However, PR for restaurants can provide further word of mouth impact and potential media coverage.
It’s easy to get PR if you are a new restaurant about to open.
But what if you are already open? Unless your restaurant has won an award or is expanding or being refurbished, there often isn’t a lot to tell. The fact you are running your restaurant day-to-day isn’t particularly newsworthy.
All too often a restaurant sinks into obscurity after its opening.
But there are still ways to generate publicity.
A restaurant can establish links with journalists and become a source for them. Every time they need a restauranteur for an opinion or quote, you could be their go-to source.
Or you could show you’re on trend with the latest food crazes. For instance, everyone went mad for Newcastle’s The Great British Cupcakery when they tapped into the ‘freakshake’ trend.
The rise of social media combined with a growing number of ‘foodies’ means the restaurant business is bigger than ever before.
Competition is fierce; particularly in Newcastle there are new restaurants cropping up here, there and everywhere. There is no doubt among a sea of others trying to do a similar thing, PR can make your restaurant stand out.
It would be extremely hard these days for a new restaurant to open without any PR at all.
Word of mouth is great and if you are a well-established restaurant with a legion of loyal customers, perhaps PR might not be as important. But, having PR could mean you discover a whole new generation of regular customers who are just waiting just around the corner.