Why should I bother with a
restaurant grand opening?
restaurant grand opening event is a chance to immediately establish yourself as a prominent restaurant in the community. Rather than opening the doors and waiting for your guests to arrive, create a “can’t miss” event that will lead first-time guests to become regular customers. A
restaurant grand opening event provides the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to the neighborhood and get instant exposure.
A restaurant grand opening does not have to be costly, but it must be unique. The event should tie into the overall theme of your restaurant and somehow differentiate you from your competition. In the end, your guests should leave with a story about your restaurant and anticipation to return.
Since 80 percent of your guests will come from within a 10-mile radius of your restaurant, it is important to become familiar with your neighborhood. Pay attention to local demographics to establish an idea of what will best attract traffic. Consumers are always eager to try the latest and greatest innovations, so as long as you are prepared to meet their expectations, they will hold onto the memory of your grand opening event, which will have a greater long-term effect than any advertisement.
What will I need to do to prepare for my
restaurant grand opening?
restaurant grand opening event should be planned at least 90 days in advance, and the date should be set so that it can still be held even if the opening is delayed. Allowing a few weeks of breathing room will avoid any chance of your public celebration sneaking up on you before you are ready. It is better to be prepared well in advance than to throw together an event at the last minute.
First, establish a realistic timeline, including every deadline imaginable. When will decorations be ordered? How far in advance should commitments be confirmed? Assign an employee or manager to monitor the timeline and delegate tasks to others.
As your restaurant grand opening approaches, create an event schedule, outlining the exact timing of your event. What time will announcements be made? When will the band or DJ take breaks? When will tours of the restaurant be provided to the media?
What role does Restaurant Public Relations play in a
restaurant grand opening?
Restaurant public relations efforts and planning for the media are just as important as the event itself. Both the timeline and event schedule for a
restaurant grand opening should include ways that you will generate publicity for the event and handle media representatives who attend. Distributing press releases and media alerts at least two weeks prior to the event will ensure coverage in local “calendar” sections and will provide essential event information to the public.
During the event, a designated “media liaison” should have information available in the form of a press kit, including a fact sheet about your restaurant, biographies on the owners and managers, menus, promotional items and recent press releases. Reporters may also be interested in guided tours of the restaurant, as well as interviews and photo opportunities with the restaurant owners and managers.
There are also opportunities for media coverage after the event, assuming that you have newsworthy information to distribute. Often, the media is unable to attend, so a post-event press releases accompanied by photographs should be prepared and distributed the morning after the event.
How can I get the community involved in my
restaurant grand opening?
Getting involved with a local organization is one of the best ways to gain exposure and build support for your restaurant and its grand opening. Consider groups that would gain the most from participating in your event, while simultaneously contributing to the success of your grand opening.
For example, by joining the local Chamber of Commerce, you are contributing to an important local organization while immediately exposing your restaurant to key business-owners and decision-makers. These business-affiliated organizations will give you the opportunity to build relationships with your neighbors, which can grow into a network of resources essential to any business owner. Support from these professionals increases the likelihood of a successful event and the possibility of recognition from political representatives, which in turn, leads to increased media attention.
Teaming with a local charity or non-profit organization is also a great way to promote your
restaurant grand opening. It not only increases attendance and supports a good cause, but it also positions your restaurant as a contributor to “good will” within the community and can present more possibilities for media coverage.
Once you have a reputable charity on board, it is easy to find other supporters. Your vendors may be willing to cover some of the hard costs of your event, since it is for a good cause. Other parties involved, such as the entertainers, may offer lower rates in support of your charity affiliation.
What will make my restaurant grand opening fun, memorable and newsworthy?
When planning your
restaurant grand opening, think “outside the box” to create an idea that will make a long-lasting visual impression on your guests. Think of something that has never been done before, and do not be afraid to try something that some may think is ridiculous or impossible. This will not only result in a reaction from the community, but it will attract attention from the media as well.
For example, if one of your specialties is chicken wings, host a chicken race and give free chicken wings for one month to the person who bets on the winning chicken. Another idea is to host a chicken wing eating contest. Although these ideas may seem simple, they are visual and unforgettable. The costs associated with hosting an event like this will be minimal to the attention you will receive from your guests and the media.
What are some of the mistakes people often make in planning a
restaurant grand opening?
Most importantly, you must be operationally prepared before you consider hosting a
restaurant grand opening. Many restaurateurs have made the mistake of being too eager to promote their restaurant before they are ready to handle the large crowd it draws. Be sure that your staff and management are more than capable of handling the restaurant during normal business hours. During the event, do not hesitate to overstaff the restaurant. The first impression you make to the community can be totally altered if you are not operationally stable, regardless of how carefully the actual event has been planned.
The second most common mistake is poor planning regarding the event itself. It is the nature of the restaurant business for things to happen unexpectedly, so it is essential that you plan for the things you can control. Every detail should be addressed prior to the event, so that you are able to deal with other surprises that may arise.
Lastly, the timing of your event must be well-conceived. It is important to consider other events taking place in the area, which can either increase or decrease the interest in your grand opening. Another factor to consider is the weather, especially for outdoor events. The time of day can easily be determined by considering your target audience. Will your restaurant attracted a “happy hour” crowd, or will it be more family-oriented?
There are, however, things that you cannot control when planning your
restaurant grand opening event. It is often hard to measure or control the number of people who will attend, including the media. No matter what your grand opening entails, there is always the possibility of something more newsworthy happening at the last minute, preventing the media from covering your event. An old saying states it perfectly – “If it bleeds, it leads.” In other words, disasters unfortunately take priority over good will news coverage. This being said, all you can do is plan carefully and hope for the best.
What have others done to make their
restaurant grand openings a success?
The following are two examples of restaurants that received tremendous responses as a result of grand opening public relations campaigns:
ZaBella – Winter Park, Fla. Orlando is one of the premier restaurant locations in the United States, which presented a challenge to ZaBella when it opened in May 2004 in the upscale suburb of Winter Park. A trendy Italian bistro offering gourmet pizza made by an Italian pizzaiolo and diverse entrees reflective of a New York City Italian restaurant, ZaBella had many interesting stories to tell.
In the first month of ZaBella’s public relations campaign, it was featured in Restaurants & Institutions, Today’s Restaurant News and Plate Magazine. The most influential article was a favorable review from Orlando Sentinel restaurant critic Scott Joseph, which resulted in solid bookings for more than two weeks.
Subsequent favorable reviews in other local publications kept the momentum going, and future article placements were secured in hospitality trade magazines and lifestyle magazines. As a result of these public relations efforts, ZaBella’s executive chef Todd Holender has been interviewed on a prominent Orlando radio station and pizzaiolo Francesco Gaudino was featured in a segment on an Orlando television station.
Leila Restaurant – West Palm Beach, Fla.
A chic restaurant located in a historic building that once served as a firehouse, Leila opened its doors in May amid the Clematis Street District in downtown West Palm Beach. Owner Roy Assad, a successful entrepreneur from Syria, believed in his vision for a trendy bistro where Middle Eastern cuisine and culture would be served.
A public relations campaign was designed to educate the public about the tradition and health benefits of Middle Eastern cuisine, and the intriguing cultural elements showcased at the restaurant.
In the two months leading up to the Leila’s grand opening, it was featured in Palm Beach Illustrated, the Palm Beach Post, VIVE Magazine, Today’s Restaurant News, and several community newspapers. Once the restaurant opened, reviews were secured with the Palm Beach Post and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Subsequent features also appeared in prominent regional magazines, including The Palm Beacher and Boca Life. These public relations efforts resulted in requests for more reservations than the restaurant could handle.
Contact us to find out how Quantified Marketing Group can help your restaurant.