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Q&A with Haymaker on How Restaurants Can Benefit from Public Relations

Professional insights on connecting with guests, increasing visibility and telling a restaurant’s story

Restaurant owners reading a review of their restaurant on a tablet

Every restaurant has a unique story to tell and having a solid public relations strategy will allow for that story to be told to the right audience — increasing awareness and creating media buzz that will drive revenue. This is particularly important during COVID-19. PR can help restaurants connect with guests, increase visibility and credibility. We spoke with Haymaker, a New York City-based public relations company, to gain insights and advice on how restaurants can benefit from PR.

If you believe that the public perception of your restaurant is important, and that press can positively impact that perception, you should likely work with a PR firm.

How would you define PR and what it is you do?

PR is the art of shaping an organization’s public perception through the press. The public's perception of your company is important. It determines who wants to work for you, buy from you, partner with you, or regulate you. The press is a vital arbiter of this perception. We make sure that the press understands our clients, views them favorably and covers them accordingly so that they can succeed.

How can PR provide value for restaurants?

Any restaurant that has been suddenly mobbed after receiving a positive review in the press can tell you exactly how PR provides value. When diners seek out new restaurants to try, they either turn to their friends or reputable media outlets like The New York Times, Food & Wine, or Eater. Working with the right PR team can both help you reach journalists and shape your story into something that they’re interested in. That means new customers and more sales.

How and why would restaurants typically team up with a PR agency?

If you believe that the public perception of your restaurant is important, and that press can positively impact that perception, you should likely work with a PR firm.

A restaurant owner opening a new restaurant

How can you help restaurants get the word out about a positive experience, a special event, a special offer, or perhaps a new opening?

The press cares about stories. Out of all of the stories in the world, why is yours worth hearing? A routine special offer or positive experience probably won’t cut it with the media unless there is something extraordinary involved. So that kind of material might be better geared for paid advertising.

That said, there is an entire media industry devoted to trying and reviewing new restaurants. If you’re able to consistently identify, court, and wow the most important local restaurant reporters, you will almost certainly be able to get the word out about news from your locations.

How would PR help a restaurant navigate a bad review or press?

Part of PR involves ensuring that journalists’ experiences proceed as perfectly as possible, but there are times when the unplanned happens. In those scenarios, you first need to understand, in-depth, what caused that negative feedback so that you can provide clarity. Depending on the situation, a formal statement might be issued, or even a full-throated rebuttal. Often though, silence is the best policy, since responding can only highlight the negative experience further. Good press goes a long way towards drawing out bad press.

As restaurants compete for customers how can restaurants stand out during COVID-19?

Customers are looking for restaurants that make safety their number one priority. Make sure that you share your safety measures publicly on your website so that customers know you put their safety first. In addition, think about unique ways you can give back to your community, whether it’s by offering free meals to local frontline workers or providing safety equipment to diners and staff.

A restaurant owner puts up a reopening sign - COVID-19

Any additional PR advice for restaurants?

Authenticity is key. When telling your story in the press, be sure to stay true to your core values as a restaurant so that your public image matches the experience diners get when they come in. 

You can learn more about Haymaker by visiting their website, haymaker.co or by following them on twitter.

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