Thursday, September 29, 2011

Driving your PR dollar further

These days, restaurants and chefs no longer rely on just word of mouth and a few good reviews in the guidebooks. Whilst these things are helpful, they’re simply not enough to get yourself and your business some valuable exposure in what is increasingly becoming a sea of information overload. That is of course, if these criteria are important to you.
It’s now de rigueur to have a PR company handling one’s brand, restaurant profile and the associated spin offs that they can generate (KFC, Vegeta, Mil Lel and Spudbar anyone?). I’ve noticed that when a new place opens you’ll often hear about it constantly in everything from the glossies to the broadsheets, from the free-press to the blogs. Inevitably though, when the PR budget dries up so does that exposure. This is exactly the case with one very large business launched last year. For a while it was everywhere and now, curiously no one talks about it, in fact you’ll be hard pressed to find any media about it al all. Hopefully they’re just getting on serving their punters but I fear that the PR dollar has dried up.
Many businesses, in my opinion, fall into the trap of courting this attention at the risk of overlooking what it is they actually set out to do, cook and serve food.
Some businesses which seem immune to the charms of the media make a dignified retreat to the exit, at stage left and here they can go about their duties unhindered by the glare of the media searchlight and its expectations.
A few of these places seem not only to survive but flourish under the radar predominatly reserved for the usual suspects, blossoming in the rays of an alterative sun. Sadly though, they’ll eventually get discovered by a media driven by an insatiable appetite for the new, even if ironically they have been operating for years.
For every big name operator basking in these media rays, there are many unknown people quietly getting on with the business of running a successful venture-trouble is you just don’t hear much about them and perhaps when you do chance upon them, you keep it to yourself and their currency doubles!
Recently I was struck that I’m constantly hearing about the same people when it comes to chefs and restaurants when a friend of mine asked for a recommendation for a night out in Melbourne. Initially I was drawn to spruik one of the new places but then a thought about a very good chef I knew of, popped into my head and I suggested that they go to his place instead. What I find remarkable is that if one was to take at face value what and whom the food media and the blogs recommend, we must only have about 10 places to go to?! When did this happen? Why are we overlooking established players in favour of these new arrivistes? When did Joe Blows down the road become on the nose?
Perhaps this is the problem:
Overheard in a bustling bar
‘What about that new buzzy Thai place mate, it’s freaken flat out!’
‘Yea I’ve heard, but what about to Longrain or even Cookie for that matter?’
‘Never heard of ‘em mate can’t be that good’


dillon said...

We stumbled into Cookie while my son was searching for some rapper’s cds in a record shop. It was like another world, incredible Thai food, a wine list that you couldn’t stop reading and, literally, knock out cocktails. It’s become our “must visit”.It’s extra special for not being recommended or read about, but discovered by accident, and now we're singing it's praises to everybody.

Old Bank said...

Reminds me of a time visiting the US, friends taking us out for dinner noticed a new restaurant. But wouldn't go there because they didn't advertise. "If they don't advertise, they aren't keen enough for our business" was the thinking.

Tried to explain personal/Aussie view that if they advertise it's because they aren't good enough to generate business through word of mouth. This did not compute for our hosts.

Another Outspoken Female said...

I'm quite happy for the latest PR buzz for that new joint* to make it easier to get a table at Cookie. Been going since it opened. Their beer/wine/cocktail menus are also hard to beat.

Surely, a restaurant relies on return customers to stay open. While there'll always be people who only go to the latest hyped new establishment, they won't last for more than a year or two if they don't impress enough to get regulars? Or am I just deluded about my own worth?

*btw I'm a very loyal customer of my local asian restaurant, open for more than ten years that has an almost identical name to the city place. The owner is getting really sick of people ringing up them instead to make reservations, that of course they don't turn up for because they are in the queue at the city place outraged that they made a reservation at a restaurant that you famously can't book a table for two at.

steve said...

Hi Dillon-yes I agree it can be a really great place-however a year or so again I saw another side of it due to over zealous security, however I'd go back in a flash

Hi Bruce-I can understand their reticence to try it especially when everyone advertises

Hello AOF-Your logic is commendable and it underpins my post, whilst all that hoopla is going on-it frees up tables in places that have already found their rhythm and are happy to get on with what they set out to do

Jess said...

Funnily enough, I always go to my old, tried and trues. Despite loving dining out and exploring, I consistently visit my go-tos and am an incredibely loyal customer.

To be honest, despite being a blogger, avid reader of broadsheets and digital media, I usually go with my gut and convenience drags me through.

As with that conversation overheard and AOF- name wasn't my choice, but I will own up to being loud and annoying. :P