How to get PR coverage for your restaurant

PR, media coverage and developing brand awareness is integral to the success of any restaurant.

Especially for a new opening, promoting your restaurant in the right way and to the right audience is key to building brand awareness and bringing customers through the door.

Securing positive media coverage for your restaurant could be as straightforward as issuing press releases announcing new openings or brand developments. However, to achieve effective, well-rounded coverage and strong overall brand awareness, an integrated communications campaign is the best approach — which is exactly what Fortitude did for Gusto Italian.

Hiring a PR agency 

Last year we were appointed by Gusto Italian to support the launch of its restaurant opening in Oxford, the 14th in the group’s portfolio. The premium dining group required strategic communications, PR, content creation and marketing support to help create a pre-opening buzz, build brand awareness, commercial partnerships and help develop a new a new customer base in Oxford. 

The team at Fortitude conducted research and created a strategy designed to place Gusto Italian on the map in Oxford with a bang. The strategy focused on highlighting what set Gusto Italian apart from other restaurants in the city, how it would benefit the local economy and elements of the venue’s history. 

Tactical activity included significant press and media activity, with a focus on local media, trade press, food bloggers and social media influencers. This was combined with a major marketing activation, photography, video production and social media activity, plus a big launch event to deliver a fully integrated campaign. We created a content plan and produced and placed a significant volume of articles in the media and press, which developed brand awareness and supported an influx of bookings. 

Undine Kudrovska, Gusto Italian Oxford Sales Manager, said: The volume and quality of media coverage Fortitude secured us was incredible. It had such an impact that we were the talk of the city and the exposure generated so many inquiries and bookings. Working with a PR agency was worth the investment. 

The other restaurants in the Gusto Italian portfolio are in the north of England so an effective PR campaign was important to educating people on our brand and developing awareness.” 

Devise a strategy

Defining your objectives and strategy should be the first step before embarking on any media activity for your restaurant. 

Understanding your market and deciding on how you want to position your restaurant are key to your strategy and ultimately your success. Once you have agreed your strategy you can formulate an effective communications plan that targets your key audiences with a consistent flow of key messages. 

Understanding your brand and your consumer is important — it will influence your messaging and what kind of coverage you aim to achieve and which publications are most suitable. 

Content is King 

Key to success creating a content plan that separates your key messages and story themes, so that you can produce and place a consistent volume of stories over time. A big mistake when engaging the media is handing all your stories over in one go. Hold back information and break up your details into a series of stories and content. 

Be creative and place people at the heart of your storytelling to help personalise your brand and make your content stand out. For example, an interview with the head chef on their passion for fresh ingredients or offer a journalist the opportunity to experience a master class in return for a feature. If you are working on PR ahead of a restaurant opening create sneak peak’ photos of inside the venue to build anticipation. Or engage with and support a local charity and develop relevant stories of how the restaurant has helped. 

Engage the media 

Hosting a media engagement event is one of the best ways to secure PR coverage for your restaurant. It offers journalists, bloggers or influencers the chance to experience the restaurant firsthand.

Fortitude hosted a press night at Gusto Italian to give the local media a flavour of the restaurant. A select group of journalists from major titles in Oxfordshire were invited to dine at the restaurant shortly after it opened to the public. This gave them the opportunity to sample the menu, experience the atmosphere and interview key members of staff, all of which helped inform reviews and generate high quality coverage.

Get people talking 

To capture the attention of the media and get people talking about your brand, a high impact stunt or marketing activation can deliver results. 

For Gusto Italian, Fortitude created the Italian Job’ activation. A fleet of classic Minis, branded in Gusto Italian colours, took to the streets of Oxford to deliver pizza and prosecco to local businesses, key workers and the media. The stunt played on the connection between the iconic film the Italia Job and fact Oxford is the home Mini production in Oxford. An example of the media coverage it achieved can be viewed here.

The idea of the Italian Job’ activation was an act of genius by Fortitude,” said Miss Kudrovska. It generated huge buzz on social media and stand-out coverage in the press. 

The activation happened a week before we opened so ensured we arrived in Oxford with a bang. It was a brilliant way to market the restaurant and engage with the local market and we are still getting booking enquiries directly because of the activation.”

Focus on what makes your restaurant unique

Identifying and maximising stories that make your restaurant unique helps obtain coverage that is strategic and supports attracting suitable guests to your venue. 

Think about how you can convey what sets the restaurant apart from others. It might be the founder’s back story, where the produce is sourced from, or something that is being done for the first time in the industry. 

As mentioned above at Fortitude we recommend storytelling via your great asset: your people. 

We personalised Gusto Italian by interviewing key members of the Oxford team for press releases and facilitated media interviews with the CEO, head chef and general manager. The one-to-one interviews created the opportunity for the restaurant to covey its brand values, why they chose to open a restaurant in Oxford, its investment in refurbishing the venue, creation of jobs and passion for fresh, high-quality food and fine décor. 

Photography and Video 

To secure any kind of coverage, whether it is in print, online or on social media, it is essential to have high quality photography. Photos of the venue, food, drinks and people paint a picture of the dining experience. The quality of photos could make the difference between obtaining coverage or not so investing in this is a sensible move. 

The media publish landscape format images and like to receive more than one photo with each story. To command strong space in a newspaper, magazine or online you need to provide high-quality photographs with your press release, or article. If you can provide the media with the whole package you stand a stronger chance of success. 

Miss Kudrovska added: Fortitude arranged several photo shoots at the restaurant which gave us a wide selection of professional photographs to use for our press releases, on social media and in wider marketing. 

At different stages of the building refurbishment, the team captured progress shots to offer the local media a first look inside the new restaurant. As this was once a popular and historic venue in Oxford, the refurbishment generated a lot of interest, so it was a great way to get coverage.”

Video is another powerful way to grab attention, communicate key messages and develop brand awareness. Fortitude produced a high-impact social media hero video to showcase Gusto Italian’s new venue in Oxford, in which we used drone and 360 camera technology. We also produced a mini-series of short clips for social media that highlighted different elements of the Gusto Italian experience including cocktail making and preparing dishes. 

The video content helped increase social media engagement and drive booking inquiries for the restaurant. 

Online marketing

Marketing your restaurant online is an essential step in raising awareness of your brand and reaching new customers. This can be done through social media, email marketing or online advertising. 

In April 2022 the global all-you-can-eat buffet chain COSMO appointed Fortitude to re-launch their venue in Oxford following a temporary closure due to the pandemic. Just like for Gusto Italian, Fortitude created and managed a fully integrated communications campaign to raise awareness of COSMO’s return and drive bookings.

As part of this, Fortitude managed COSMO Oxford’s social media platforms and produced email marketing campaigns for its database. This involved creating and publishing engaging content, managing competitions and giveaways, and handling customer inquiries. 

Joanne Fallah, COSMO Marketing Manager said: Fortitude delivered social media competitions which increased engagement and raised awareness of the re-opening, our offers and database sign-ups.

The activity also increased our followers and likes. They also maximised relevant national awareness days to further scale our social media engagement in a contemporary way.”

Need help securing PR coverage for your restaurant?

Get in touch here to find out how we can help you obtain positive PR coverage for your restaurant.

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