How to secure reviews for your restaurant – Part 2
Here is ‘The Clear Guide Light’, a weekly column highlighting the most important actions you can take now to get your communications strategy in place.
Last week I explained why a review was so important for your restaurant. In the second part of this series, I’d like to talk you through the difference between food critics and influencers / bloggers as they are all equally important to the success of a PR campaign. Of course, there is so much more to this subject, all of which is explained in the full course, available online*. But the following should give you a general understanding of the basic differences you should be aware of.
Food critics are professional journalist who write for newspapers or magazines and the most influential of them prefer to remain anonymous when visiting a restaurant. They want to see what your business is like for normal customers and therefore don’t usually make their presence known. They’re very discreet and difficult to pick out but if you do happen to recognise a critic, you mustn’t immediately acknowledge who they are. Treat them well - just like you would any patron - but don’t give them over the top attention.
Remember that most food critics want to write an unbiased review and could think you are compensating for something if you either try too hard to make their experience special, give them preferential treatment, or offer them anything on the house. For serious food critics, free items or a complimentary bill can be considered a bribe. If they do accept freebies, they will likely mention this in their writing, which runs the risk of their review reading like a sponsored advertisement and not an honest opinion of your restaurant.
Bloggers / Influencers
In general, bloggers and influencers approach their writing with a more casual attitude. Most of them aren’t on someone else’s payroll - they primarily go by their own rules rather than sticking to strict guidelines like those that food critics may be held to by their employers.
In my experience, bloggers and influencers often get a bad rep. When I meet prospective clients to discuss their PR objectives, I often hear that bloggers are not to be invited. Some see them as ‘freeloaders’ who aren’t experts in the field. And yes, while there are some bloggers out there that fit that description, I disagree with that they should be avoided in general. In reality, you just have to find the right ones that will make a difference to your business.
Like ‘professional’ food critics, food bloggers and influencers are extremely passionate about food and the industry. And while they do have a more casual approach, they take their content very seriously, love the restaurant industry and treat their followers like family.
Unlike critics, their meals will always have to be complimentary. So yes, you’ll be giving away some product, but it should have a higher return on investment than other marketing approaches. Before they visit your restaurant, I recommend you outline food and drink allowances to manage their expectations and avoid uncomfortable situations. You don’t want someone going overboard and ordering their third lobster dish alongside your most expensive bottle of wine. Another great way of making sure you let your best dishes shine is to offer them a Chef Selection – YOU have control over what and how much they eat whilst letting your best dishes shine. But make sure to always allow for dietary requirements.
After you’ve familiarised yourself with the work of the writers you like, you’re ready to launch your outreach campaign.
Join me next week to find out a little bit about how to invite reviewers and build a mutually beneficial relationships that will last beyond a single write-up of your restaurant.
Andrea Klar-Nathan is MD of Clear Communications. With over 15 years of hospitality communications experience; she co-owned her first agency by 2011 which she then sold 7 years later. Her experience includes everything that’s connected to hospitality: Michelin starred restaurants, pop-ups, venues, events, even wine storage solutions. You name it, she’s done it.
*For more information on The Clear Guide, please visit https://weareclearcomms.thinkific.com/courses/theclearguide
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How to Contact Critics and Bloggers