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ChristinaM

How to generate publicity and interest in our restaurant?

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Good morning fellow Egulleters, I'm throwing myself on your mercy and asking for your thoughts and advice.

A year ago my husband and his brother used the money they had earned from a previous family business (a very well thought of country house hotel) to buy a small(ish) restaurant located just north of a prosperous large town in Scotland. We brought in an excellent chef who we had worked with before, polished up the service, tidied the place up generally, spread the word as best we could etc etc. We now find ourselves in a fairly hideous position...the customers who do come in love the place, rave about the food -which is truly excellent- and repeat business is good, but we are finding it impossible to get new business in and turnover is just not good enough, by a long way. We have advertised extensively in the local press but cannot afford to do more on that front. We have had charity functions and we really do go the extra mile for our customers. We cater for vegans, people with allergies etc., willingly and happily. We use the very best of local produce and are as seasonal as possible. We are members of the Scotch beef Club, the slow food movement and our chef helps out at local schools.

There is one obvious thing missing; we have never been reviewed. Our two local papers no longer do restaurant reviews and the Scottish national press don't seem to be interested. The UK press don't seem to venture north of the border very much. I'm the first to admit that none of us are great self-publicists - in fact we're rather shy :blush: But our wonderful chef is very charismatic and happy to handle that sort of thing.

What do we do? I realise money is short for a lot of people at the moment but that should be another strength for us, we are told again and again how reasonable our prices are....

Honestly, all suggestions gratefully received.

Thanks for giving me a place to rant!

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Be careful. The last time a restaurant said something like this here a certain london restaurant reviewer who hovers like a vulture looking for sick animals (as it makes for easier kills) flew down and **** all over the place in a nasty and boorish review.

I'm surprised the local papers don't do reviews. Not even when comped? They are supposed to support local business, doesn't mean they can be less than honest in their opinion but they could at least have one!

S

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Hi Christina

Who are you? You havn't put anything on your profile. Where are you? Have you a website? Put a link in. What do you call reasonable?

How about starting an IW&FS branch up there. Our members travel from all over the world and are always looking for good foodie destinations.

You must work on publicity.


Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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ChristinaM

The fact you haven't even mentioned the name of your restaurant or linked to its website is a worry in terms of your publicity abilities!

How about organising some kind of event that would attract the local press?

Are there any local food bloggers that you could tempt down? That is what all the hip London resturants who employ PR people do these days. They are quite good for alerting newspaper columnists.

Do you have some kind of USP? I read your description above but don't really get a feel for what it is you are doing that would attract me.

I think it's time to stop being shy and start hassling journalists to turn up. Make a few phone calls to the local newspapers for a start.

Cheers

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Thanks for replying, much appreciated. The reason I didn't put the name in is as mentioned in the first reply, vultures! However, I shall be daring and post a link to our (not very good - we're building a new one) website.

http://www.theanglersinn.co.uk/

We have been in regular contact with one of the local papers and they are, to say the least, a bit 'sniffy' about editorial! We had a charity event a couple of weeks ago, which we were delighted to do as it was in a great cause and the people who came had a lovely evening. Both local papers mentioned the event without naming the venue!

We do special offers, we give meal vouchers for local charity raffles etc., we make a big splash when the local race meeting is on.

Our USP is not very U! Basically it is flexibility. We provide fantastic food quite a bit cheaper than other places in the area and we also cater for small events and private parties, providing special menus for birthdays, celebrations etc. What the customer wants, the customer gets. For instance one of our local regulars is celebrating his golden wedding with us tomorrow night, we have tailored a buffet to his needs, given him the best price we can and sole use of the restaurant. We will move heaven and earth to make sure a good time is had by all.

Sorry, I'm wittering. It's just so frustrating, happy customers, a great atmosphere, a restaurant that any and all feel comfortable in (our customers range from the local 'aristos' to our KPs and their families & all points in between). And most importantly, damn good food!

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Christina, if it makes you feel better, I just checked out your site and honestly think it's a good one - it's easy to navigate and doesn't have a bunch of needless flash (smart phone nightmare). There's nothing that looks blatantly amateurish about any of it, and the menu is sharp, easy to access and easy to read.

And if I lived closer to Scotland than my present location, I'd probably be hitting your place for lunch today. That menu has my mouth watering.


 

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I agree with Rico website looks good and is easy to use, menu sounds great, the main trouble is we are 458 miles or 7hr 48min away! Ah well one day, maybe. Good luck.


Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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A reaction: lose the italics and fancy font from your menu. It reminds me of those very old fashioned hotel menus which isn't a good look.

One thought: you are in Perthshire and the place is called the Anglers Inn, but there's no river fish on your menu (assuming your salmon is farmed). How about a themed river fish night which you can promote to the foodies. Local cold-smoked trout, wild salmon, whatever you can get. Foraged ingredients are obviously big right now. These kinds of things attract attention, I'm not suggesting changing your entire proposition.

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Also, your prices are somewhat lower than I'd expect to pay for quality produce and cooking even taking into account your location.

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Listen, there is no magic formula in creating a successful restaurant,other than extemely hard graft and grit. Thats unless you stem from a very high profile background, such as many of the places and chefs who get raved about on sites like this. This doesn't apply to 99% of us, so it is the hard work route. Be true to yourselves and believe in what you do. Thats the bottom line. Whatever you do don't go down the gimmick route. Believe me, it takes time to build a restaurant and frankly at the moment most restaurants out there are finding the going tough. You could possibly approach a food focused pr agency but again don't expect overnight wonders.

Just keep doing what you do and keep striving to improve. Sooner or later, the food folks of this world will start to take notice. Then you'll have a whole new lot of worries to deal with!!!

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Thanks for the positive comments.

The river fish idea is an interesting one, and I'll try and explain the problems we can have with it; 'our' rivers are obviously the Tay and to a lesser extent the Isla and Ericht, all three are tied up like the proverbial gnat's chuff with all fishing rights basically sold to the highest bidder (no probs there, some of our regular guests are fishers, and very nice they are too). Any local wild salmon would most likely be poached (no pun intended) and the water bailiffs might have something to say! There is also a very strict catch-and-release policy in force at the moment. Most of our sea fish is caught on the East Scottish coast, which is not far away. We do have a lot of foraged ingredients, notably wild garlic, chanterelles and other fungi and a lot of locally shot venison and wood pigeons. Local customers supply us with rhubarb, plums, apples, quinces etc whenever possible. I prepare hand made chocolates which we give to diners and also sell in boxes. Wes (one of our chefs) grows veggies for us and I have recently planted a herb garden. Obviously all this is promoted on the menus as things become available.

we keep our prices low as Jonny (Head Chef) is an absolute whizz at sourcing ingredients and avoiding waste.

I'm really grateful for all the feedback you are giving me :smile: It helps to know that we are getting SOMETHING right!

I take the point about the menu font, maybe time for a change?

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Sounds like sage advice to me. But people need to know about the restaurant so they can come! So I guess you are going to have to throw yourself into marketing.

BTW on that note have you got into Twitter and have you got a Facebook page? Learn how to use these tools and they can be extremely effective and cheap marketing.

Offer a free pre-dinner drink for people who "like" you on Facebook to get you started!

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i have shared your frustrations and took the easy way out and sold!

But things you can do - all the guides have forms to fill in good food guide, good pub guide , aa, michelin etc, send them a covering letter explaining what you do, enclose menus and wine lists.

That should get you started but unfortunately i don't think there is a quick fix.

out of interest we probably got most guide book related interest through the good pub guide.

are your rooms registered with local tourism board? they can push business through

we also got decent flow from a bookings website called 'i know' in our case iknowyorkshire.

i'm sure you know all this given your hotel background but anyway at least you know you're not alone.


you don't win friends with salad

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Which papers do you mean by 'local' ? The PA ? Courier ? There's probably a higher circulation, locally, of The Scotsman, for example ? As far as anyone reads newspapers any more, anyway. You're not even excessively out of range of Edinburgh, and on that road you're a good stop for lots of trunk route journeys, so again worth publicising nationally.

Have you taken a look at "google ads" ? Surprisingly easy to understand & use, and you only pay (a matter of pennies a time) when someone actually clicks through to your web site - you'll choose whatever search terms you'll be listed against - say "Perth restaurants", "Perth gourmet" and so on, and be quoted a price for each one. You'll find it through a normal Google search and you can get set up & running right there online without ever even having to make a phone call.


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Oh, and get your trout from Drummond Fish Farms, but ask them only to give you fish from the loch.


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Looking at your menus, while they are no doubt good and appreciated by those who know them, they strike me as not being very local looking. The ingredients may be, but the dishes seem all over the place (France, Italy, Thailand) with little local identity. It doesn't strike me as Perthshire in any way.

As I'm sure you know, most Scots are somewhat conservative in their eating habits. An eclectic menu may work in Edinburgh or even in Perth itself, but in a little village? It can be done, but it isn't easy. It seems you are going to have to rely on relatively local trade as the backbone of your restaurant turnover; is this what the locals want?

And another vote for a font change.

Good luck. The next time I am back home (Fife) I will make a point of coming by.

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You're in a big farming area too - have you promoted yourselves heavily to farmers ? Have you seen "Scotland on a Plate" features in Farming Scotland magazine ? I see they also have farming event listings for the year, and a table of ad rates online if they won't run a feature for you.


Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Have to say, I find reading the menu to be a big turn off.

To me, it's saying that someone is trying to gussy things up by sticking in the odd French word here and there. "Assiette" - isnt that what we call a "plate" in English? And don't get me started on "foie gras bonbon". Surely, we've come far enough along the road that we don't need that sort of language any more (if ever we did.


John Hartley

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If I saw 'Assiette' on a menu I would expect the ingredient to be cooked in several different ways not just a plate of John. In that context it is a useful description. There is no problem with a French word if you would have to use six to say the same in English. I can’t see any problem with your menu Christina it looks local to me with Scotch beef , lamb, scallops etc.

I think your rooms are a bit pricy. Around us 'down south' all the hotels and b&b’s are having to discount like mad at the moment. Even the top hotels are down to £59 for a double with full English - that's not pp but for 2 people!


Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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Christina - I, too, think your offer as described on the website is very attractive. However you could really do something about the way it's presented. Aside from your regular clientele, your website is still (notwithstanding Facebook, Twitter, etc) your most effective marketing channel. You really need to make the most of it.

I clicked through to your web designer's own site and I think it's telling that in the dozens of sites featured in their portfolio, yours isn't one of them. And you can see why - yours doesn't match up to any of the sites they feature. Why is this? Is it old (it does look a little stale)? Was it done on a budget? I know it's another expense you could really do without, but you should be able to get something similar but of a much higher quality for, say £500.

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(no probs there, some of our regular guests are fishers, and very nice they are too)

If some of your regulars are fishermen, you're missing a great opportunity -- We'll cook your catch.

This was a great money-maker in my home town. Locals and tourists would bring their day's catch to one of the restaurants that offered this service. The restaurant would prepare the fish and serve it with chips and veg for a low price.

EVERYONE was happy with this arrangement. It was essentially free money for the restaurant, and it the anglers are happy to not have to clean and prepare their catch.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I don't own a restaurant but I have been working in the hospitality as a manager in the food outlets. What I have found you have to be careful on people who write reviews. It might be also be bad reviews.

I have written some ideas in my website Restaurant Promotion Ideas, of you need some.

The Charity was a good idea. I am going to try out one soon.

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If I saw 'Assiette' on a menu I would expect the ingredient to be cooked in several different ways not just a plate

Perhaps exactly my point, Pam.

You are who you are, with your knowledge and experience of food and restaurant eating.

But would you be typical of Christina's punters or, more to the point, potential punters?

By the by, looking at the location, I see I'm passing nearby in a couple of weeks, coming south from Pitlochry. I'm not sure of timings but, if around lunchtime, we'll try to pop in. Happy to review it here and, as usual, send off notes to the Good food Guide.

John


John Hartley

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Good point John but we can all learn. Anyway I expect they will let you in - even without a jacket! :biggrin:

Look forward to your report.


Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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Well, I'm far from an expert in these matters but I am a member of the public who likes going to restaurants so maybe you may be interested in that view!

I don't think your website is bad at all. I can easily find phone number, opening times, menus, etc. and that makes me happy. In terms of the menu, the italics could be annoying but it doesn't really bother me in this case. The menu looks interesting and it's clear what everything is (except perhaps for that assiette which is getting so much attention - I would have to google it I think!).

So I don't think you necessarily have to change anything about your approach to the food itself. However, it is clear that you need to really up the marketing. I would recommend:

*Putting links in your signature on any website you post on (including eGullet! Don't be shy!)

*Setting up a facebook page and posting about promotions and events on there.

*Keep trying with newspapers, radio, etc.

*Holding promotional events and special evenings where possible - why not try some seasonal food "festivals" to celebrate times of the year when certain produce is around?

*Can you get yourself in any restaurant guides? Others here will be more knowldegable about the physical-book ones, but I can tell you that there are plenty of online sites that people use to look up food places in the UK. Would toptable.co.uk be suitable for you?

Overall, keep trying! Don't be afraid to talk about your restaurant to people who you meet who are interested in food/cooking/eating out. You never know when you might meet someone with good connections who might be very impressed by your food. It may be a bit embarassing to keep telling people that you have a restaurant and they should try and pop in some time, but actually as time goes on you will feel more relaxed saying it and it will come out more naturally, and then you may be surprised to find that many people actually quite like to find out about nice little restaurants they haven't been to yet.

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