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Critics and Food Writers


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Just opened a new restaurant just outside of London in the Surrey commuter belt, whats the best way to get the critics and writers through the door? For some publicity

This is without using a PR agency as they are ridiculously priced!!

All suggestions would be welcome

Regards

Simon

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Like it or not, some PR is a must, especially for out of town places.

If I were you I'd rope in any celeb you can, and call the local papers. Didn't you used to work for Heston? I'm sure you could get him to pose for a few pictures and say something nice about you. Remember, locals will be your bread and butter at the beginning even if you aspire to a wider public, and local papers are usually generous with their praise and astoundingly uncritical.

The message board thing clearly works well too; just look at The Bacchus.

Also, bear in mind that you are in the hospitality game; bend over backwards to make sure that your clients leave happy. Send out surprises -- "Chef wanted you to try this"; comp liqueurs, and never charge for things that get sent back even if the customer is a twat. If you eventually crack it, you'll get all this back in spades.

Your first objective should always be that your restaurant functions as a business; i.e. returning clients and no debt. Coverage come later. Too many chefs think of their restaurant as a showcase for their talents and forget that for most people its a place to have a good time. Unless you've got money to burn you must get the business end right before you start thinking about transcending the kitchen. In other words be a good chef, and you might just get lucky, but if you're not cheffing right positive coverage will never come.

Eating out is a total experience, good food is not enough. Think of yourself as host.

Edited by Zoticus (log)
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Hi Chef Simon,

I would like to know where your restaurant is?

What type of food?

What is your wine/beer list?

Have you a website?

When are you open?

Have you spoke to Philip and Gary about their experience?

Try laughing at Andy's puns and praise OFM :wink:

Do you think Jamie is a Saint? (Joke before it gets fucking deleted( swearing a joke before it gets deleted(bad use of brackets before they get deleted)

Good luck in your venture :smile:

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Advertise! Advertise ! Advertise!

If you'r new there may be a space of time that you need to be opened before a review can be written.

Have a Grand Opening and invite all the media and important people. Put out your best (free) food, smile, pour liquor (free) and see what happens.

It'll cost you, but that's part of the deal.

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Just opened a new restaurant just outside of London in the Surrey commuter belt, whats the best way to get the critics and writers through the door?  For some publicity

This is without using a PR agency as they are ridiculously priced!!

All suggestions would be welcome

Regards

Simon

Bentley and driver.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Hello,

Dont forget its not always great to have restaurant critics in!! I have to say that in my opinion I would never offer freebies to entice a critic as you can never be certain of an honest review if the meal wasnt paid for. To echo Zoticus, the best PR you can get is that of happy punters, get enough of those talking and the critics will soon follow.

Or you could always throw the first critic out, call the newspapers and wait for the frenzy of journalists that follow!!

Or, even better, ban all food journos, then they'll be desperate to get in.

good luck

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Depends what you want to the critics there for....third party endorsment to use with advertising or to blow smoke up your own arse (or not if they don't like it).

I wrote to all the critics and guide books 18 months after I was open and happy we were consistent and hitting the mark for our customers. Tracey McLeod came after 20 months, gave us a great review that captured what we were about and we got noticably busier, though not mid-week from locals. A year after that, Jay Rayner kindly reviewed us. It is hard to say whether his review made much impact on sales (though it did give me a warm glow inside :wub: ), I distinctly remember people saying the came because of the Independent review, but not so much Jay's. But then again, I am the only person in this village to take the Observer and Guardian daily. And our sales graph was on the up significantly at the time.

Both reviews did help with my guest room business. These reviews, along with guide books and weekend magazine guide book generated suplements, Evening Standard 5 liner five weeks before Valentines weekend (200 calls on the night it was publised booking us at weekends for 6 months in advance) all have helped bring me exposure and help locals understand what I am trying to do (and it is far from rocket sience). It does build people's expectations (as I am sure Michelin Stars do) but that is no bad thing.

So go ahead and put pen to paper....but be sure your getting it right first - right by your customers that is.

bakerestates

www.thesuninndedham.com

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Advertise! Advertise ! Advertise!

Without wanting to debate the definition of advertising (after all what is PR?), I'd be very wary of direct advertising. I always think ads are a last resort for a restaurant and a piss poor substitute for good word-of-mouth.

From a business perspective a full restaurant should be a successful restaurant, even if many chefs consider anything less than an eponymous TV show as a humiliating failure.

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Hello,

Dont forget its not always great to have restaurant critics in!!  I have to say that in my opinion I would never offer freebies to entice a critic as you can never be certain of an honest review if the meal wasnt paid for.  To echo Zoticus, the best PR you can get is that of happy punters, get enough of those talking and the critics will soon follow.

Or you could always throw the first critic out, call the newspapers and wait for the frenzy of journalists that follow!!

Or, even better, ban all food journos, then they'll be desperate to get in.

good luck

Thanks Claire

I definatly wouldnt offer them anything for free, but i like the idea of throwing them out, The reason i wan thtem in is for the national coverage as i ve had a bit before and the affect it has on the business is amazing, we, ve settled in quietly since nov getting all the staff stable etc, finally got a restaurant manager on thrid attempt, terrible luck and really want to crack on now with the guides etc and increase the business

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Advertise! Advertise ! Advertise!

Without wanting to debate the definition of advertising (after all what is PR?), I'd be very wary of direct advertising. I always think ads are a last resort for a restaurant and a piss poor substitute for good word-of-mouth.

From a business perspective a full restaurant should be a successful restaurant, even if many chefs consider anything less than an eponymous TV show as a humiliating failure.

Word of mouth is definatly getting round Zoticus, just could do witha bit of a boost, new business, January and all that!!!

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Depends what you want to the critics there for....third party endorsment to use with advertising or to blow smoke up your own arse (or not if they don't like it).

I wrote to all the critics and guide books 18 months after I was open and happy we were consistent and hitting the mark for our customers. Tracey McLeod came after 20 months, gave us a great review that captured what we were about and we got noticably busier, though not mid-week from locals. A year after that, Jay Rayner kindly reviewed us. It is hard to say whether his review made much impact on sales (though it did give me a warm glow inside :wub: ), I distinctly remember people saying the came because of the Independent review, but not so much Jay's. But then again, I am the only person in this village to take the Observer and Guardian daily. And our sales graph was on the up significantly at the time.

Both reviews did help with my guest room business. These reviews, along with guide books and weekend magazine guide book generated suplements, Evening Standard 5 liner five weeks before Valentines weekend (200 calls on the night it was publised booking us at weekends for 6 months in advance) all have helped bring me exposure and help locals understand what I am trying to do (and it is far from rocket sience). It does build people's expectations (as I am sure Michelin Stars do) but that is no bad thing.

So go ahead and put pen to paper....but be sure your getting it right first - right by your customers that is.

bakerestates

www.thesuninndedham.com

I have to agree here about national reviews. We've had a fair few this year, but what makes your business work, is concentrating on those bums on your seats day in and out. Its great to read about yourself, but in the countryside word of mouth does it the best every time. Guide books are basically good for press releases, and displaying to all you know( and reading everyone else's entries, but TBH the only guide book that we know brings them in is GFG, normally because they can't help telling you (and we offer the £5 voucher scheme).

Edited by erica graham (log)

http://www.allium.uk.net

http://alliumfood.wordpress.com/ the alliumfood blog

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming - Whey hey what a ride!!!, "

Sarah Poli, Firenze, Kibworth Beauchamp

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Just opened a new restaurant just outside of London in the Surrey commuter belt, whats the best way to get the critics and writers through the door?  For some publicity

This is without using a PR agency as they are ridiculously priced!!

All suggestions would be welcome

Regards

Simon

make sure that every time that you come on places like this you mention the name of your restaurant and where it is - "just outside of London in the Surrey commuter belt" is teasing, but people could spend a long time trying to find you.

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A good start would be to add a signature line to your eGullet account that includes the name and address of your restaurant. Free advertising targeted at only the most influential diners. :wink:

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

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If you want to raise your profile in your community, try getting involved with your local school( either career advice, or healthy eating, cooking demos etc).Don't think of it as promotion, getting involved is worth it in it's own right.Same with local charities.

As for the critics and guides , all you can do is let them know you exist.I actually sent off the AA form today (for 2008!) so write to them.If you feel the critics are the way forward, well Jay will read this in the next 24 hours, and if you can get one in, the rest will probably follow in time (pack animals :biggrin: )

Advertising is very difficult to quantify, more like throwing shit at a wall and hoping some of it sticks :wink: .Better off using that money to benefit a local group, and raising you profile that way.

Best of luck!

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Obviously, having read Bakerestates' post, it's clear that a review from me is worthless (I mean really... why do I bother getting on the train?). Then again he does live in a part of the country where a copy of the Observer brings people out in hives.

Enough of this. Send a letter to each of the national restaurant critics, and a copy of the menu. Do not offer free meals. We don't need them and (generally) do not want them. Do not offer to make a booking for us. We make our own under pseudonyms. Just explain who you are, where you've been before and what makes your restaurant note worthy. Remember, we are not simply looking for a restaurant to review. We are looking for something to write about. Anything which makes you different should be in there.

Finally, hand write the envelope. We will open it first. Really we are that sad. We receive so many mail shots - 40 or 50 in a slow week - that something which looks personal will make us salivate like Pavlov's hound.

All that aside, Claire is right. Get the business working first. Drag in the punters. Build as much business as you can. And then try to get us there.

Jay

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Just opened a new restaurant just outside of London in the Surrey commuter belt, whats the best way to get the critics and writers through the door?  For some publicity

This is without using a PR agency as they are ridiculously priced!!

All suggestions would be welcome

Regards

Simon

Depends who you are after of course. All it takes for me is a press relase - but then I review in the East Midlands for a regional edition of a newpaper and unlike Jay do not get overwhelmed with new restaurants that warrant reviews (or even those that don't). An information pack explaining all about your history, your approach, your suppliers etc is very welcome. I wouldn't bother offering freebies - it may or may not be accepted but it won't make a difference as to whether or not you're reviewed - well not by any worthwhile publication anyway. That said if want to get in the glossy countrylife mags you may as well take an advert or maybe offer them a recipe - they'll try and link it to an ad I'm sure but you'll have an idea whether it's likely to be worthwhile.

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Just opened a new restaurant just outside of London in the Surrey commuter belt, whats the best way to get the critics and writers through the door?  For some publicity

This is without using a PR agency as they are ridiculously priced!!

All suggestions would be welcome

Regards

Simon

make sure that every time that you come on places like this you mention the name of your restaurant and where it is - "just outside of London in the Surrey commuter belt" is teasing, but people could spend a long time trying to find you.

Dear Algy

Its

Alexanders

High Street

Limpsfield

Surrey

RH8 0DR

01883 714365

Hope you find that a bit more exacting :raz:

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Hate to say this but the pricing on that menu, IMO, is too high. Without a Michelin star to back that up averaging £14 for a starter is optimistic in a location like Limpsfield. £17 for scallops :shock:

As a comparison the (2*) Square charges £80 for 7 course tasting menu, your 6 course tasting menu is £68. :hmmm:

Please note that I'm not saying the cooking isn't up to it (I've no idea) just that I would think it may be a struggle to attract customers in a that sort of location, I hope I'm wrong :smile:

Edited to add: Actually you don't necessarily need a Michelin star (though it would possibly help) but I would have thought that you would need some good reviews before you can go to those prices.

Edited by Matthew Grant (log)

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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A good start would be to add a signature line to your eGullet account that includes the name and address of your restaurant.  Free advertising targeted at only the most influential diners.  :wink:

And include the link to your restaurant's webpage. You get a bit of advertising each time you post. I almost always end up checking out links to business ventures/blogs, etc that are located in members signature lines.

Good luck in the early days of your restaurant!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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