If your high-end restaurant or gourmet dining venue is in a large urban area or in a suburb in close proximity to a large city, then chances are you have heard of, participated in, or been invited to participate in Restaurant Week.
Restaurant Week (currently ongoing in selected areas) is the brainchild of Tim Zagat and restaurateur Joe Baum. In 1992, this power duo created it as a gesture of goodwill to recognize the 15,000 reporters coming to cover that year’s Democratic National Convention. Since then the event has grown in coverage, duration, and participation rate, and it now includes most large cities in the United States.
In an article published in The Atlantic, Tim Zagat said this about Restaurant Week:
Frankly, we thought it would be a short-term money loser but have long-term PR benefit for New York and the restaurant industry. Now, almost 20 years later, restaurant weeks have become a tradition in city after city because they appeal to both customers and restaurants. In short: they are a win-win.
For those unfamiliar with Restaurant Week (highly unlikely if you are in the business of food) this now month-long event allows restaurateurs to offer a low-cost, prix fixe three-course menu in tandem with a fundraiser based on sales, to support a local charity (frequently a local food bank). Because this event is co-sponsored by high-powered local brands such as American Express and Coca-Cola, the level of free marketing exposure is significant.
As Restaurant Week events are coming to a close nationwide, we want to share with you a few reasons, among many, why your restaurant would benefit from participating in this event on an ongoing basis. If you are looking for additional information to best understand the risks and benefits of this program, then we are here to highlight important ways in which this event can impact your overall marketing and review acquisition strategy.
(Check out: “Ethical Ways to Generate More Positive Online Reviews”)
OpenTable Integration for Seamless Engagement
The most direct way of generating reviews is encouraging diners to write them. Restaurant Week’s reservation and promotion website of choice is OpenTable. When reservations are created in association with a customer profile that allows for the restaurant to mark the customer as a show or no-show, the ability to follow up with a request for a valid experience-based review is amplified greatly by virtue of reaching out exclusively to confirmed patrons. A high percentage of patrons booking via OpenTable will respond to the review request triggered just after their dining experience. By soliciting the review immediately after the dining experience, the customer has the advantage of rich recall, often resulting in highly accurate and extensive reviews of your food, experience, and customer service. (Check out: “5 Ways OpenTable Can Help Your Restaurant”)
In addition to OpenTable reviews, diners who use online reservation websites are twice as likely to leave a review on other review sites such as Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Yahoo Local, and Facebook Reviews.
Exposure to Untapped Markets and Unreached Potential Customers
Due to the popularity and longevity of Restaurant Week, its marketing reach, viral reach, and social reach are extremely strong. By participating in Restaurant Week, your restaurant will tap into markets otherwise not accessible to you via your marketing channels and budget. Individuals with hesitance to try your high-end venue due to limited reviews are more likely to take the leap and give you a chance to impress them with your culinary expertise.
The lowered price bracket also encourages individuals with more restricted budgets who are likely to select your venue for special occasions only. By increasing your marketing reach, your restaurant will generate additional reviews that would not have been possible based exclusively on your traditional marketing and pricing model.
Increased Value-to-Price Perception Triggers Higher and More Reviews
Let’s face it. Everyone loves a great deal. By featuring the Restaurant Week prix fixe, you are extending value to your current customers and new customers.
A perception of increased value in tandem with sustained quality always triggers additional engagement on review pages and social media. Customers satisfied with their deal and wanting to brag about their dining experience seldom hesitate to complete a check-in via Foursquare, and they are quite frequently tempted to brag by posting photos of their plates on their social profiles such as Facebook and Google+, and via popular socially focused review sites like Yelp. Restaurants participating in Restaurant Week report a significant increase in the quality and quantity of reviews received.
Increased Customers Walking Through Your Doors
The hype for Restaurant Week is huge, and many diners are like hawks when it comes to grabbing the best spots. For the most coveted, participating restaurants, this means a full house every day and every night during Restaurant Week. The more diners in the door, the more reviews your restaurant is likely to receive.
Because this is a small window of opportunity to capture high review volume, make sure you have all the pieces in place for superior engagement. Include offline collateral highlighting the websites featuring your venue, and encourage app-based engagement via Foursquare and other location-based social tools. Keep in mind that customers selecting your venue are likely to check out your reviews prior to making a reservation.
In preparation for Restaurant Week, should you decide to participate, make it a point to tidy up your online business reputation in order to put your best foot forward as diners begin to make their Restaurant Week choices of new restaurants to try.
Wider Exposure to Your Menu Offerings Expands Customer Opinions
By presenting current loyal customers and new customers with a prix fixe, featuring meals that best display your culinary capacities, you provide diners with bragging material. Furthermore, customers that would otherwise stick to a main dish and a beverage are now open to try a dessert and appetizer, enhancing their overall dining experience without putting a huge dent in their dining budget. By providing new and exciting culinary experiences, you stand to see additional online engagement in the way of social shares, pictures, or even videos highlighting the newly discovered menu item included in the prix fixe.
A Few Words of Caution
We undoubtedly recommend participating in Restaurant Week, with confidence that your restaurant will benefit in multiple areas including review generation, profit per cover, and marketing exposure. Before you commit, however, it is important that you step back and assess your capacity to deliver excellence in high volume. More precisely, if you feel like you and your team cannot juggle multiple tasks without dropping the ball, then do not commit. Just as it has the potential of generating many awesome reviews and growing your business, it can also backfire if you are unable to pull it off.
In addition to operational readiness, make sure your online reputation management processes are clearly defined, and be ready to engage with new and old customers in real time. Your Facebook, Twitter feed, Yelp profile, and OpenTable will demand hands-on management and the ability to correct issues with agility and customer focus.