Launching A New Restaurant – 3 Things You Must Do For Opening Night
After months, perhaps years, of planning and hard work your dream of a grand opening night for your new restaurant is within sight. But you must resist the urge to simply fling open the doors and welcome the ravenous diners. This is the time to decide how to make the most of this auspicious event.
Your grand opening must do more than announce to the world you and your restaurant have arrived.
Each restaurant is different and their opening nights will reflect this. An upmarket French bistro will not approach the event in the same way as Burt’s Burger Bar. Here are three ways to make the opening night a great success:
Rehearse with Soft Openings
Many experts recommend opening your doors to selected guests before the grand opening. With so much money already invested, the thought of delaying the launch and spending more funds on a pre-opening may seem unnecessary. However, to open untested is to court disaster. Minor glitches on the opening night can lead to damning reviews that can adversely affect your future revenues for months.
You should think of a soft opening as a series of rehearsals for the main event. A soft opening provides the opportunity to test the ability to handle conflict – with the kitchen, the bar and the staff. There are several ways to handle a soft opening but most experts recommend starting with friends and family. These will give you an honest appraisal of any problems. It is better to hear from a friend than read about it on Yelp after opening day.
Pre-opening events allow you to iron out the kinks safely but they also give you a chance to achieve more.
By having several pre-opening nights (or days), you can invite different groups of people. This stresses the importance of sorting out the glitches before they arrive. On another day you might invite the local press, which should lead to more positive publicity.
How do you handle a pre-opening dinner? Gear it toward your audience. Give them what they want. The food bloggers will be interested in the type, taste and presentation of the food. The press will be looking for a story. Why did you start the restaurant? What differentiates your place from other dining establishments in the area? Spend time with your guests and make them feel important,
Other groups you might invite to a soft opening are the local merchants and businessmen who contributed to getting your business ready. You might host a fundraising dinner for selected members of the public, with all proceeds going to a local charity. Both functions build relationships and provide good publicity.
Get People Excited
With over a million restaurants in the US, what makes yours unique? When you have identified that, bring it to people’s attention. Your marketing should start well in advance of the actual opening.
Social media is an ideal tool for creating awareness. These platforms are great places to post enticing photos of your specialty dishes. Knowing your target audience allows you to focus your energies on the most appropriate platform as different demographics have their favorites.
With most sites, targeted ads are easy to set up. These do more than direct your message at potential diners in your area. With the wealth of demographic data now held for most users, you can focus on specific niches such as age or income.
By submitting your restaurant’s details to Google Places it will appear on apps that show its location, opening times and highlights from your menu. Ignore Yelp at your peril.
It’s surprising how few restaurants have a good website or even one at all. A website is a great place to include your menu, special offers and maps with directions to the restaurant.
Marketing via social media can be complex and time consuming but, when done well, the rewards are well worth it. Many restaurants benefit by hiring an agency with the right expertise to help.
Don’t forget traditional advertising. Local newspapers are still popular, and flyers can be an excellent way of reaching people.
Another popular choice is to take a stand at a local community event or market and offer free samples of your food, together with a flyer. People love free food.
Make the Big Day Special
When choosing the date for the grand opening avoid long holiday weekends and popular sports or local events that might overshadow your big day.
Depending on the type and location of the restaurant, colorful displays of flowers, suitable entertainment and themed decorations may add an air of glamour to the occasion.
Consider asking a local dignitary or celebrity to formally open the restaurant. A professional photographer should record that noteworthy moment and any others during the event. Marketing is a continuous process and these photos can be used in the press and on social media.
If you are offering special deals for the opening, you might consider extending them for a week or longer. This will keep the buzz going. Be careful not to accept more bookings than you can easily manage as your team is still new. An early failure can undo so much hard work.
As The Dust Settles – And Then What?
After the big day, getting feedback is important. Small competitions work well for getting diners’ email addresses. Once you have a mailing list, you can ask for comments. One way to keep your email subscribers is to send details of special offers.
Review all media coverage of your restaurant. Whether it’s in a newspaper, on social media or on Yelp you need to find out what people are saying. If negative comments appear, address them promptly and professionally to show you care.
With the grand launch behind you, the ‘real’ work begins. Marketing your business is a never-ending game. Tastes and habits change, so you should be adaptable. Great customer service is critical. Strive to improve yours in every way.
Last year Americans spent over US$740 million eating out. Congratulations! You have just taken your first step in earning your share.
Looking for help launching your restaurant? Airlink Marketing can help.