As a public relations professional specializing in consumer clientele here at Franco Public Relations Group, I have the distinct pleasure of managing an array of accounts that focus on the food and beverage industry. That means I not only know the spring menu trends before they hit, I can tell a stout from an amber, and understand that a restaurant opening date can change in an instant. I also see how the decisions made by my clients impact the success of their establishments. When it comes to restaurant promotion, we work hard to help usher that success along. Public relations and particularly restaurant promotion can be tremendously fulfilling. Oh, and it’s also fast-paced, exciting and filled with amazingly talented people.
In and around Detroit, the restaurant scene has grown exponentially over the past year, and shows little sign of slowing down. It seemed the ideal time to share insight into how some of the area’s notable establishments can and do stay ahead of the game – where restaurant promotion is concerned:
Buddy’s Pizza is known best as a big, beloved (square) slice of Detroit history. The original pizzeria at 6 Mile and Conant is still going strong and now has 10 more locations to support it, as Buddy’s fans can be found across the region. They clamor for Sicilian style square pizza – where it originated – not only here but across the country. Zagat recently featured Buddy’s Pizza in a video on Detroit food and Chowtzer.com honored Buddy’s with the “Tastiest Pizza in North America” award in January. It comes thanks to strong leadership in President Robert Jacobs, Vice President of Operations Wesley Pikula and their team who keep the menu fresh and interesting and the flavors and qualities consistent. The lesson here? Develop a flavor all your own. Execute it with high-quality ingredients, consistency your customers can count on, and treat everyone like a member of the family. The adoration and loyalty comes right back to you.
Jon Carlson, co-CEO of Northern United Brewing Co., is about to open Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery in Midtown Detroit. He co-owns many establishments across Ann Arbor, Royal Oak and Traverse City. What sets them apart? Each location and brand stands on its own. It has its own personality, its own staff, menu and feel. For those about to experience Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery in Detroit, Carlson and co-owners Greg Lobdell and Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales founders Ron and Laurie Jeffries will unveil a restaurant concept fans may consider new – but the brand, its popular Michigan-made beers, and atmosphere remain undoubtedly on target. The lesson here? Know your brand and your audience.
Open since December and hopping ever since, Detroit’s Punch Bowl Social led by Founder Robert Thompson, Executive Chef Sergio Romero and Beverage Director Patrick Williams, brings something the city had never quite had in one place before – a mix of handcrafted cocktails, fresh-squeezed juices, house-made sodas and innovative snacks and entrees with a culinary twist from an impressive scratch kitchen – in a massive setting that allows for 80s arcade games, private karaoke rooms, bowling, ping pong and more. The lesson here? Give the crowds something new. Wow them – and keep it up.
When David Ritchie served in his former role as longtime general manager of the establishments anchoring Royal Oak’s mighty corner at 5th and Main streets, Bastone Brewery, Monk Beer Abbey, Vinotecca Wine Bar and Restaurant and Craft lounge, I asked him about balancing the staff, the hours and work. He never seemed phased by any of it. Ritchie currently serves as director of operations at Mission Management, overseeing those establishments and many more. His advice? Hire and train a solid team of professionals that you trust to do a fantastic job. That’s the key to keeping everything running smoothly.
I’ve learned a thing or two from my years working with some of the top managers, chefs, beverage directors, bartenders, brewmasters and cicerones, event directors and restaurant staff in and around the city. While working within a PR team, creative ideas are paramount, but flexibility and speed are key. Restaurant industry professionals are used to moving very fast. They might change their menus or their minds on a dime – and as PR professionals implementing campaigns for restaurant promotion, we have to keep up with them, roll with the changes to make the most of any great media opportunity.
Believe me there will be plenty of creative chances. My advice? Stay organized. Know your clients’ goals. Stay ahead of the curve and plan but be ready to edit and alter that plan at a moment’s notice. Work is a challenge and a reward. Relationships are meaningful. Look hard enough, and you have a chance make a difference here, too.
Have something to add? We’d love to hear your own advice in the comments.
Stephanie Angelyn Casola is an account manager specializing in consumer business with a focus on retail, restaurants and food and beverage clients for Franco Public Relations Group. Ask her for a suggestion on the best new spot for dinner or which craft beer to try next. She can be reached at (313) 367-2048 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @stephcasola