How do you integrate an event strategy into your restaurant promotional calendar?
Whether it is larger scale event like our most recent Hot Haute Pink to benefit Susan G. Komen or a more intimate style event such as Braddock’s Bourbon Dinners, or a series of event oriented promotions such as GrapeNuts, Events well done create buzz. One of the essential ways that we have started to develop a more integrated event strategy is that we developed an event platform when we were updating our 2011 Marketing calendar in September. This gave us the opportunity to pre-plan as much as we could in advance. However, we recognized that we also need to keep abreast of current local and national events and trends to stay relevant and plan accordingly so that we are not missing out on any potential revenue and PR building opportunities. Planning events in advance gives us the opportunity to reach out to media with a timely attention-grabbing PR message. This year we also targeting groups that plan events such as Professional Organizations, Social Groups, to become their restaurant of choice when hosting an event. We also targeted industry non-profit leaders so that we would be top of mind when they are planning events. For example, we reached out to the Liver Foundation Director and now she is going to be hosting a luncheon at Braddock’s as well as Chef Brian will be one of the featured chefs at their very well respected gala, Savor.
We also do continual brainstorming internally and externally to keep on top of the pulse of what is happening in Pittsburgh that we can potentially either build an event or find the right partner to work with on an event.
What are some of the most important considerations when planning an event?
Can you elaborate on each of the considerations?
Timeline and Size seem to work hand in hand
You need to know how much time you have to plan for event development, production and execution. The size of the event is important because it affects the timeline.
Event Production can be time consuming and attention to detail is essential. If we are planning an event with a tight timeline, we have to know that what we can deliver is manageable. If it is a new large event, we need to have enough time to develop the concept; work with the staff to understand the event scope and also make sure that there is enough time to create excitement with pre-promotion through traditional or social marketing. If we have annual events or a series of ongoing events such as our Sports brunches or Pre-Post game parties, you can include them in your annual plan but add creative twists to them each year so that they stay fresh. If we are working with an outside Event Planner or Event Producer such as Giant Ideas or GrapeNuts, we need to make sure that you can manage expectations depending on the size of the event and their timeline.
The attendee demographic and the personality/tone/style are important because it may affect the menu selection.
If it is a benefit or gala style with a high ticket price targeting an older 45 + demographic, our menu will reflect the upscale nature of the event. If it is a hipper event reaching the 25-44 year old audience, our menu may include some edgier food items like veggie shooters. If it is an eco-friendly event, we want to make sure that there are enough vegetarian options on the menu such as our asparagus soup, beet salad, artisan cheese display. Also when an event is themed such as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer event, we included pink-inspired menu items such as a strawberry mascarpone tartlet and port wine claret cheddar cheese.
Purpose of the event and menu integration
Is the event a benefit-if so, do we need to have a place for an auction or what other deliverables will we deem important to the event. Also, if it is a networking event such as when we work with “meet up” events, is the space set up in the best way for networking conversations. Also, how can we capture attention and become top of mind. For example, when we planned our Pirate Baseball Home Opener event, we knew the event was a sell-out, so we bought Pirates T-Shirts for the servers and had a street team distributing information about our Summer Menu. Many people park downtown and leave early to walk to the game so we had the Chef outside cooking and sampling kielbasa as well. It was a big hit.
What is the potential profit of this event and the benefit?
If it is a new event, there is always risk so making sure that we are set up in every way for success.
There are costs involved with the menu and the staff, so we have to determine how much we are willing to take a chance and do we have enough time to execute well and promote the event.
If we are upgrading an existing event, what are the additional costs vs. the new expenses? For example, we hired a street team for our Pirate event which we were able to get free, but we had to pay for T-shirts for staff and street team as well as for food sampling. The potential for generating new leads w/a sold out Pirate Game and sold out and thousands of people walking right by our restaurant before the game, far outweighed the costs of the T-shirts and food samples.
What type of PR and Promotion do you utilize when promoting an event?
We utilize all of our resources to pre and post promote our events especially via PR, Fishbowl and Social Media. For example, we send out Fishbowl e-blasts about GrapeNuts and Whiskey Wednesdays. We utilize social marketing to also promote all of our events and promotions. We are working with media especially Lifestyle Magazines such as Whirl, Pittsburgh Magazine, Pittsburgh Fashion Magazine and Maniac Magazine and utilize those relationships for pre event promotion and post event photo opportunities. We also work to establish the types of cross promotional tie ins that we can leverage for additional exposure. For example, by cross promoting the GrapeNuts, we are able to access their database of members with weekly Wine Tasting Nights, Additional special events, as well as work with them on new partner events such as the upcoming Wine Dinner -Patio Nights.
What are a few of the successful ways that you use events to engage consumers and generate new interest?
Using Street Teams to hand out fliers