In this article, we take a look at restaurant public relations trends.

What does this mean for your restaurant? It means discussing how you communicate with the general public as well as the media.

According to the Public Relations Society of North America, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

The term public relations dates back to the early 20th century. Over the years, the role of public relations has been redefined in numerous ways as roles change and technology continues its march forward.

You might be most familiar with public relations when it comes to press releases. It’s so much more than that in the 21st century.

For you, restaurant public relations is about communicating with your target audience to create and maintain a positive image while creating a strong relationship with them.

It’s about nurturing your customers and helping build their trust and loyalty.

To help you do that, let’s look at restaurant public relations trends.

The Power of Social Media Influencers

Consumers today value the opinions of others. They place a huge significance on customer reviews and testimonials. Your potential customer wants to know if someone else recommends your restaurant before they consider walking in your door.

While your customers will continue to read formal restaurant reviews and featured interest stories, traditional PR takes a back seat to the social media influencer. Don’t count on formal reviews by restaurant critics to count for nearly as much as the reviews on your Facebook page.

As you work through your public relations strategy, you want to be sure and reach out to your social media influencers. Spend some time getting to know them and introduce them to your restaurant. These people can include:

  • Food bloggers
  • Social media users on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Delectable
  • Local celebrities on social media
  • The traditional press

Social media influencers can have a big impact on your restaurant. They create credibility and confidence in your restaurant. In addition, if you reach the celebrity set, they can even help you get new social media followers and future customers.

The Pull of Adventure

Trending in public relations news is the drive for adventure and the desire to try new cultures and cuisine through food.

Your restaurant can capitalize on this trend by reaching out to your target audience and appealing to their craving for adventure and their need to discover new and different foods.

Unique and varied flavors are dominating with foods from Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Asia creating interest and intrigue for your customers.

In your public relations, write about not only the food but the region it comes from. Offer your customers the full experience. Not many of them can fly to Peru, but you can help them explore the region through your menu and your writing.

You’ll find that because of this trend towards adventure, your audience is more open minded, and you are better able to reach them with new menu items and experiences.

This is your chance to shine with your storytelling. Engage your audience and grab and keep their attention with your well thought out narrative.

A Nod to Authenticity

You’ve probably noticed the rise in restaurants offering organic or locally sourced items on their menus. You’ve seen the increase in alternative menu items such as gluten-free, non-GMO and vegetarian options. Perhaps you’ve incorporated them into your own restaurant.

Today’s restaurant customer is looking for healthier and fresher options especially in the fast casual sector. They want authentic, real food.

This presents an open arena for you to craft stories around your restaurant’s authentic and quality offerings. For example, if your restaurant sources all of their produce from a local farmer, tell the farmer’s story. Craft a unique tale that appeals to your customers.

The Rise in Technology

An article on public relations trends wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the use of technology in restaurants today.

These include the following:

  • New point of sale systems
  • Table kiosks where customers can order, pay and leave a review
  • Reservation apps
  • Online menus and ordering
  • Social media to promote your restaurant

It’s up to public relations to pull all of these items together, to communicate with one singular voice to your customers.

When it comes to social media, it’s imperative that you harness its power for your restaurant. It provides you an easy way to communicate and interact with your customers on an everyday level.

Engaging with customers through technology is a huge public relations trend in the 21st century.

Create a strategy that blends all of your marketing channels from online to inside and outside your restaurant. You want your customers to have a full experience each time they come in contact with your restaurant.

The Excitement of Live Video

Live streaming is everywhere these days. Just scroll through your Facebook newsfeed, and you’ll probably have several live feeds.

You can even check out the Facebook Live Map to find live streaming to watch.

Facebook isn’t the only social networking platform to offer live video. Periscope, Blab and SnapChat also offer live streaming, and you can expect others to add it in the coming months.

Live streaming is a trend you should look into. Don’t sit on the sidelines too long. Get involved now to stay ahead of your competition.

You’ll also find that live streaming allows innovative ways to increase your publicity. It’s a great way to communicate and build buzz around your restaurant.

Take these live streaming ideas, build on them and create your own to drive your restaurant communications:

  • Hold a live “how-to” session. This could be an inside look at your chef and your kitchen. Let your chef take comments live from your customers while he shows them how he makes everyone’s favorite signature dish. This not only increases your reach, but it increases customer loyalty because you are taking the time to show your customers how to do something while taking their questions. These sessions could be weekly with pre-set topics.
  • Live stream the dinner hour. Bring the human interest into your live streaming. Go live during the dinner hour to show customers how you create meals for 200 people every evening. Take their questions.
  • Have a meet the staff live streaming. Get your most vocal and humorous staff and start a live streaming Q&A session. Make it a fun time for everyone.

Your restaurant will benefit from live streaming because people spend three times as much time watching live video as they do when the video isn’t live.

You can also expect your video posts to generate 135% more organic reach than your regular posts with a photo.

The Allure of Instant Articles

With another nod towards Facebook, the next trend is their new Instant Articles. You’ll find this is another public relations trend worth checking out.

Instant Articles allows you the ability to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook. You have new creative tools at your fingertips to help you bring your stories to life.

Facebook says that this immersive reading experience encourages people to share Instant Articles at a rate of 20% more often than mobile web articles. This amplifies the reach of your stories in your News Feed and gets your content in front of more people, more often.

Finally, look for other social media platforms to launch similar programs. For example, Twitter is working on their Lightning project, and Snapchat is shifting to a more storytelling format.

Now let’s look at how to use these public relation trends for your restaurant.

How to Do PR

Public relations focuses on your restaurant’s image. That’s why in the trends we talk so much about how to reach and engage your customers with authenticity.

If you do it correctly, public relations is free advertising. You aren’t pay for TV spots or Google AdWords.

With PR, your focus is on creating and building your word of mouth advertising. It’s about leveraging influencers and the customers you already have. It’s about reaching your customers with adventure and excitement.

But, how do you “do” PR? How do you get the press to cover your restaurant, and how do you get your customers to spread the word?

The best way to do PR is to build relationships. This is perhaps the biggest overarching trend in restaurant public relations today.

It’s your job to solicit, create and build relationships with your customers through media and your communications’ strategies. This enhanced form of PR takes patience and creativity. It requires consistency and a stick-with-it attitude.

Sending a press release doesn’t cut it in today’s public relations landscape. Freely give information, be an expert in your field and offer your support. This helps build relationships and engender loyalty.

Here are some tips for “doing” public relations today:

  • Be an expert. You can do this by creating how-to videos and incorporating them on your social media channels and websites.
  • Be a food blogger. Create your own restaurant’s blog and write weekly. Or, publish a cookbook. These are ways to establish yourself as a leader in your community and enhance your restaurant’s exposure.
  • Be unique. We touched on this earlier. Blaze a trail with your restaurant. Do something unexpected. For example, if you only buy meat from a local farmer, make sure you publicize this everywhere. It’s a huge draw for the media and your customers. If your chef went to Brazil and learned how to cook several local dishes, highlight this in all of your promotions as it’s sure to draw people in to your restaurant.
  • Be a trendsetter. Before you can set trends, you have to know about the current ones. Then, you can tailor menu items and your creative narrative to highlight the trend. Stay on top of the latest food trends and tap into them to highlight your own. For example, Sriracha sauce is huge. Use this trend to create your own and push it out through social media.
  • Be human. Another trend at the top today ties into the authenticity pull for people. Social media has created a society of voyeurs. Everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing. To leverage this for your restaurant, share human interest stories. Be inspirational. For example, if you provide a Sunday meal to a local women’s homeless shelter, write about it. If you employ down-on-their luck employees, publicize it. If you helped one of your customers, capture their story on video.
  • Be open with your communications. Any time something is going on at your restaurant, let people know about it through your website, social media and the traditional media. Look for a local angle to tie it into the community. This can increase your reach.

Final Thoughts

The world of public relations is ever-changing and continually evolving. With social media and the web leading the way, consumers demand more visual content.

They demand a relationship and want to hear your unique story and your voice. Stay ahead of your customers’ desires and anticipate their needs.

While traditional media isn’t dead, you do want to move forward with the trends listed here.

Continue to evolve with the trends and create a public relations strategy that engages your customers and keeps your information current and relevant. As with any PR or marketing strategy, create your own unique plan. Get creative. Do remember to be patient as some of these trends will take a while to show positive results.

Now that we’ve looked at restaurant public relations trends, it’s time to take advantage of them and set them to work for your restaurant.

Commit to working on these trends to increase your engagement, communication and reach with your potential and current customer base.

Bottom line – to excel at PR today, you want to create more buzz, more excitement and better relationships. You want to build trust and enhance loyalty. You do this by encouraging influencers and soliciting reviews.

Your goal is to bathe your restaurant in a positive light through the content you generate and the content you encourage others to provide.