Restauranteurs Reveal Marketing & PR Secrets at the NYC Wine & Food Festival

Mesa Grill, New York

I thought I’d share with you what some of New York’s leading restauranteurs are saying about marketing and who is getting ahead.  This comes from a panel session I saw at the NYC Wine and Food Festival on Saturday. The restauranteurs on the panel were:
– Laurence Kretchmer, Bobby Flay’s business partner and they own Mesa Grill, Bar Americain, Bobby’s Burger Palace
– Drew Nieporent from Myriad Restaurant group, owner of Montrachet, several Nobu Restaurants, Tribeca Grill, Corton and Centrico
– Michael Stillman from Fourthwall restaurants, owner of Quality Meats and the Hurricane Club
– Marco Conora, restauranteur and chef and owner of Hearth and Terroir, recently seen on Iron Chef

* The best ideas are the simplest. Don’t get too complicated with ideas.   An example was giving much needed Monday nights a boost by offering free corkage.  It was low cost, easy and it worked.  The restaurant was full every Monday night.

* Restaurant Week is great to bring out New Yorkers and most saw this as a very positive thing. All agreed that discounting was not good for their business and said it cheats their loyal customers.  They are incredibly protective of loyal customers.

* Many restaurant are checking Twitter while you are in their restaurant. Michael White (from Marea, on another panel) even mentioned changing a chair when someone complained about it on Twitter during dinner.  Many of them see it as a great tool for being able to listen to what your guests are saying.  You can also easily do this on mobile phones with apps like TweetDeck and by setting up a Twitter search in the restaurant’s name.

* They are aware of Foursquare, know many of their customers love it, but are not sure how to capitalize on it.

* Make a point of winning back customers that complain as they can end up being your biggest supporters. This comes by reaching out, asking them to come back and give the restaurant another chance, maybe offering a credit or free meal.  They will appreciate the follow up and even the biggest critics can be turned this way.

* OpenTable is great for data capture on customers and gives the customer a chance to provide detailed information about themselves. Capturing data is the only way to close the loop on your customer. Developing email lists and communicating directly to customers is very important.

* On winning customers: People love recognition, remember them by name and something about them and they will keep coming back.

* Be able to recognize food writers by their faces, phone numbers and aliases. Many restaurants have photos of the writers posted in the kitchen.

* TV is hugely powerful and can bring a lot of new customers in. But, when it comes to celebrity chefs, the chef doesn’t make the restaurant, it must be a good restaurant. Too many celebrity chefs have failed by being overexposed and also have bad restaurants. It is easy to bring customers in once but it will be impossible to get them to come back.

* Marketing needs to stick with the idea and not change it too quickly. Even Bobby Flay had trouble in the beginning. Being successful takes time and perseverance.

* Restauranteurs are always judged by their peers and compared to other restaurants they own. They need to constantly be creative with their restaurants, menus and the experience.  Everyone agreed Daniel Boulud is a great example of this.

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