One of the best ways to spread the word about your restaurant’s great food is by getting it in front of potential customers at special events that allow you to showcase your food, your specialties, your personality, and your name.
There are three types of events that you should consider attending to boost your restaurant’s profile:
1. Large “Foodie” Events
Food lovers, wine lovers, foodies, celebrity chef fans, tourists, and locals all come together at large regional “foodie” events like Chicago Gourmet, Feast Portland, and South Beach Wine and Food Fest, just to name a few. Their audiences vary, but they all have one common thread — a lot of attendees who are there to eat good food and meet both celebrity and local chefs.
Large events such as these are worth considering for the exposure and the traffic they generate. These are well-publicized and well-attended events that offer many opportunities to promote your restaurant to a wide audience. Many host “Grand Tasting” events, where restaurants are able to serve up samples to attendees looking to discover new favorite dishes and restaurants. Pair your participation with social media and content marketing to ensure you make the most of the time and money you’re investing.
For some of the larger events, a corporate sponsor may be able to assist you with expenses and provide more exposure, so talk to your partners and vendors about ways you can potentially work together at special events.
2. Local/Community Events
If a major foodie event isn’t in your budget, there are plenty of ways to get involved at smaller local and community events. County fairs and neighborhood street festivals provide opportunities for hungry customers to sample and enjoy your food, but you have to make the most of it. This is a great opportunity to show who you are and what you do, so try to stand out from the competition. For example, people tend to gravitate toward live cooking and action, so if possible set up your booth in a way that allows you to interact with customers.
While street festivals are a great start, try to find other ways to connect with potential customers, such as community events. For example, Rewards Network program restaurant SUteiShi in New York City regularly participates in local and neighborhood events that raise money for local charities, including restaurant crawls and events with groups like Slow Food NYC.
3. Cooking Demos at Related Events
Naturally, cooking demos are a great fit at food-focused events, but there are plenty of other festivals and events that might include a food component. For example, every year, the Chicago Tribune sponsors Printers Row Lit Fest. Although the event is a literary gathering, the most popular tent every year is the Good Eating Stage, which features discussions with food writers and cooking demos by cookbook authors and well-known chefs such as Rick Bayless, Fabio Viviani, and Art Smith.
Do some research to see what other events you might be able to participate in, such as a charity chocolate tasting or a special food event in a local mall or department store, where you can showcase your food and your chef. Thinking outside the box will expose an audience interest in food to your culinary creations, and give you an edge over other restaurateurs in your area.