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Hosting a press event

Question:

I would like to host a press event to promote our restaurant and a new menu item. As a writer, how do you prefer to be approached? What format should our event take?

– Alex Palma, Guest Happiness, brgr, New York, NY

Answer:

I am invited to many events like this and try to go to them when I can to stay abreast of what is happening in industry.  If you are working with a PR firm, collaborate with them to set up your press event.  Most in QSR and casual dining take a similar format:

  • Hold a private mealtime event (weekday lunch or early dinner or both) and let writers and bloggers come in and order whatever they want off the menu but give them all your featured item.
  • Get your best looking, most articulate employees working the event.
  • Have management and ownership around to meet the journalists and answer questions but don't make a formal presentation or push it—writers need to write the story their way.

When people leave, give them a media kit with an ingredient list, nutrition info, photos, web links, and so on. Make sure they have your complete contact information, and hustle to provide the answers when they contact you with questions. Make sure your website has a media section with photos, videos and recipes they can use.

Dania Rajendra, a freelance food writer who writes for many publications, says, “I'm looking for flexibility: several angles that will allow me to pitch this product in a number of different types of stories to a variety of publications. The most important thing is the "narrative” –the background of the product, so I can locate other examples to write a trend piece, or use it as an example in a feature about a bigger issue. If the product has a compelling enough narrative, I could try to write a profile, which would actually be about the people behind the development. You'll want to connect me to what's newest in the food world, showcase your product's specialness, and introduce me to the people behind the product.”

One final note—the food writing world is messier than it seems.  The old way of building a guest list for a press event was to invite food editors from various magazines and newspapers, who would either attend or assign a reporter to cover it.  While that still works, these days you can approach many writers and bloggers directly. They then pitch the story to multiple publications, both large and small, to see who “bites.”  So a writer who seems like an independent small time blogger may in fact pitch your story to a major publication.

Good luck with the event!

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