It’s never good when employees make mistakes, but it’s even worse when they do it in a room full of reporters. Inviting press into the restaurant can put a lot of pressure on staff members to perform. To help ease that anxiety, some restaurant operators prep workers to help them charm their more discerning guests. “Everything from the speed of service to table layout is addressed days in advance to ensure our team is geared up, excited and ready to go,” says Josh Wood, field marketing manager for modern Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao.
Choose the right people
One of the first steps is selecting the location and staffing up to the challenge of hosting a group of journalists and bloggers, says Mary Machul, director of marketing at Maggiano’s Little Italy. When launching the first event in a series, Machul hosts the function at a headquartered location to leverage strong media relationships and established teams.
Machul also gives each participating unit the opportunity to decide who would best represent their brand. “Sometimes it’s a sous chef instead of an executive chef,” she says. “We just want to make sure it’s someone who likes to be on stage.”
The Fogo de Chao team makes sure that everyone involved understands the importance and reasons the chain is hosting the event, Wood says. “This creates even more enthusiasm as our teams truly enjoy talking about the Fogo concept and our latest news, such as our new Bar Fogo menu,” he says.
Share as many details as possible
Machul tries to make sure there are no unnecessary surprises at the media event. If the event has been held at other locations, she shares videos and press clippings of the event. “Watching their peers helps them be more comfortable,” she says. “But it also helps from a consistency standpoint.” Machul also gives first-timers a one-on-one phone call to quell any jitters.
To help the Fogo de Chao team be better brand advocates, Wood sends along a guest list. “By sharing information about who will be in attendance and the reach of the media, it helps the team to understand the impact it can have on business.”
Pump them up
The day of the event, the Maggiano’s team does a quick rundown with the staff and answers any last-minute questions. Machul takes the opportunity to hype up the team and sometimes even hands out swag. When the brand rolled out its brunch menu at a press event, the chain handed out T-shirts that said “Friends with Benedicts.”
Wood also recommends meeting with the restaurant crew before the occasion. The marketing team recognizes employees’ everyday contributions before it begins and publicly applauds their hard work at the end of the event.