Marketing makes your grand opening great
Last month in this column, we discussed pulling off a “turnkey” — opening your recently purchased restaurant immediately. The location will be a work in progress for a little while, but at least the cash registers will ring. We just left out one crucial step. It’s the last one — the grand opening.
There are plenty of ways to put on this exciting event. Having done it five times (with more to come), I’ve found it isn’t giveaways or gimmicks that are most important. People generally want to try a new restaurant — they’re coming there for food, drinks and good times. They just have to know it’s opening, so it’s the marketing of the grand opening that’s pivotal at this point.
Get your camera
As soon as I have a lease signed, I start spreading the word over social media. Despite the rise of other platforms, Facebook is still an ideal place to purchase ads. Using location targeting features, you can narrow down to your community.
As far as the ads, I generally create two filled with great pictures (menu items, the store, our chefs, etc.). The first ad runs from the lease signing to when I have an actual open date, simply sharing that we’re opening a new location and where. Add your catchphrases and brand messaging to spruce it up.
The second ad runs once I have the open date, and it may not be up for very long — possibly as little as four days — as I try to have quick turnarounds from the old business to the new. This ad announces the opening date and store hours and includes before-and-after pictures. The last bit is because people love to see “behind the scenes,” so think about documenting the turnaround with pictures and video, from the old booths being ripped out to the first test pizza in the oven.
Releases and ribbons
At the same time as your social ads are in play, you should send out traditional press releases — one simply announcing your new restaurant or expansion, and the other announcing the date you will open.
Invite local media to the opening, as well as local public officials for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. In a lot of smaller communities or close-knit neighborhoods, a new restaurant is a big deal. Having bigger names on hand makes for great photos and packs the store from the get-go.
The doors are open
While I’m normally a numbers guy and stay efficient with staffing, a grand opening is one day that I overstaff. You’ll be busy and want all hands on-deck to make a good experience for customers. First impressions are lasting impressions.
At this point, you’ve opened ASAP, and now you can get going on changing over the menu, developing new recipes and finding new vendors. Easier said than done, but I’ll share some tips to get you started next month.
NICK BOGACZ is the founder and president of Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Pittsburgh. Instagram: @caliente_pizza