Why are some new restaurants the talk of the town before they even open their doors? A behind-the- scenes look at the business of buzz and the people who make it happen.
Long before a new restaurant sends a single dish out the swinging kitchen doors, there better be a clamor. Restaurants know this energy is crucial to a banner opening because before the food can speak for itself, it’s the buzz factor that gets people to the table.
Chances are, that buzz started with one of these well-connected publicists.
They work independently, but as a group these five publicists have staked their claim on Denver’s restaurant scene. Between them, they’ve spent the last two decades working rooms, calling reporters, and creating an amazing networking web. They know the market and they know the players. When it comes to the local media, these publicists call them friends. They serve as conduit between the client and the city. They are the conductors of buzz.
Different clients require different tasks, but for this crew, most jobs have one thing in common: Capitalize on the one-time cache of a restaurant’s grand opening. For the marketing novice, opening a restaurant, (or in industry lingo “new market entry”) is a three-month project at a minimum. To secure a top publicist for a Denver grand opening, a restaurant will need to shell out anywhere between $7,500 for a three-month contract up to $60,000 or more for an entire year. The costs are typically paid on a monthly basis, and even for the deep-pocketed chains, it’s a significant piece of the budget for a new restaurant. But is it worth it?
“We’ve been near capacity since we opened so I’d say the PR has been worth the money,” says Ken Fredrickson, managing partner at Adega Restaurant & Wine Bar, LoDo’s latest hot spot. “But as a restaurant owner I’ll be honest with you, the buzz has been great, we’re happy, but I’ll always wish there was a little more.” Fredrickson signed a one-year contract with Johnson Communications, the same firm he had worked with previously on the opening of his wine boutique, Reservelist in Greenwood Village. For Adega, Fredrickson committed a significant portion of his budget to PR, trading off spending the cash on advertising.