Strategies for Marketing the Next Hot Culinary Concept

If it seems like there’s a new restaurant, bar, hotel or F&B product popping up all the time, that’s because there are. As the resilient hospitality and culinary industries continue to thrive, there’s been no shortage of exciting openings and offerings of late. This requires the PR pros behind said launches to be particularly creative and tactical for their clients. We asked industry leaders what they have found to be most important for helping a new concept stand out in this saturated market.

Develop a clear brand identity

There are many elements that contribute to a successful opening, but experts agree that defining a strong, consistent brand identity ranks high on that list. Veronica Speck, founder of VHS Ventures, shares, “In my opinion, a successful opening or launch is a culmination of a multitude of factors. Of course, it helps to have a well-known architect, interior designer, and chef attached to the project or to be part of a larger hospitality group, such as Harry's Table by Cipriani. However, having a strong brand identity, messaging, and visual assets are equally important and allow for emerging concepts to shine through. For example, La Rubia café, bar, and restaurant recently opened in 11 Howard and incorporated furniture from the former Gramercy Park Hotel and art from Julian Schnabel. Headboards were repurposed as elegant dining booths, allowing the beloved hotel and bar to live on in a new space, a story that resonated with the press and guests.”

Harry's Table by Cipriani

While the creative minds behind these concepts are typically eager to get their doors open, Anais Smith, VP of PR and marketing at af&co., encourages clients to take their time in doing so. “I find that one of the most important steps to address before this introduction, is one that many concepts rush through: truly defining your concept’s branding, and what sets you apart from others in the area,” she says. “Make sure to set up a key messaging session and spend the extra time diving deep into your brand statement and boilerplate (quick elevator pitch description of your concept), key words and phrases to describe the programming, design and experience, along with your target audience, comp set and brand mission, vision and values.”

The team at Carbonate doubles down on this, noting that, "When opening a new restaurant, it's important to make sure your brand has a distinct point of view, to know who your target audience is, and to ensure all of your marketing touchpoints--from your social channels, to newsletters, and your website--have a cohesive look and feel that reflect this. It's also important to have a clear call to action. If you want to get people excited, make sure they know how to purchase, and why they should do it now (create a reason or sense of urgency)."

Fantastic photography is imperative

Hanna Lee, founder of Hanna Lee Communications, Inc., says it well: “To cut through the noise when promoting a new opening or an F&B item, it is imperative to invest in photography. Having stand-out high-res photos of your products or offerings will help capture the eyes of the media and the public. For example, when we launched KRU, a Thai restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, our photographer Teddy Wolff staged an epic overhead shot of multiple dishes that captured the restaurant’s essence visually. This photo was repeatedly used as the lead photo of several articles. Our campaign helped KRU earn a spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list, a nomination for a James Beard award for Best New Restaurant as well as consideration for Michelin recognition.”

Both media and consumers are drawn to amazing imagery, so it’s crucial to deliver. Smith notes that media outlets have a tendency to lead with the most eye-catching images. Phillip Baltz, president of Baltz & Company, reminds us that photos “serve as clear dealmakers on key media coverage due to the convergence of media organizations’ continually shrinking resources and consumers’ insatiable interest in UGC on social media channels.”

Hone your storytelling skills...

“Restaurants and bars are more than a place for food, they are a destination for connection, celebration, experiences and so much more,” says Amanda Alvaro, co-founder and president of Pomp & Circumstance. “To stand out in a busy market, we look for even the smallest of details and bring them to life to create a memorable moment and lasting impression. You need to give people a story, to spark intrigue and have them want to experience it for themselves. Every detail has storytelling capabilities, down to the smallest thing to be inserted into all communication touchpoints. It is important to carry this sentiment throughout the language of an invitation, media outreach, the first hello, the in-person experience and continues after guests have interacted with the brand. We have seen a rise across social media with people romanticizing their lives so much to tell their own stories and this is something we have led for our clients.”

Writers Room Terrace Opening 2022

She continues, “The above photo was taken at Park Hyatt Toronto’s official Writers Room Terrace patio opening event in May 2022. Playing off the hotel bar’s storied past, we included a live artist to draw guests in action on Park Hyatt Toronto napkins during the event. The Writers Room bar is known for being the founding location of the Writers Guild of Canada, purportedly born on the back of a napkin.”

Whether it’s a restaurant, bar or product launch, always consider different points of view while crafting your story. “Zoom out from your own brand and think critically about how it taps into a larger cultural story, moment or insight,” says Cristina Suarez Krumsick, founder & CEO of Isetta. “How does it really help people practically, logically or even emotionally? And how is it relevant to them right now? That's the lead that can help you cut through the noise. This Sanzo story isn't about a sparkling water flavor, it's about celebrating Asian American triumphs and flavors."


...and bring that story to life

Bacchus Agency takes this approach when attracting media interest. The team translates their story into an experience to "strategically engage with the media, inviting them to a sneak preview of the new concept that is an experience to be remembered forever, an event that is truly one of one. This event should capture what discerning target consumers, with a myriad of choices, are looking for. This serves as a reflection of an F&B establishment's commitment to curating unique and best-in-class experiences for their patrons and will leave a lasting impression on media sure to inspire their return and encourage bookings.”

EN Japanese Brasserie | Photo credit: Melanie Dunea

Cutting through the noise of the buzzing culinary industry means pinpointing what sets your client’s offering apart, and making that a cornerstone of your strategy. “The best way to break through the noise when unveiling a new dining destination is to introduce a variety of experiences that will get consumers excited about trying the restaurant first hand,” says Joana Costa Marques, VP at Eleven Six. “Whether it is partnering with a like minded brand that will add value to the restaurant offer, providing a unique tableside experience that patrons will want to post about on social media or adding a charitable component that will make guests feel good about eating there.”

Hyatt Regency Maui Sushi Boat 

Capitalize on your competitive advantage

Larry Carrino, president of Brustman Carrino Public Relations, elaborates: "You have to identify what elements make the concept or brand unique and bundle those into a narrative that substantiates the claims you make about what sets the client apart. It changes from client to client. In the Miami market, for example, it can be something over the top but in an ideal world it is something genuine and authentic."

Every client is different, but the rules remain the same. As Skye Morgan, executive director of culinary at PR Consulting, shares, “Define your restaurant/brand's differentiating point(s) and emphasize this in the storytelling – whether that be the approach to the food and beverage menus, the design, the history and/or the team. This will also help in community building, which is critical for brand awareness, and highlighting the distinct elements that will resonate with target groups.”

El Quijote | Photo credit: Eric Medsker

Don’t underestimate the power of personal connection

As we’ve learned from TikTok trends like ‘get ready with me (GRWM), audiences love to learn about and get to know people. The same applies to the culinary business. As Baltz explains, “Consumers continue to put their loyalty behind brands, products and services to which they feel deeper, more meaningful connections. Restaurants understand this dynamic viscerally as they rely on loyalty and converting any and all guests into devoted regulars. It’s inherent to their business model. PR’s opportunity is to acknowledge this dynamic and to facilitate deeper engagement with customers by pitching richer personal narratives. Diners now expect a great experience to deliver compelling food and hospitality. But, increasingly they seek to know more about the restaurant’s chef and owners. They need to know that the people behind hot new restaurants also share their values.”

He continues, “With this in mind, we can’t underestimate the media’s potential interest in feature coverage exploring your client’s personal passions and causes. Whether the client is a discovery or legacy talent, there are always fresh opportunities to tell new stories that have yet to be told. Similarly, do not underestimate storylines that lean into conveying the restorative escapism or theater that restaurants can offer. Consumers crave the sociability and pure fun restaurants provide which we lost during the pandemic.”

Become part of the neighborhood

LeCollectiveM’s Alice Graham-Welton recalls her team’s efforts positioning Jac’s on Bond as a new hotspot that’s both cool and welcoming to everyone in the local community. “When striving to make Jac’s on Bond stand out to the media and the public, we ensured that the concept was positioned for the neighborhood, by the neighborhood – a relaxed conversation house for residents, creatives, and thinkers to share a drink, a bite and a round of pool."

Jac's on Bond | Photo Credit: William Jess Laird

She continues, "The nostalgia of the Jazz Age, when those of all social backgrounds mingled freely, has a special appeal in New York City. Most importantly, the Jac's on Bond brand story was all about collaborators, such as culinary partners Jeremiah Stone & Fabian von Hauske, the team behind Wildair and the Michelin-Starred, Contra, acclaimed New York hip-hop photographer and longtime NoHo resident Janette Beckman, whose iconic works line the walls, or downtown streetwear designer, Angelo Baque of AWAKE NY, who created the employee uniforms, and longtime collaborators, former Bond Street residents, John and Christine Gachot whose design studio, GACHOT, is just around the corner. Because these partnerships were born from genuine and legitimate friendships, the story reads very organic and authentic because it is.”

A 360-degree approach is paramount

“In a market like New York City – where there are exciting new restaurants opening every day – it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd,” says Denise Quintavalle, publicist at Bolster Media. “Consumers aren't just getting their news from traditional media anymore, so it's important to have a multifaceted strategy when it comes to a new opening. Social media serves as a vital source for information sharing and the ‘echo chamber’ of smart algorithms can actually work to our advantage. Since the pandemic, niche video content has totally exploded, especially on a platform like TikTok where you can literally go viral overnight. Chefs and operators would be wise to get on TikTok prior to their opening and start posting content and engaging with everyone they can, including ‘influencers’ and like-minded businesses. Content should look legit (and so should the restaurant's entire brand package). It is important to create a strong brand identity that people can align with and support (whether it's relatable, comfortable, ambitious – whatever) and there are ways to see what sort of videos your audience enjoys the most so that you can tailor your content to your followers.”


Gnazzo Group has found huge success using a 360-degree approach that is as successful for fashion and luxury retail as it is for food and beverage and hospitality clients. The team shares, “We devote a significant amount of time to thoroughly analyzing each target market and demographic to execute a comprehensive strategy including hyper-local media outreach and beyond, strategic partnerships with surrounding businesses, and targeted digital campaigns dependent on each project. A combination of this, excellent customer service, food, and very strong, memorable visuals and branding, will place a brand at the top of its category. One great example is our work with Pura Vida. As the agency of record since 2020, we have executed launch strategies for each of their locations with a 360-degree approach given the different communities they fold themselves into. Pura Vida has now amassed a cult-like following throughout South Florida and is showing no signs of stopping with their fourteenth and fifteenth locations opening later this month with plans to expand coast-to-coast in the pipeline.”

From media interest to consumer buzz, the right marcomms strategy can take a new concept from fledgling to full-on success story. Per our experts, a mix of beautiful imagery, strong storytelling and unforgettable experiences is the winning recipe.

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