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Something to Talk About: 8 Tips for Getting Free Press Coverage for Your Restaurant

Public Relations or PR is an essential part of restaurant marketing that not only helps create awareness about your restaurant, but it builds credibility. Public relations can also save money spent on paid advertisements. Instead of buying online, television, print, or radio ads or billboard space, putting time and energy, and creative juices into coming up with free and low-cost ways to develop a community presence and attract repeat business.

Inexpensive, creative ideas will go further in building positive public relations for a restaurant than thousands in advertising dollars. Hiring a PR agency can be an expensive affair if you are already working on a tight budget, so many restaurateurs like you want to know how to get Free PR for your restaurant on your own.

Restaurant PR is not just about publicizing the food but the restaurant itself through different elements and factors.

Growing your restaurant is all about cashing in on publicity. To do so, you want to create an experience and story that hooks customers in and gives news outlets a reason to keep talking about your restaurant. If you can achieve those goals, you’ll set yourself far ahead of the restaurants who only think about food.

Give them something to talk about

If you don’t have a story to tell, you’re not going to make the 5:00 news. The same works for PR. Unless you have something of interest, you’re just another dining establishment pushing for free press.

One way to get free coverage is to create a promotion that is newsworthy. Develop exciting promotional offers that get people excited about your business. Encourage repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising by providing customers coupons at the end of their dining experience or giving them a generous discount on their next order–and get the word out to the local press and through your own social media channels. Announce a new gamification loyalty program, a grand opening celebration, or the introduction of a new menu.

Create a reason to care

Think like the reader when pitching ideas to publications. What would you want to read about or see on the news? Is it newsworthy? The best question to answer before pitching to an editor is "So what?" Give them a reason why their readers should care about your restaurant. If you don’t have something interesting to share, create something!

Write a Press Release

Whether it's announcing a Grand Opening, a Grand Re-Opening after the pandemic, an anniversary, or a brand new menu item, writing a press release is the first tool you’ll need if your goal is to get free coverage in local publications and broadcast outlets.

Whether you email them to a list of journalists and editors or send a mass mailing to every news organization in town, press releases are a great way to spread the word about what’s new at your restaurant. Writing a short pitch email before sending the actual press release is also a great way to get your foot in the door and plant a seed.

A press release should answer the following questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.

There are a variety of press release templates that be customized to fit your own style, but here is some of the basic elements evey press release should contain:









Sample Press Release Format:

Max’s Pizza (logo)


(HEADLINE) Max’s Pizza Announces the Opening of its New Location on Your Side of Town!

(GRABBER) FREE Slice of Pizza to the First 50 Guests on Opening Day!

(DATELINE): June 1, 2022, from 2-5 pm

(DESCRIPTION): - 2-3 paragraph explanation about the event. Include the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, & HOW here.

ABOUT: Include information like your restaurant’s style of food, ambiance, how long you’ve been in business, and top menu items.

QUOTES: Include quotes from food critics or reviews from local celebrities, if possible.

CALL TO ACTION: Be one of the first guests on opening day!

CONTACT: Your name, contact information (email, phone, address, website)

If writing isn’t your thing, or if you’re too busy running your restaurant, you might benefit from hiring a pro to write your press release, this is one expense that will pay off in the end. Platforms like Upwork are filled with experienced writers eager to write your story!

Provide media with camera-ready photos

Making the media’s lives easier by offering them mouthwatering photos of your restaurant menu and great shots of you and your staff increases your chances of getting your story on the first pages of the lifestyle section.

There’s a reason why images and videos drive attention far better than any text. Press releases are no different. Supporting a press release with relevant pictures, photos, videos, logos, and even animated GIFs can increase your chances of getting free press coverage.

Although images are great to include in your press release, don’t get carried away.

If you’re writing a press release about something visual such as a new menu item, include eye-catching photos that journalists can get excited about.

Just remember to think quality, not quantity.

Even if you have no images to add that are relevant and high-quality, add your restaurant’s logo to your press release. It will still grab the journalist’s attention, and it’ll be something they can include when publishing your news story.

(A word about attachments)

It’s a good practice to avoid attachments as much as possible when submitting press releases by email. Sending emails with attached images or videos (especially large files) can result in a gigantic and possibly confusing email that will clog up journalists’ inboxes.

If you want to send out a press release that contains lots of high-quality and high-res images or videos, there’s a way!

Instead of adding attachments to your press release email, create a digital press release or add your photos, videos & other rich media (such as Facebook posts or Twitter conversations) directly to your press release.

Create an online presence

Creating a detailed, easy-to-navigate website that provides your restaurant’s hours, menus, and pictures of various aspects of the restaurant costs little money and allow a new group of customers to find out about your restaurant. Offer special coupons and deals for visitors to the website. Create free social media pages and maintain a consistent presence across the different channels.

Develop community presence

Getting your restaurant’s name out into the community is a great way to get free press coverage.

  • Sponsor a local youth program or sports team. Offer to pay for their uniforms in exchange for your restaurant’s name is displayed on the back of their jerseys. Purchase inexpensive ad space in a local high school’s theater program, football calendar, or yearbook.

  • Set up shop at local festivals and sell portable versions of your restaurant’s most popular items.

  • Pass out coupons at a local parade or sporting event.

  • Create welcome packets for new residents of the neighborhood. Ask local apartment management or real estate agents for their cooperation.

Network with local media

Join local media organizations and attend events to rub elbows with local journalists in your community. This way, they can put a face to the name when you pitch your press release. This is particularly helpful if you can make a connection with the local restaurant reviewers.

Send invitations to local media members to your events and be sure to let your staff know when they arrive – give them the best seat in the house… and the very best service.

Join forces with other local businesses

PR is about building relationships, and not just with the media. Joining a merchant’s association is one way to get to know your neighbors and build a mutually beneficial relationship. If your restaurant serves vegan food, you might want to consider joining forces with a yoga studio. If you serve late night, think about teaming up with a local movie theater. Putting your heads together to create newsworthy cross-promotions is a great way to capture the attention of the local media.

By Eileen Strauss


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