Who Needs PR? Industry Insiders Weigh In
By Jessica Colley
Photos courtesy of Bullfrog and Baum/Solomon Oh
“We live in a world of communication, and within this world, PR is a tool… a strategy for helping us to tell the story of who we are and what we do.” With this statement, Chef/Restaurateur Eric Ripert kicked off a lively debate on the merits of PR in front of a packed crowd at the NYC Wine & Food Festival Trade Talks program conceived and led by hospitality industry PR firm Bullfrog & Baum.
A range of industry insiders joined Bullfrog & Baum President, Jennifer Baum, on the stage in the High Line Room at the Standard Hotel to share their opinions on whether or not restaurants benefit from the services provided by PR firms. Panelists Michael Stillman (Fourth Wall Restaurants owner – www.fourthwallrestaurants.com), Amy Rossetti (Director of PR at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas-www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com), Ryan D’Agostino (Esquire Editor – www.esquire.com), Gabriel Stulman (Little Wisco Restaurant Group owner –www.littlewisco.com), and Chef Eric Ripert voiced their opinions on whether or not to PR; their opinions ranged from strongly for PR to strongly against, all supported by years of experience.
Agreeing with Ripert on believing in the benefits of PR were Rosetti and Stillman. The opposite opinion was held by Gabriel Stulman, who has never used PR and prefers to handle media requests within his company. Stulman connected his success to a “strong base of regulars” and “talking to his customers instead of relying on social media”. In fact, Stulman went on to describe his “disdain for Twitter” and suggested that connecting with his customers encouraged them to spread the word about his restaurants themselves.
In between these polar opinions was D’Agostino, providing a journalist’s point of view. He quickly acknowledged the potential in the work of PR professionals, but wished that they would demonstrate an “intimate knowledge of the publication you’re pitching”. D’Agostino pointed out that not all PR professionals are equal, and he was pro-PR in the case of those who are “good at their jobs.”
The panel mostly agreed that since chefs can be hard to track down and often keep strange hours, PR can be a successful mediator with the press. That alone makes them good at their jobs. While chefs are busy cooking, the PR professional is doing their job too—fulfilling press requests for information in a timely fashion.
As forms of communication change, so does the necessity for PR. Some like Ripert, remain steadfast in the value PR can bring to a restaurant. He gave credit to his PR firm for spreading the word on “the evolution of our work and vision.” This type of support can keep a restaurant relevant and in the media for many years—a challenge that some of the panelists have yet to face.
From all sides of the argument, one thing is clear: the time has come to question what type (if any) PR will best benefit a restaurant in today’s changing media landscape.