How to Launch Your New Restaurant Menu

Waiter and chef discussing the menu in the kitchen
// By Kyle Thacker // , Mar 27, 2019

Topics: Restaurant Management

Does your restaurant's menu change seasonally? It should. And not just your food menu. Your wine, beer, and cocktail lists should all rotate throughout the year. Even if you live in a region like southern California that only has variations on one season and the Farmer's Almanac for next year just reads, "See Last Year," rotating menus keep guests excited and your staff creative. It's becoming common practice to rotate menus to offer seasonally appropriate menus. Marketing your new menu with buzz words like "fresh" or "seasonal" won't help you stand out anymore. You've got to out think your competition and create new ways to draw diners in. Take a look at these creative menu marketing strategies to generate buzz about your latest menu release. 


All Press is Good Press, or is it?


I call BS! That statement might be true for Hollywood stars in their supernova phase, but it certainly ain't true when it comes to restaurants. Good Press is what restaurants are after, and at times its necessary for success. A new seasonal menu can garner the attention of local press and diners if marketed properly. The practical and philosophical reasons that motivate chefs and bartenders to adjust menus by season are obvious. But the opportunity it creates for press coverage and renewed interest in your restaurant is often underestimated. As a restaurant operator, you need to be dedicated to strong marketing and PR efforts to launch a new menu that brings in dollars.


Court Bloggers to Cover Your Restaurant


The rise of the foodie has had both positive and negative results. There are the annoying effects: overblown egos, false experts, and the launching of a thousand Instagrams. But there are also positive side effects for restaurants; the increased interest in food and a growing number of opportunities for you to get your restaurant's name in the headlines.


It's important to do your homework when it comes to blogs and bloggers. Anyone can post a blog on a Wordpress page and wax poetic on the bolognese they had last night. But find out which blogs have a good reputation and following, create well written pieces, and use photos.


One problem that many restaurant operators have come across is food bloggers who ask for complimentary dishes or free meals. Don't blindly give in to this request. Ask to see a breakdown of these bloggers' website traffic. Are there social shares on Facebook or Twitter? Have they covered any restaurants that you're familiar with, and can reach out to learn about there experience. Blogging, like much of the internet, is neither inherently good or bad. But you should do some research to separate the good blogs from poor ones.


Offer a Press Tasting for Local Journalists


A great way to connect with local journalists that cover your food and entertainment scene is to offer a tasting for local press, personalities and some of your favorite regular customers. These tastings can be done in different ways. They give you a platform to showcase your new dishes to the press in a controlled environment. Now, this might not garner coverage in terms of a featured review, but it creates good will and establishes a relationship with you and your local writers. It will also help you get press releases covered when you send them out to these publications.


Read Backbar's Wine Knowledge Guide


Crowd Source New Menu Items Online (and Off)


Crowd Sourcing menu ideas and dishes can be a great way to engage your diners. Using social media to run a crowd sourcing competition, if done right, is an engaging and useful way to connect with your followers and actually turn social media impressions into dollars.


What does it mean to do a campaign likes this, "right?" It means building anticipation while creating participation. To get your followers excited, announce the competition a few weeks before it takes place. Get people interested by announcing that you're running each dish as a special on specific nights and sell that night as a special chance to try a new dish. Run photos of the dishes, and tell people that they will be able to vote on these dishes and to come in and try them before the vote. You could even run a free dessert or drink promotion to entice people to come in if they reference a certain code or word that you've used as a sort of coupon on your social media pages.


You could also offer a drink or food promotion as an incentive to get people to vote in the competition. For example, if they vote, you will email them a gift card or email them a code for 10% off their next meal.


You can also go beyond social media and encourage guests dining with you to vote on the dishes. If you run a special on these dishes, you can offer your guests the chance to vote in exchange for their email address and a spot on your newsletter.


Create A Menu Event Tasting Party


No one needs a real reason to party, but we're always accepting if you give us one. So a new menu is definitely a reason to celebrate. Think of your new menu release like a recording artist's new album release. They (the label) rent out a club, create an exclusive event, and let people listen to a the new record and dub it a "Listening Party." Why can't a restaurant celebrate new menus in this same fashion? Throw a party and create tasting portions of food, roll out the party train and pass out your new cocktails in the 1oz portions to take as shots. Pump up the party with a DJ and let everyone get down. The point is: have fun with it!


Partner With a Local Business or Charity


Local restaurants should be active members of their community. Dining out is a social experience, and restaurants should help promote and create interactions and the exchange of ideas. It's more fun that way, and it creates opportunities to bring different communities together. Many small restaurants and cafés will double as galleries for local artists. Other restaurants pledge to donate a percentage of sales on certain menu items or drinks to a local charity or non-profit group.


One way to really connect with your local community is to pair with a local group and throw an event around the launch of your new menu. Maybe you've partnered with a theater group to create donations for after school programs. Great. Invite friends and family of the restaurant, as well as that group, and launch your new menu with an event that announces the partnership and helps kick off donations to your group of choice.


Key Points

  • You have to find creative ways to launch your new menu
  • Connect with and build relationships with local food writers
  • Engage your followers on social media and give them an insiders look
  • Create a fun event around your new menu launch
  • Work to connect with your community and grow your fans
Kyle Thacker

About the author, Kyle Thacker

Kyle is the Marketing Director for Backbar. Before helping Backbar connect with the restaurant industry, he managed multiple bars in Chicago, with a love of whiskey and cocktails.

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