MARKETING AND PR TIPS FOR NEW BAR AND RESTAURANT OWNERS
Tim McTigue came to us in April 2018 with his proposition to open the UK’s first 90’s Italian football bar, before the England Vs Tunisa in the World Cup on 18th June. However, what you don’t know is in April the place that is now Golazio, was a building site. Literally. The wiring needed re-doing, the ceiling needed re-doing - twice! The plasterboard around all the walls needed taking off and that's before all the staff and suppliers had been sorted. Oh, and one more thing, Tim decided to do all this whilst on sabbatical from Tesco. Having worked for the malt giant for 15-years, Tim decided to take the plunge and make his lifelong dream a reality. So with no previous bar experience and all hands on deck trying to get the place open, Tim enlisted the help of BIG little LDN to drum up the hype and make sure while he was busy getting it open, the press, football community, locals and the not-so-local were queuing up to get in once it was.
This was start-up hospitality in its purest form but together we created a bar that has seen people come from as far as Leeds and Manchester especially to sit in the quiet end of Camberwell Road, drink Italian craft beer, eat giant slices of San Nicola, Luigi Ferraris, or Stadio Olympico, watch classic Serie A games and pee while Pavarotti belts out Nessun Dorma in the toilets.
So how can you replicate this growth for your own bar or restaurant and generate the footfall you need to stay open past year one?
1. Understand your niche and live it more than anyone
For Tim this was easy. He was part of that generation of kids who grew up looking forward to Saturday morning’s with James Richardson. One of the kids who didn’t have Sky and so had to relive the skill of Baggio second hand, through the excitement of Richardson and the Gazzetta Dello Sport.
For Golazio, Tim thought of every last detail, from the Lazio blue and Roma red for the walls, the Panini sticker mural, Nessun Dorma playing as you enter the toilets, and the ceiling plastered with copies of Gazzetta Dello Sport.
“I wanted to make sure that if a total Anorak walked in, they couldn’t pick holes in the theme or say we missed something” Tim says, as he explains proudly how he's
pasted the newspapers in date order from ’92 to ’96 as you walk in from
the front door to the toilets at the back. Something we replied with, “You are the total Anorak Tim”. He laughed and couldn’t disagree, but that’s in part what makes Golazio so successful. The intricate detail, that you may not notice first time around, which makes the, “A ha!” moments even more special for you customers on their second or third visit.
2. Create a community - everyone from staff to customers, partners and associates, need to feel included as one.
While Tim was busy working on the building site, we were busy selling the dream online and building the Golazio community of 90’s Serie A enthusiasts, footballers, locals and journalists alike. We launched the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook channels one month before opening, when it was all just a vision.
Through careful research and a few strategic Tweets, we grew the Golazio Twitter account, organically, from 0 to 1,300 followers in less than 48-hours. We were with Tim at the Mundial screening of United Vs Chelsea FA Cup Final at Shoreditch House the day it went mental. The Gentleman Ultra, famously Tweeted,
“Imagine someone opened a bar dedicated to celebrating the nostalgia of 90’s Italian football. Imagine that bar served pizza a toggle &ITA craft beer. That’d be a pretty neat place to read your Gazette hello Sport @acjimbo style. @GolazioLondon - coming soon.”
About three hours later, the Godfather of 90’s Italian football replied, and that’s when the Golazio, Golaco, Golaccio debate kicked off. Our phones wouldn’t stop buzzing, until eventually both our batteries died late afternoon. When we finally got round to turning them back on, @GolazioLondon had 1,300 followers and overnight the community was formed.
However, it’s not enough to generate an online community for what is to be an offline experience. You must be real and you must get out
there and meet prospective partners, take social conversations to the phone, meet the local people of whom you’re setting up shop in the community of. Most importantly, the experience they have with you has got be better, or at the very least, match, that of the one they have online. Something we stressed to Tim, but never really had any concerns about.
Once your community has been established, it’s important as you grow, not to forget those early adopters. The ones who helped you at the very beginning. Where you can, do something a little extra for them to say thank you and make sure they feel appreciated, because they’re the ones that brought you up and could just as easily be the ones to bring you down.
3. You must be a good networker (and a generally nice person)
Once you’ve identified who your community is, you can then start aligning yourself with organisations who have been established for longer, with a similar audience. However, think about what’s in it for them. If they’re going to open up their audience base to you what can you give them in return? For Golazio, we established a partnership with Wasteels FC, London’s last remaining Italian football club. Wasteels FC gained a Centre Forward in Tim and also a guaranteed venue large enough to host their big Italian end of season gatherings. In return, Tim got a bunch of 90’s, Serie A loving Italians and their extended network as new customers, but also generous connections to food and drink suppliers and people who had been in hospitality for years, willing to offer advice and support.
We also struck a partnership with The Gentleman Ultra, the UK’s only publication dedicated to Italian football. For them, there was a clear benefit in being involved, being the lead media partner in events we organised with Mark Hateley, Tony Dorigo and John Arne Riise, inspired content they knew their audience would want to read. For Golazio, this provided much needed PR coverage and a fantastically knowledgeable compare in their Managing Editor, Luca Hodges-Ramon.
Having said that, there is a romanticism around football that brings like-minded people together for the basic love of the game, and while there were clear professional mutual benefits, we definitely played on personal experiences of that era, conjuring up feelings of nostalgia to help make those partnerships an easier choice.
4. Meet customer expectations
So you’ve created an amazing online community and people are dying to come down and visit you from as far as 200 miles away, but when they do, they don’t get a friendly welcome from your staff or there’s no toilet paper in the loo. First impressions are everything and that’s why when we work with any new bar or restaurant we visit the venue and meet the staff to ensure we are all aligned in our customer communications. For Golazio, the customer experience was as much part of our reputation as it was of Golazio’s because the customers weren’t just made up of passers-by, they were people we had invited from our little black book. People who after the initial press launch, wanted to keep coming back because of the authentic experience, but also because of the customer experience and the way Tim and his staff immediately make you feel at ease.
That offline experience is what generates the word of mouth and increases the size of your community and also the likelihood of you staying open past your first year.
A US study by The Restaurant Brokers’, revealed that up to 90% of
independent establishments close during the first year, and the remaining restaurants will have an average five-year life span. Those that survive past five-years tend to remain open for a minimum of ten. In the UK, and London particularly, competition is rife, not just between venues, but between residents and councils. London establishments are regularly closing to appease locals, making the importance of building a community even more profound
6. Create an events schedule that gets people talking
So you’ve got a great bar or restaurant, with a concept people love. Better still, they're telling other people about you. Time to come up with a new idea. The advice here is to not rest on your laurels. You need to be thinking about what your customers want, before they even know what they want. With Golazio opening for the World Cup, we knew we didn’t need to give people a reason to come. However, once that was finished, we knew we had a new bar, with not much passing traffic and no beer garden during the hottest summer on record, so we needed a reason to get people through the door and word out.
We strategically planned the press launch during the lull between the World Cup ending and the 2018/19 season starting. Football journalist would have returned home from Russia and there would be limited risk in terms of other football news dominating the papers.
We made sure the content of the event was topical, not just for the bar, but also in the wider context of the social calendar. Having Mark Hateley and Tony Dorigo as guests for the panel allowed us to capitalise on the mirrored performance of England Russia ’18 Vs England Italia ’90, which in the run up to an event is an important strategy to maximise ticket sales.
Events also enable you to widen your network by giving you a reason to speak to people. It was through this event we met deCoubertin Books, a publisher known for working with many football writers and ex-players who have released autobiography’s. We worked with them on the second event for Golazio which became the London press launch for John Arne Riise’s autobiography, Running Man.
The events we organised have played a part in solidifying that emotional experience customers have with Golazio. They optimise the meaning of community and creates an emotional connection with your audience that keep them talking, long after the event has ended. It draws people from outside of your immediate vicinity to your venue, which in turn, widens your net further when they bring their friends along next time.
Golazio attracted people from Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Ireland and has featured in people’s London tourist itineraries alongside traditional favourites like Buckingham palace and The Houses of Parliament. That sort of success only comes from a thorough mix of all the above and is what makes our job so rewarding. Knowing you’ve helped grow a brand from scratch that gets people genuinely excited.
Brand building in our current climate is tough. Consumers are being shouted at from all angles via every channel. You’re not just competing for their attention, you’re competing for their loyalty and their powerful ability to share your brand with others. So if you want to defy the odds and launch a bar or restaurant that stays open past it’s first year, request a free consultation with the BIG little LDN team who will be happy to help.