When it comes to Restaurant Week in Kansas City, the general public considers it a 10-day event of eating, drinking and trying new places in Kansas City. For VisitKC and Page Communications though, it is the culmination of months of planning. They spend the week posting, tweeting and sharing the content of both the participating restaurants and the numerous restaurant patrons whose culinary curiosity helps raise money for the week’s beneficiaries. At the March SMCKC breakfast, Katie Leas of VisitKC and Travis Joyal and Lydia Young of Page Communications presented their thoughts on how they raised $322,000 through a variety of social media and public relations tactics.
Sponsor registration, marketing & PR for Restaurant Week starts in July of the preceding year. A participant tool kit helps align the various facets of sponsorship and an education meeting allows those participating to ask questions and understand what is required of them. The Restaurant Week team starts collecting graphics and logos, as well as online submission of menus. Public Relations also ramps up with TV and radio coverage and later in the year, a preview event for VIPs. The team determines the best way to spend the money generated from sponsor funds and the proceeds from the event. Digital spend includes paid search, mobile app maintenance and sponsorship of social posts, while billboards and regional advertising are also included to help spread the word and get people booking their reservations early. Not surprisingly, 39 percent of the content clicked on the KCRW website was for OpenTable, while 94% of all traffic to the site happened in January 2016.
In 2016, Restaurant Week had a record of 185 restaurants participating, plus 45 other sponsorships and 3 main charities. That leaves a ton of content out there for the KCRW team to aggregate and plan around, but it also brings some complications. The KCRW team must determine how to equitably distribute content among all the channels of KCRW without giving more attention to those restaurants or sponsors who happen to provide more robust content. Aggregating around Wine Wednesdays or weekly themes helps. They also align with national food themes such as Pasta Day to create excitement for the week.
Excitement is also created through promotions and giveaways. Gift cards are the currency of choice generally, and not all are promoted only through the KCRW accounts. Three separate groups conducted giveaways around KCRW, including the Film Society of Kansas City. The KCRW also strategically promotes the accounts of KCRW instead of certain posts or content to ensure they don’t run out of budget too quickly. Social media is working for KCRW, too, as 39 percent of survey respondents cited social media as their source of information about the week. Wednesdays at noon were the peak use of #KCRW2016, likely attributed to the release of gift card promotions and Sunday evening saw activity due to “Last Chance!” and “Free Food!” tweets as gift cards were picked on Mondays. Total impressions, engagement and followers increased significantly from the past year with total fans topping 35,000 people.
New this year, the team hosted a Twitter chat. This chat gave restaurant goers a chance to engage with one another, answer questions from the KCRW team and give input on the week. The chat included pre-scheduled questions and informative facts about KCRW to keep the audience engaged for an hour. VisitKC & Page collaborated to hold the event as multiple people were needed to answer tweets and engage with followers. The chat also included gift cards from KCRW restaurants as incentive.
As VisitKC & Page Communications look to #KCRW2017, they continue to explore ways to improve the experience for patrons and restaurants. Whether with more restaurant communication, social activation and gamification or a larger draw from the region, their opportunities for expansion challenge the team to evolve within the confines of their resources.