When several restaurants in Atlanta’s Inman Park wanted to attract more customers — especially new diners who might never have ventured into the historic neighborhood’s eateries — they decided to band together. Inman Park Restaurant Week (IPRW) was born.
Customers would pay ahead for a prix fixe menu — from $15 for the casual joints to $35 for the more upscale — and get to try out one, two, even three different Inman Park restaurants during a predetermined week in March.
But how to get the word out without breaking their collective advertising budgets?
That’s where Alarcon Design brand architects came in.
Alarcon developed and implemented an IPRW marketing campaign that centered on social media. Through a dynamic website, Facebook page, and Twitter presence, Inman Park restaurant week went viral and proved so wildly successful that it has become a semi-annual event.
“For the first event, we spent $5,000 on PR and got 15,000 people to the website,” says owner Marco Alarcon, who spearheaded the social marketing strategy. “By the second year, we spent nothing on PR, and had more than 22,000 people visit the website, resulting in record sales. Zero traditional advertising was used. It was all viral.”
Word spread quickly through social media pathways. After all, what’s more social than trying out a new eatery with friends? Bloggers linked to the website (www.inmanparkrestaurantweek.com) as did newspapers and other sites. Fans tweeted and retweeted. Foodies texted. Multiplied by hundreds of fans and friends, that’s a lot of free networking. “The echo was long and loud,” Alarcon says.
Participating Inman Park restaurants included The Albert, Fritti, Kevin Rathbun Steak, Parish, Park’s Edge, Pure Taqueria, Rathbun’s, Sauce, Shaun’s, Sotto Sotto, Wisteria and Zaya. Many of the restaurants were fully booked from the third day on, and 85 percent were booked for all five days.
Owner and Chef Kevin Rathbun says the turnout exceeded his expectations. “IPRW boosted our business and gave people an opportunity to try us out for the first time. And it was a banner week for our servers — even though they were busy, they made great money!” Chef Jason Hill, of Wisteria, was equally pleased. “We started IPRW on a Monday, and by Wednesday I couldn’t take any more reservations, I had to turn people away or refer them to the other participating restaurants. I wish we had IPRW every week. Our staff loved it, we met a lot of new customers and the neighborhood loved the new business.”
The economic impact of IPRW spread to surrounding shops and bars, which saw an increase in customers as well, and the area became a destination spot for enjoyable dining.
And, just to ensure good karma, $17,000 was raised for the Believe in Me Foundation, which supports the education and welfare of children with autism, through donations by the restaurants and $1 raffle tickets for a chance at a private party catered by Inman Park chefs.
Discount sites offer one-time deals. Traditional advertising reaches traditional customers. But a social media marketing blitz that creates such a buzz that it boosts revenues year-round for multiple merchants?
You can call that a resoundingly delicious success.