CAMPAIGNS: Hamptons eateries employ a PR recipe to stem winter woe

PR Team: Wordhampton Public Relations (East Hampton, NY) Campaign: Hamptons Restaurant Week Time Frame: March 1-31, 2003 Budget: $0

PR Team: Wordhampton Public Relations (East Hampton, NY) Campaign: Hamptons Restaurant Week Time Frame: March 1-31, 2003 Budget: $0

The off-season in the Hamptons is aptly named. The resort community on Long Island's East End triples its population during the summer, when trendy New Yorkers and second-home owners flock in to revel in the sun. But when the winter sets in and the crowds are gone, many restaurants are forced to close a few nights a week, and the local community hibernates. And this past winter, a sour economy, the war in Iraq, and the frigid temperatures all conspired to hurt business more than usual and keep potential customers inside and at home. Strategy When one New York restaurateur told Wordhampton of the surge in his business during New York City's annual restaurant week, the agency decided to generate some preseason excitement and spread some local goodwill by trying something similar in the Hamptons. Wordhampton also saw it as an opportunity to spread the word about the agency and its services to potential clients. The goal was to present a social occasion to local Hamptonites, to uplift wintery spirits, and to spread goodwill throughout the community. Tactics The agency created Hamptons Restaurant Week, during which every participating restaurant would offer a $19.95 three-course dinner every night of the week of March 30-April 6. The six-person firm was initially disheartened when only four restaurants responded. But, at the end of February, when Wordhampton sent out one more fax, another 10 restaurants jumped on board, and the team went to work. Once Wordhampton secured more than a dozen participants, it began distributing press releases to local, regional, and metropolitan publications, hoping to woo its target market of second-home owners, the local community, and people throughout the Hamptons. "So many people wanted to be involved," says Steve Haweeli, Wordhampton president. "We knew there would be great publicity for us, and we made it work for us because we are a PR firm. But Hamptons Restaurant Week was the true thing we were branding. Wordhampton was a secondary notion." Results Hamptons Restaurant Week secured over two dozen print placements in one month. Notable ones included The New York Times, New York Post, Newsday, The New York Observer, and the local Hamptons newspaper The Independent. As most publications did not have the space to print a list of all the participating restaurants, Wordhampton offered a link to www.wordhampton.com, which listed all participants and details of the event, and kept track of restaurants coming on board at the last minute. Overall, 30 restaurants took part. All participating restaurants noted a surge in business, and some indicated more than a 50% increase in customers. One restaurant in particular, Della Femina, was serving 170 dinners per night, an amount previously unheard of in the winter season. While some of the upscale establishments had to drop prices to accommodate the $19.95 price, the event's focus was to bring fun, action, and life back to the Hamptons' restaurants. "The restaurants were really happy to see people," says Haweeli. "It was such an uplifting social occasion, and really gave people a reason to break out of the cabin. It also gave people from the middle class a chance to treat themselves to the high-end restaurants. "We haven't secured new clients as a direct result of Hamptons Restaurant Week," adds Haweeli. "But it didn't hurt to strengthen our relationship with our existing clients, and give them a little gift from Wordhampton. The whole thing was so positive that it positioned us as the leaders of restaurant PR in Long Island." Future Wordhampton will continue running Hamptons Restaurant Week as an annual promotion. With a longer lead time, the firm will be able to secure more placements in food publications and generate more publicity. It also hopes to involve even more local restaurants and retail establishments in future years. Wordhampton has also registered the domain name www.hamptonsrestaurantweek.com.

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