The Place has been a popular and high-rated restaurant in New York City's West Village for nearly nine years.
In 2002, the building where it's housed received building-code violations. Its owner, Alexander Achilleos, spent $70,000 to fix the violations that applied to his restaurant's space, with the understanding that his lease would be renewed. But, earlier this year, he received an eviction notice, even after making the improvements. Achilleos turned to Food Shelter to create and implement an integrated public affairs campaign to save his restaurant.
Because The Place had such ties to the community, Food Shelter knew that getting that community - including local politicians - to support its cause was a key part of the campaign.
Joanne Jordan, cofounder of Food Shelter, says the agency decided to make the local media a jumping-off point for the campaign.
"We were really drawing on all of our skill sets - from understanding the nature of a restaurant, as well as understanding the nature of public opinion and how to use the media as a vehicle for that," adds Lorraine Gimblett, cofounder of Food Shelter.
Food Shelter launched SavethePlace.com, a Web site where people could sign a petition to keep the restaurant from closing. Patrons of the restaurant were also able to sign the petition in person.
Using initial traffic results from the site as a hook, the team also targeted local media like NY1, The Villager, and AM New York, as well as The New York Times, to tell Achilleos' story. Because The Place's situation had so many layers to it and provided a human interest story, a real estate story, and neighborhood story all in one, Food Shelter carefully tailored its pitch for each outlet.
Using initial media placements as incentive, it reached out to local politicians like city councilwoman Christine Quinn and state Sen. Tom Duane to speak to additional media on the restaurant's behalf.
The Place's saga garnered coverage in local media outlets like AM New York and The Villager, but it was The New York Times' prominent placement that most impressed Achilleos.
"They don't write things that are just sensationalistic," he says. "They do their homework."
In addition, the petition garnered 9,000 signatures.
Most important, Achilleos reached an agreement with his landlord and was granted a nine-year extension on his lease at less than full-market rent, ultimately saving the restaurant.
"The true success was really being able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together," Gimblett notes.
Achilleos says he does not have any future PR plans for The Place, but would use Food Shelter again if there was a need.
PR team: The Place (New York) and Food Shelter (New York)
Campaign: Save The Place
Duration: May to August 2006
This campaign relied on several different elements to bring about a successful outcome. Food Shelter tapped into the restaurant's importance to its neighborhood by keeping initial media outreach local, which could then be used to bring in the support of additional media, politicians, and faithful patrons.
The compelling story had many levels, and it would've been easy for it to get lost in the shuffle at news outlets. But Food Shelter was able to create different angles for the story, which resulted in prominent media coverage and ultimately led to a happy ending for this New York restaurateur.