How to Get Your Restaurant on TV

TV exposure is great for a restaurant, but only if owners go about it the right way and know how to make the most of their time in the limelight.
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Ready for the spotlight? Here are some tips to get your restaurant on TV for some extra publicity. (Photo: S_Photo/Shutterstock)

As a restaurant owner, you’re always looking for ways to publicize your business and bring in more customers. You have a social media presence, an email list, a Yelp page and advertisements all over town, but what you really want is to procure a television appearance.

Getting featured on TV can be a great way to spread the word about your restaurant and boost your business’ profile. It can help you reach both members of your community and tourists looking for an authentic dining experience from a local establishment. By upping your exposure, a TV appearance can also augment your sales and solidify your brand’s reputation.

Ready for your own 15 minutes of fame? These tips from restaurant managers and owners who’ve been featured on TV will help you get on the screen and make the most of your moment in the spotlight.

Find the right fit

Though there are many food shows on TV, they aren’t all a good fit for your restaurant. Jae Kim, founder of Texas-based restaurant Chi’Lantro, was awarded $600,000 on “Shark Tank” and has been on the Food Network. He said he goes on shows that make sense for his business and background.

“It has to be the right fit and the right timing,” he said. “For example, I don’t go on cooking shows as a chef, because I’m not a chef. I go on shows that highlight myself as an entrepreneur in the restaurant business.”

Get ready for an increase in business

Chris Scott, general manager of The Original Dinerant in Portland, Oregon, said that after his restaurant appeared on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” more customers came in and ordered the two menu items featured on the show: their donut-burger sliders and chicken-and-waffle sliders.

Related: How to Create a Signature Item for Your Restaurant

Before pitching your restaurant to appear on TV, Scott said to ensure “the items you are featuring are ones that can be executed at a high volume, and train your staff to be prepared for an influx in business.”

Don’t expect a rush all at once

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After appearing on television don’t immediately expect a a crowd to show up at your restaurant. Most likely, a boost in business will happen gradually. (Photo: totojang1977/Shutterstock)

Though Scott said business is definitely up since his episode aired, there is no sure way to measure how many customers were brought in because of the TV appearance.

New York publicist Miriam Silverberg, who has secured several TV appearances for her client Bernard Ros of Paname, said that while all exposure helps, “Don’t expect that the next day 200 people will come surging through the door clamoring for [your] attention,” she said. “Very, very seldom will there be a big, noticeable uptick in business after an appearance. Usually, it will be gradual.”

Prep yourself for the camera

Also keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera. Chef Will Gilson of Puritan & Company, who judged on “Top Chef: Boston” and appeared on “Beat Bobby Flay,” said before you go on camera, practice what you will say and be concise. Though you might not be able to get everything across that you’d like, he said, “if you can be polite, funny, informative and casual, the camera and audience will like you.”

Gilson also advised to avoid programs that have the potential to make you look bad. “Shows where you can have multiple takes to get a segment right are better. Competition shows and live TV will always exploit the things that have the potential to be embarrassing,” he said.

Maximize your appearance

Once your television segment has been filmed, find out when it’s going to air so you can promote it.

You should try to capitalize on your TV segment both before and after the fact, said Gilson. “Know when it’s going to air and get your customer base and social followers excited and aware. Tell them when to tune in and what you will be doing — but don’t tell them too much.”

Related: Jumpstart Your Social Media Strategy and Separate Yourself From the Clutter

If you already know what your segment will look like, you could host a viewing party as well. After it airs, share it on social media just in case your followers weren’t able to catch it live.

Tips for getting on TV

To get your restaurant on TV, call up local television stations and pitch yourself for a segment, or look into the application process for national shows.

Before trying to get on a national show, Gilson said he first focused on doing segments on local programs sharing grilling tips and holiday food ideas. When they were ready to try for an appearance on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” an employee recommended The Original Dinerant on the show’s Facebook page.

Remember that when you’re applying, persistence is key. Kim said he tried out for “Shark Tank” three times before actually getting on the show and winning an investment in his business.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Free TV Exposure for Your Small Business

A local or national television appearance has the power to attract new customers to your restaurant and boost your profile. Now it’s time to pitch yourself and get your own time in the limelight.

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