While the United States Travel Association is projecting slow but steady growth for domestic travel within the U.S. in 2012 (1.6 billion per person trips – averaging about four trips per family per year), the real growth will come from a projected record 66.5 million international visitors. The association estimates international travelers will spend $100 billion on tourism-related goods and services, including restaurants. And according to NRA research, international and domestic travelers represent 40% of fine dining restaurant sales, about 20% of sales in family and casual dining segments, and about 15% of quickservice restaurant sales.
“We’ve always had an excellent reputation and one of my goals has been to get us known nationally and throughout the world,” says Chris Lilly, executive chef, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur, AL. To achieve this, the restaurant participates in barbecue competitions around the country, winning awards which, Chris says, receive a lot of media attention – both in the U.S. and abroad, bringing in travelers and tourists. Participating in major food festivals, such as South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Big Apple Block Party, and Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, is another successful way they get the word out, he says . . . Stephan Pyles, chef/owner, Stephan Pyles Restaurant, Dallas, TX, does a lot of charity events around the country – not only in major cities, but smaller ones as well. “It’s a great way to form relationships with people who become loyal clientele and visit us when they’re in Dallas.” Stephan also has had a long relationship with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, which runs tours for international journalists, many of whom dine at his restaurant. “We’ve received great international press, especially in Mexico, France, and Italy and as a result frequently see diners who are visiting from these countries.”
“Besides working with the Portland Travel Bureau (whose site is in six languages), every six months we visit concierges, dropping off info and gift certificates. As a result, we usually have a couple of tables every night that are booked by concierges. – Scott Dolich, chef/owner Park Kitchen and Bent Brick, Portland, OR
“We reach out to international visitors through local destination management companies, known as DMCs,” says Larry Bouchard, gm, One Market, San Francisco, CA. He says
DMCs, such as Brier Dunn Destination Management – one of the companies he uses – are a huge source of international business, including large parties. “We also routinely have inquiries for large parties via the San Francisco Travel website and our own website, especially from European and South American travelers who are interested in our Michelin-starred chef.” Larry adds that international journalists often contact the restaurant via the firstname.lastname@example.org email on the website, an email that goes directly to him. “I oversee and follow up on all emails, so they don’t fall into a black hole, which journalists really appreciate.” Larry adds that their excellent relationships with many concierges are key. “Because One Market is a large restaurant we have the ability to seat groups of six and eight at the last minute, which concierges really appreciate.”