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Why don't (upscale) restaurants in the U.S. advertise?

Aside from chains (e.g. places like Mortons and sometimes Wolfgang Puck), why don't upscale restaurants advertise with either TV/radio commercials or in print?

In fact, when one thinks about it, upscale restaurants don't do any advertising of that kind.

Nowadays there may be those shill blog posts, or Internet PR junkets, but where are the TV or radio spots? Or what about ads in newspapers, or free independent weeklies (like LA Weekly).

Even in magazines like Gourmet or Robb Report, there aren't ads for Alinea, Rogue24, French Laundry, etc., right? One would think that the readers of those magazines would likely be in the socio-demographic group that could and would dine in upscale, gourmet type restaurants.

Or do they advertise and I just have never noticed?

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      1. re: ipsedixit

        Advertising obviates a certain exclusitivity many places want; Studio 54 did it the best while it lasted.

      2. re: Veggo

        Yeah, when they have a 6-12 month waiting list they really don't need to advertise.

      3. My old, old Gourmet magazines have ads for places like Luchow's in it (oddly enough a recently mentioned restaurant, now gone). I asked a restaurant owner in new Orleans once why we never saw his ads---and no one realyl wanted them--and he said he did not need them, that he had his own customers. Antoine's used to have small ads but I forget where...tourist things in hotels, I think.

        I once knew a man in the alumni office of a boarding school who said his school didn't advertise because "If people know, then they know."

        1. I've seen local advertising for local upscale restaurants. It would be a waste of money for them to run a national or regional ad if they only have one location.

          1. Why would a restaurant with a waiting list for reservations, reviews in major papers, and menus constantly dissected and discussed on boards like this one waste money on media, and what would a place like The French Laundry have to advertise that its patrons don't know about already. As noted the only print ads I see anymore are for Morton's and Ruth 's Chris in airplane magazines.

            1. i think they do advertise. but instead of the restaurants taking ads in media (print or otherwise), they "advertise" by granting interviews of the chefs, publishing cookbooks bearing the restaurants' names, etc.

              2 Replies
              1. re: akated

                Yes, I agree completely. They're "advertising" alright, just not via traditional print adverts.

                1. re: akated

                  That's not advertising, it's public relations or media relations. The difference being paid vs earned media.

                2. Growing up (and I'm now pushing 60) my parents taught me to avoid restaurants that advertised, felt that if they needed to advertise they weren't very good. I was taught to rely on the advice of friends and business associates of similar socio-economic and education levels as well as ethnic background. Also taught to never eat in a restaurant that was open less than 90 days. By 90 days, if it was any good we would have had positive recommendationd from our social/business set.
                  When traveling, I was taught to rely upon recommendations of friends living in the area or business associates. Be skeptical of recommendations of hotel concierges who take your money and money from the restaurants. A concierge is useful to get you a table at a restaurant you choose, but don't get steered, same for tour guides.

                  As for your observation of the dearth of restaurant advertising in magazines such as Gourmet. Restaurants that advertise need to reach their target, diners who are in the area, advertising in a national magazine may stroke the chef's ego but is thrown out money for reaching those diners in a reasonable distance from the restaurant.

                  1. Because print and radio advertising is usually promotional-oriented. "Upscale" restaurants rarely have sales or promotions to advertise. To simply take out an ad to say "come to our restaurant" seems fruitless. As others have mentioned, if these types of restaurants do indeed feel the need to advertise, then they use more unconventional methods, such as radio interviews with chefs, cookbooks, etc.

                    1. Most, if not all upscale restaurants have PR people. Their job is not to take out ads, but keep that restaurant and it's people in the news. "Best new restaurant/sommellier/chef", etc. This is a more subtle form of advertising, without the ads.

                      PR firms also write the press releases that show up as articles in papers all over the country, and in magazines like you mention. Which is more likely to move an upscale customer- an obvious ad, or an article that appears to be written by the magazine staff, but is usually cobbled together from a well crafted press release and sprinkled with an "interview"?

                      -aside- I had someone "write" an article about me once that appeared in a nice publication, where they claimed to have interviewed me..... my first name could go either way (male or female), and they chose the wrong way. I had never, ever talked to this person. But the article was great.

                      1. I'm sure many dont advertise, but many of them do in unconventional ways like underwriting a show on local public broadcasting radio & TV, or contributing to charity events.

                        1. When I stay at upscale hotels (such as the Four Seasons), the local-business guides in the room often contain ads for nearby upscale restaurants which you'd never see in a local newspaper or magazine.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Frosty Melon

                            I always find that those restaurants advertised in those guides although "upscale" are really not the cream of the crop. There's just something about them that turns me off. Maybe it's the advertising. :)

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              We call the the "Where to Spend Money in XXX" guides. I always think they're for people with more money than sense.