Hospitality, Social Media

Michelin-starred restaurant hits back at customer asking for free menu items in exchange for “exposure”

Emma Koehn /

An award-winning restaurant in Ireland has hit back on social media after receiving an email from customers asking for free food in exchange for being featured on their blog.

The owners of Michelin star-winning Campagne restaurant in Kilkenny shared the email request on Twitter last week. Since the tweet, the restaurant has been discussing the number of requests they receive from the general public for free service in exchange for “influencer” promotions.

The restaurant insisted it was not in the business of naming and shaming individuals on Twitter, but said it was sceptical about pitches from punters who promised to give them ‘exposure’ in exchange for free meals.

Campagne questioned how a business can trust that a review is genuine if the food is provided for free. Speaking to The Telegraph in the UK, Campagne owner Garrett Byrne said while he believes most of these requests aren’t intended to be exploitative, he believes businesses should not entertain requests for free service.

“I see these requests throughout the year and I’ve had enough of them,” he said.

SmartCompany contacted Campagne but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Contacted by an influencer? Ask the questions first

In an age of social media marketing, businesses are often flooded with requests for free items or review materials, but this doesn’t mean you should entertain each one, says founder of CP Communications Catriona Pollard.

As a small business, know that if somebody says they’re an influencer, it doesn’t mean that they are,” Pollard says. 

Earlier this month, founder of Incy Interiors, Kristy Withers, told SmartCompany she had learned the importance of saying no to many of the pitches for partnerships that she receives each week.

“When you’re first starting out, you say yes to any opportunity,” she reflected, explaining that these days she is discerning in which of these pitches her business partners with.

Director of Inside Out PR, Nicole Reaney, says SMEs should ensure they have a clear influencer policy in place. This will streamline any responses to people reaching out with potential deals.

“It’s recommended that a company establishes a social influencer strategy identifying the ideal segments, portrayal and influencers that aligns with its brand. This will ease the burden of decision making, however there will always be a degree of flexibility required,” she says.

Pollard says the challenge for businesses is that with so many influencer pitches coming through, the difficulty is determining which might actually be useful.

“Even if the person does have a really large following, that is irrelevant. What you need to do next is some research about them,” she says.

Given a business might receive tens of pitches a week, Pollard says there are a couple of key approaches to save time when communicating with potential influencers.

One option is to create a standard response that informs people that your business does not accept unsolicited partnership pitches.

“If someone approaches you, you can then just tell them you approach influencers directly,” she says.

If someone does seem like they might be a viable option, though, it’s time to put a series of questions to them.

“I can tell you this will weed out people straight away,” Pollard says.

“Ask questions like ‘how many followers?’, ‘Who are your followers, what is your social media and content strategy?'” Pollard suggests.

While influencer marketing is here to stay, Pollard believes brands are getting savvier about working out the value of a relationship.

“I think in future they’re going to understand just because someone’s got 30,000 followers, it’s irrelevant. Giving away free stuff doesn’t mean it’s going to result in anything.”

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • moriac

    I think when a travel adviser website is owned by a travel company that creates the potential for a conflict of interest right from the onset. when service providers actively seek endorsement i also have concerns. More and more I suspect the top rated are merely those successful in getting bus loads at a time to believe theirs is more authentic or superior than the alternatives they have never visited that don’t have enough toilets to accept a tour group. Read through the reviews and even highly rated viewers might only be there because they put more photos in not their knowledge.