Epicure Philosophy

The Clear and Simple Truth of Good Copywriting

Copywriting Tips Straight From The Epicure Desk

‘If people cannot write well, they cannot think well…’  - George Orwell

Putting a pen to paper can bring out the worst in us. Sometimes when we write it is almost as if we have woken up in the midst of a fancy tea party for aristocrats where we feel an impulse to sound more intelligent than we are, speak more florally than we normally would or use big words when smaller ones are more appropriate.

Writing can be a space in which we attempt to flex our vocabularies and flaunt our smooth and sophisticated styles whilst throwing everything else – including meaning – to the wind.

The secret to good writing is communicating meaning. Yet for many the myth of good copy writing; i.e. style over substance, is the more appealing, intuitive option.

The Elements of Style with Epicure Digital Marketing

From what we can discern from Orwell’s quote above, writing well requires thinking well. It turns out that thinking well is probably a lot easier than you would have thought.

Thinking well does not mean – necessarily – solving an impossible math equation or offering an illuminating interpretation of a poem or painting. It can merely be stating the obvious; for instance, that you prefer coffee to tea, or that you enjoy beach holidays.

Expressing something simple cogently and clearly is thinking well and it is this basic skill that is your greatest asset in all your writing endeavors, including restaurant copywriting.

Restaurant copywriting shares the same scope as journalism. When writing a news story, the writer is advised to pretend s/he is speaking to her/his friend at the pub – simple, almost colloquial language. For instance: ‘You are never going to believe who I just saw whilst walking past Exeter College, Oxford… Thom Yorke!’ Granted the structure of this is not necessarily appropriate for publication, but the ingredients are all there.

Yesterday Thom Yorke was seen walking by Exeter College, Oxford, reports Chris O’Leary at Epicure Digital Marketing. That’s better. Not the most lyrical line ever written but its meaning is as clear as day.

In this same vein, when you approach copywriting either for your restaurant or a client’s, begin with the most basic, fundamental parts of what makes the restaurant special or worth visiting for a meal.

Imagine, for instance, that you are dealing with a client that specialises in authentic Neapolitan pizza. The message that you must communicate is: This restaurant serves delicious authentic pizza from the Mecca of pizza, Naples.

Let’s consider a relevant headline: Pizza from Napoli. Don’t be fooled – there is nothing wrong or unfashionable about telling your reader exactly what it is you are offering, particularly given that this three word headline would be reinforced by a high-resolution image of a mouth-watering authentic pizza, and hopefully supported by fantastic design and branding.

Where possible, it never hurts to add a bit of flair to one’s copywriting. Just don’t force it. If you would like to add another layer of meaning or intrigue to your headline – without sacrificing its original impactfulness – why not try something like From Napoli, with Love? This example, when added to a marketing framework that unequivocally shows that we are dealing with a pizza restaurant in London, clearly expresses that the pizza is authentically Neapolitan and is made with love. This headline also benefits by being placed within a popular and fashionable British cultural framework; i.e. James Bond and its range of British, sexy and on-trend significations.

Great writing takes style

 

An example of a really good, but concise and basic headline is on the New York City burger chain Five Napkin Burger’s website. Their homepage leads with MEET THE BURGERS in clear, large font laid on top of a high-resolution image of a big, juicy and delicious burger. The language is simple – three words – and the message even clearer  – this place does a damn good burger.

Let’s consider another NYC restaurant (which shall remain unnamed) that is arguably better than Five Napkin Burger – a stylish wine bar that serves great wine and flatbread pizzas. Instead of just telling us about the quality food and drink they offer, they write: Savor The Sensations. Our extensive wine list includes exquisite bottles from around the globe. Our sommelier has traveled the world collecting only the finest wines… It continues in this style for a good deal longer.

Let’s play spot the difference – one example offers us three words that combine to not only give us pure, unadulterated meaning, but also one heck of a reason to pay them a visit (that is, if you like burgers).

The other example hides from us the truly excellent reasons why we should drop by for wine and flatbreads through nearly 70 meaningless and self-consciously-styled words. This not only gives the reader a nearly meaningless message, it renders its digital marketing impotent.

The clear and simple truth of quality copywriting is that all you need to do is pretend you are telling your friend over a drink at the pub what your restaurant is about and why it is worthwhile.  Do this, and you will be well on your way to the evocative and captivating copy your restaurant’s marketing craves.

Passionified Roses - Are You Full or Empty this Valentine’s Day?

What is the key to being fully booked this Valentine’s Day?

Better yet, how can a restaurant fully leverage this holiday all February? It’s all about the roses, but perhaps not in the way you are thinking.

I’m not suggesting that you put all other plans on hold and ring a super-quality florist to make sure that each couple is given only the most luscious of roses upon arrival –though that certainly would not hurt! What I am actually referring to is the example of ‘passionified roses’ given to us by 20th-Century French philosopher Roland Barthes.

Valentine's Day Roses

Independent of its associations with love and Valentine’s Day, roses have another, more basic meaning. They are just flowers – thorny, crimson, and generally considered to be beautiful. They have existed since the dinosaurs and therefore concepts passion and love have zero inherent associations with them.

In Western culture we choose to signify our passion (the signified) to our lover with roses (the signifier). When roses are combined with passion – that is the signifier and signified respectively, they produce what we know as Valentine’s Day roses, which are an undisputed sign of one’s passion and love for another.

What is demonstrated above is that the term rose can exist with two rather different meanings. Rose the signifier, or a rose that is a flower of a certain genus that has nothing inherent about it to do with Valentine’s Day. And rose the sign that so utterly means love, passion and Valentine’s Day that it is almost a cliché to give a dozen of them as a gift to one’s partner on special occasions.

Valentine's Day Roses

Restaurateur, if you are serious about filling up your restaurant with customers this Valentine’s Day consider how this is deeply relevant to you and your marketing.

Objects and words can be entirely empty of meaning (the signifier) or can be entirely full (the sign).  Your job – or your marketer’s – is to communicate why people should choose your restaurant over the other ten thousand plus ones that exist in London… To have any hope of doing so effectively, your Valentine’s Day marketing message must be full to the brim!

For a successful and lucrative Valentine’s Day, it will take more than a half-hearted email marketing template that makes use of the colour pink, hearts and – of course – roses. It will take more than a rushed Valentine’s Day menu that is treated as an afterthought that may or may not include a glass of cheap ‘bubbly’. By doing this you will be falling in the trap of proposing a random collage of empty signifiers to your customers.

Valentine's Day Roses

Empty signifiers – though technically meaningless – in the context of Valentine’s Day marketing are actually rather meaningful. They broadly flag to your customers that your restaurant is proposing an incoherent and therefore unappealing message and that your restaurant simply cannot be bothered to produce a worthwhile Valentine’s Day experience. Empty signifiers will mean that your marketing message will be passed up in favour of a restaurant’s whose Valentine’s Day marketing message is full.

Valentine’s Day customers are not looking for a deal or discount. They want the full force of the meaning of Valentine’s Day oozing out of your marketing – email and social media, content, website and menu. Beyond this, what they really want to see is how your restaurant’s version of Valentine’s Day is particularly worthwhile and unique.

So think about it… What does Valentine’s Day mean to you and/or your restaurant? Are you a fancy French restaurant and is Champagne your romantic beverage of choice? Make a Champagne tasting menu and allow your marketing to fully convey the reasons why for your restaurant Champagne and passion are inextricably linked…

Are you a simple but authentic Italian restaurant whose customers are not willing to spend upwards of £25 per person? No problem – full meaning does not have to be expensive! Why not dedicate your Valentine’s Day experience to the romantic city Roma with a menu centred on its famous pasta dishes (if you are spending more than £2 for the ingredients for a portion of cacio e pepe, you are making it incorrectly!)? The charms of Rome are an endless source inspiration for the most impactful and meaningful of marketing content, provided your message conveys why you love Rome without falling back on empty clichés.

Above everything else, it is crucial that you weigh the particular Valentine’s Day experience at your restaurant with your own passion to make each meal a veritable sign that your restaurant loves its customers and cares deeply about their satisfaction!