Wednesday 25 April 2018

Problem Solver: How can I build up coverage for free about my café?

Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke
Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke

Feargal Quinn

Q: Have you any suggestions on how I could attract free PR for my café as I can't afford formal advertising.

A: The main thing you have to think about when constructing a PR plan is that you make it interesting for the person who will read or listen to the article. What story or message does your business have that would be of real interest to the public? That could be about you, your food products or a business story.

One of the simplest things you could do would be to approach the regional newspaper and radio station and explore the possibility of you contributing recipe ideas.

I recall on Pancake Tuesday one year we arranged for a box of hot fresh pancakes, together with plates, serviettes, sugar and all the other things one would need to enjoy the pancakes, to be sent to all of the radio stations with a note from the bakers in the branch closest to that station saying that they would be making hot fresh pancakes all day. In 80pc of the cases we got a mention. That initiative was timely, it was fun and no one else had thought of doing it. On Valentine's Day one year we offered each female customer a kiss. It received a lot of publicity, even more so when it turned out that the 'kiss' was a candy kiss, a little sweet in the shape of a heart!

Obviously in your business it is important that the various food writers, bloggers, etc are all aware of your business, as a mention from these can help significantly with growing sales. Sometimes your PR can be at local level and teaming up with a local charity to raise funds or hosting a visit from Transition Year students can also raise the awareness of your business.

The best advice I can give you is to set yourself a target to get one piece of coverage every month and then sit down and plan out a 12-month calendar of events and activities to support this objective. Do keep your ideas fresh and innovative and that will increase your chances of getting the coverage.

Q: I started my business three years ago which has been running well. While I have an accountant I am not sure at what frequency I should be getting a profit and loss account as my turnover has now exceeded €1m.

A:  When many businesses begin and turnover is low they start having their accountant produce an annual set of accounts. The biggest challenge with this is that if you get a weak set of results, eg a poor gross margin, it is nearly impossible to find the problem as you are looking at a 12-month period.

As the business grows you would certainly need to move to quarterly accounts and ultimately monthly accounts. This is a step that many businesses leave far too long and their control over their business is weakened which can sometimes lead to prolonged delays in accelerating the business due to poor control on the financial aspects.

In order to maximise the potential of the business, the owner needs to be in full control of the figures and be able to react swiftly to any changes which are pinpointed in a set of results. My broad advice would be to move to monthly accounts as quickly as the business needs to and certainly on the level of sales you are at you should now be on monthly accounts.

Some businesses overly focus on the amount of money they are paying their accountant and think by getting a cheap price and working on annual or quarterly accounts is a positive attribute, while in fact it can be highly damaging.

While they might be saving on accountancy fees, they could be losing control of their business because of financial aspects. You need to talk with with your accountant about increasing the frequency of results and discuss the implications and the cost of producing same.

Do you have problems with your small business? Email Feargal at

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