WINNER: The Swan, West Malling
Sponsored by: Hotelympia
Following Scott Goss's Acorn Award win last year, the Swan's head chef decided on a new and creative way to keep the Michelin-listed brasserie on the local map.
So he devised the Cygnet Award - a county-wide recipe and cookery competition for Kent secondary school children.
The aims of the campaign were many. First, to raise the profile of the Swan among its target market of local A-B families. Also, there was a desire to obtain sustained local publicity for the property, and then to associate the restaurant with a good cause - fighting childhood obesity - encouraging youngsters to cook again. Finally, Goss sought to make teenagers think of cheffing as a career.
As part of the process, the scheme also aimed to reconnect with the county's teenagers, parents and teachers. The idea was that this would provide a new and enlarged customer base and raise the profile of the restaurant's ethos of cooking with local seasonal ingredients.
The campaign, orchestrated by WAC PR & Marketing, cost £4,000, including promotional literature, award production, prizes, PR fees and ingredients.
The campaign received coverage in local newspapers and radio - more than 160 clippings - and the Kent Messenger Group got fully behind the initiative, giving it free support because they liked the idea so much. It was likened to Kent's answer to Jamie Oliver's "Ministry of Food".
The response was three times greater than expected, with 164 original recipe entries received from 29 schools. The six finalists were divided into younger and older categories and invited to a live cookâ'off, which was widely covered by media, including KentOnline, Kent TV and BBC SouthEast.
During the campaign, the Swan saw trade increase by 11% compared with the previous year, despite many other local restaurants' business declining as a result of the credit crunch.
The prizes included vouchers for dining at the Swan, as well as the winner having their dish featured on the brasserie menu and receiving mentoring from Goss. In addition, £1 was donated to the winner's school for every Cygnet Award dish sold in the restaurant.
Judge Ian Taylor, former owner of the Cotswold House hotel, said: "The campaign presented a very good return."
He added: "It is a great marketing initiative which could be used by many other businesses to tackle improving community image, relationships and goodwill."
Last year's winner, Catherine Whittle, sales and marketing director of the Vineyard at Stockcross, was also impressed: "The campaign was original. It was a great local initiative and generated plenty of local press.
"Trade increased as the restaurant industry was starting a downturn. The campaign is also sustainable and, hopefully, business is still going well for them," she said.
John Pain, marketing director of Compass Group UK & Ireland, added that the campaign provided "an excellent insight into the importance of food to families and how to reach out to them by involving their children".
He summed up the judges' thoughts, saying: "It was a campaign that created a great deal of awareness for the Swan in the Kent area, but on a shoestring budget."
- The Canbury Arms, Kingston upon Thames
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- - Restaurant Alimentum, Cambridge
- The Swan, West Malling, Kent
- Emma Benney, group marketing director, Hotel du Vin and Malmaison
- Andrea McKay, vice-president marketing services, Hilton Hotels
- John Pain, marketing director, Compass Group UK & Ireland
- Ian Taylor, consultant
- Greg Ward, executive director of sales and marketing, von Essen Hotels
Paul West, managing director, Ignite Marketing
- Catherine Whittle, sales and marketing director, the Vineyard at Stockcross