Due to the length of ‘Secrets for Traveling for FREE and Building Your Travel Internet Business’, we’ve split it up into chapters.
During my trip to Panama City, I planned to film one of the best Lebanese restaurants in town. I explained everything to the manager over the phone and he said, “Perfect, we cannot wait. We will be expecting you.” Once we arrived we set up the camera on the tripod in the kitchen, and the waiter asked my partner and I what we wanted to eat. I thought it peculiar that he asked, but I just told him what I thought the restaurant already knew- to bring out the best dishes in the house to sample a bit of everything. About a half hour later he brought out falafels, hummus, kebabs, and a shisha to smoke from after lunch. At the end of our meal the waiter handed me a bill for $130.00. Surprised, I instantly asked to speak with the manager. The manager had not understood my offer completely and expected us to pay for the lunch we just had. I disputed with him and said if he was going to insist on charging me then I would delete the footage and the promotional deal would be called off. He would not budge, so I erased the footage and paid my lunch in full. There was an obvious lapse in communication from the very beginning. The lesson of this story is to have it completely clear from the start that you are featuring the restaurant in exchange for a complimentary dining experience.
Restaurants are easier to arrange than hotels. I think it is due to the relatively low cost of feeding one or two people. Additionally, restaurant owners have told me that their industry is a risky one and only a couple of bad reviews have the potential to put them out of business. This makes Internet exposure valuable for them, especially if it is targeted to potential customers. When restaurants say no to an offer I assume it is because they do not understand it, have a limited budget, or they just flat-out do not need the exposure.
I have come to discover that some hotels, once booked, are willing to help you contact restaurants in their areas. They may be familiar with restaurants in close proximity to the hotel and can call them for you, or at least provide you with a list of the ones they recommend. When booking restaurants in Europe it is best to call them between 11:30am to 4:00pm or at 6:30pm local time. Be sure to ask to speak with the owner or manager. If he or she is unavailable when you call, try again at a later time if you do not have other restaurants booked for that city.
In other words, do not plan to call a restaurant more than once if the manager or owner is not there unless someone gives you a specific time when this person will be back. It is best to call all the restaurants on your list, confirm some, and then call back the ones you were not able to arrange the first time around. Below is an example of what you can create for yourself so that you can stay on track even while you are traveling. I am rarely able to book all the restaurants for a trip in one day so keeping track of confirmations is a must.
Restaurant: Hello this is Casa Ramiro restaurant.
You: Hello, may I please speak to the owner or manager of the restaurant?
Restaurant: Yes, let me see if he is available. Who may I ask is calling?
You: My name is (your name), and I am calling from (your city and country). I would like to feature Casa Ramiro in my (project name)
Restaurant: Ok, yes one minute please. His name is Sergio.
(Get the name of the manager and write it down. If the person on the phone does not tell you up front it is best to ask).
Restaurant Owner: Yes hello, this is Sergio. How can I help you?
You: My name is (your name). I have a travel Internet business (name of your business) and I travel the world visiting the best hotels, restaurants, and attractions. I will be in (city name) in a few weeks and I have selected your restaurant to be part of my (article, blog, guide, etc.)
(Be sure to mention if you heard about the restaurant from another source- e.g. a tourism board contact or a website).
Restaurant Owner: Ok does this cost us anything?
You: There is no financial obligation for your restaurant. The only thing I/we ask for is you to allow me/us to feature Casa Ramiro in an exclusive way, specifically in my (article, blog, guide, etc). I/we would like to sample your most popular dishes in order to write a great review about the food at Casa Ramiro so my readers can experience it in my (article, blog, guide, etc).
We only ask that Casa Ramiro provide us with a tasting menu free of charge. We also would like to perhaps take photos, make a video, or set up an interview with you. If you would like, I can I send you a detailed email with my proposal, so that you can understand what I am offering and how I want to promote your restaurant.
Restaurant Owner: Ok I would like to review the proposal. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. OR No problem that will be perfect! What day would you like to come?
Many restaurants will say yes on the spot, but others take time. Depending on the country you are visiting, some people will consistently check their emails while others take days to respond. If you find that most the restaurants from your list are taking awhile to respond, call each back 2 days later. I have had countless restaurants confirm my visit the second time I call.