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How did a period of national mourning in Thailand create challenges for a restaurant opening almost 6,000 miles away in Newcastle? 

When the Thai Leisure Group (TLG) approached Karol to launch its new flagship restaurant Chaophraya in Newcastle, we soon realised we had a huge number of strands to ‘Thai’ together to pull off a successful restaurant opening and PR launch.

Keep reading to find out more…

This article appeared in the September issue of Northern Insight Magazine 

Karol’s brief was to position the contemporary Thai restaurant as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of TLG’s chain of 21 venues across the UK, organising a successful launch event to make it the ‘talk of the town’ and generate positive coverage before, during and after opening. But with just eight weeks till opening night, there was a lot to do!

Located in the new Grey’s Quarter in Intu Eldon Square, Chaophraya was due to open within weeks of 20 other restaurants. The timings for the opening also coincided with NE1’s popular ‘Restaurant Week’, creating additional competition for coverage and restaurant sales – the race was on to make sure Chaophraya wasn’t left Thai and dry.

To add to the challenge, much of the restaurant interior was sourced directly from Thailand. However, there were unexpected delays in delivery due to the country undergoing a period of national mourning. So the opening date was becoming increasingly uncertain. Our plans would therefore have to remain flexible right to the wire.

Our launch activity sought to identify Chaophraya’s points of difference – the restaurant’s authentic Thai interior and offering became central to our plans, which saw Karol include a piece of gold leaf in every invitation to the opening, so guests could decorate one of the UK’s largest Buddha’s in a traditional Thai ritual. Hosted by TLG’s Managing Director, the gold leaf ceremony provided guests with a chance to meet the senior team and created an intriguing story angle to help the launch stand out beyond its food and drink offering.

As well as inviting media and lifestyle bloggers to an exclusive launch party, individual restaurant visits were arranged for the region’s top food bloggers, resulting in all important reviews. Beyond the media we also needed to ensure Chaophraya became the destination of choice for the all-important business audience, so we invited key regional figures to a VIP lunch and dinner ahead of the official launch event.

We also organised for Chaophraya senior staff to introduce the restaurant at regional networking events, such as the NE1 business breakfast and the Entrepreneurs Forum.

Combined, our launch events reached over 200 regional businesses and media influencers and achieved over 30 pieces of coverage in the region, with a combined reach of over 1 million. The restaurant was fully booked for two months after opening.