20 Hours with a Restaurant Publicist

Portrait of Dusty Lockhart

Courtesy of Dusty Lockhart

Dusty Lockhart has 12 clients, four kids, a chef-husband, an au pair and Brittany Garrison, whom she chugs Pellegrino with when not hosting journalists to 3,000-calorie lunches. In public relations for over 10 years, Ashburn-based Lockhart, 33, represents the hospitality industry’s biggest party this month, the RAMMY awards. Here are the details of her day, by text. 

(Texts by iPhone5)

By Stefanie Gans

6:30 a.m. The baby is awake and hungry. Went to pick her up and realized my 4-year-old is sleeping on top of my feet and my 6-year-old is asleep on my floor. Wondering why I bothered buying them new beds.


7:00 a.m. Whoa, fell back asleep. Annnnnd now we’ll be late for school. Rush/feeding a breakfast of bread, Nutella and bananas. Eating in the car. #parentingfail

7:30 a.m. Dropped kid #2 off at elementary school. Dropped kid #1 off at middle school. Back home to feed the baby and read littlest boy a story. 

7:45 a.m. CRAP. Realized I left lunches in the fridge. Drive back to school #1 and school #2. The inbox I’m not tending to is eating a hole in my head. 

8 a.m.  Got an email from a journalist whom needs a photo in 1 hour. Trying to figure out how to get a restaurant that does not open for another 5 hours to get me a photo.

8:22 a.m. Booked two clients for a radio show out of New York, one for a new opening, one to talk about their new sommelier. Pitched a couple local publications on a new burger lunch menu in Bethesda and booked a TV segment for a new house made hot dog & champagne pairing menu.


Trummer's (Courtesy of Dusty Lockhart)

9:11 a.m. Key in the life of a restaurant publicist: having outfit shoes AND good-for-walking-in-a slippery-kitchen shoes. 

9:40 a.m. En route to Trummer’s on Main in Clifton. I listen to audio books & country music. Right now: “Unbroken.” 

On today’s agenda: Recapping the announcement of their fantastic new sommelier, Diana Roderique, going through wine appreciation month promotions, and discussing the details of the upcoming pop up burger bar. 

10:40 a.m. REALLY want the Notorious P.I.G Burger (pork, pork sausage, poblano pepper, bacon & pepper jack cheese). Set a date for the media tasting. Thinking about what pants one wears when tasting 8 different burgers.

11:17 a.m. Heading to Alexandria for meeting with Trademark Eat + Drink.

Still haven’t eaten. Had a bottle of Pellegrino during meeting. Pellegrino is Brittany [Garrison, senior public relations associate] & my breakfast of champions. We eat 3,000 calorie lunches and even bigger dinners. Breakfast is surplus. ;)

Called my Nana & Papa in Orlando to say hi. As always, my papa yelled at me for talking in the car. Had to cancel a quick trip to Florida to visit them this weekend. Soon-to-open restaurant pushed up friend & family services.

12:46 p.m. At BLT Steak for a meeting with a journalist new to covering the food scene. Willing myself to exhibit self-control and NOT eat the entire popover. 

1:25 p.m. Did NOT have aforementioned self control. Downed popover.

Excusing myself from lunch for a min. Just got a call from a soon-to-open restaurant. The opening has been pushed back by a week. Must call 3 journalists scheduled to release articles.

2:08 p.m. Taking a couple minutes to plan out promos for the new barrel aged cocktail program at BLT Steak. 

About to leave lunch to meet-up with Chef Jakob Esko, the chef at the The Grill Room & The Rye Bar inside the seriously stunning new Capella Georgetown hotel. 

3:42 p.m. Finished press release on the hand-harvested ice program at The Rye Bar. To write a press release we first gather information from the restaurant owner or chef. We write the initial draft. We usually go through couple rounds of revisions.

Sometimes we will get a restaurant that wants great stories on their half-price wine night. Unfortunately half-price wine night is not a story and I would feel silly even pitching that to a journalist. I can however work with the restaurant to create a promotion which shares the same message AND provides a story opportunity. 

Baked and Wired oatmeal pie

Baked and Wired (Courtesy of Dusty Lockhart)

4:33 p.m. Shacking up at Baked & Wired in Georgetown with a Bertha (two chewy oatmeal cookies with a buttercream vanilla icing in between) and a laptop.

They just cut out their Internet recently, thank goodness for mobile hotspot on our phones!!

I do not drink coffee and try to stay away from caffeine.

I never liked sparkling water until I started working in food PR. I was pregnant and nauseous all the time. I would drink the bubbly water to help calm my stomach, and now it’s all that I drink.

4:45 p.m. Since the last time I set the computer, I have received 182 emails…such as the baseball coaching schedule. I coach my son’s baseball team, and have coached for five years. 

5:05 p.m. I probably pay for 40% of the meals I eat in a week on my own. Unfortunately I don’t get to write off every meal. Being that I have four children, I doubt the IRS would appreciate me writing off meals in Disney World.

“Off days” are all salad & coconut water. 

5:30 p.m. FaceTime with the kids. I have no shame in making baby faces in public.

6:18 p.m. Tonight we are hosting 4 journalists to a pre-opening dinner at The Grill Room. We always arrive an hour ahead of time to sit with the team…go through the menu. The more we learn about how the chef cooks, the more story opportunities we can present to journalists.

We work with the restaurant to determine the menu. By really knowing the restaurant market, we’re better able to understand where our clients dishes fall into the competitive set. We make suggestions, the restaurant makes the final decision.

6:45 p.m. Journalists have started arriving. Prepped our host on who is coming and what they are like.

6:47 p.m. Kids text and call nonstop from 4 on. Asking about carpools and playdates, can they play video games (no, only on weekends) and do they REALLY have to do homework (yes).

Courtesy of Dusty Lockhart

6:50 p.m. Just received a call, 10 minutes till start time, that one of the attendees is not showing up. Honestly, so irritating. The chef literally has been preparing for two days. When a writer doesn’t show up, the restaurant eats a substantial cost, and the pr firm looks bad. [It happens] one out of every two dinners. We can usually predict which events will have more people that end up “sick that night.” If the event [is at a] a new restaurant or a very expensive restaurant attendees are very rarely “sick.”

We also really have to remind the restaurant that we are not bringing journalists to pitch a story tonight. We are bringing them in to make them aware of the experience and to have a good time.

9:45 p.m. Dinner time convo: confessing restaurants we’ve not yet been to. Mine—Komi. 

10:24 p.m. We’re all still sitting around talking and eating rye whiskey salted caramels. We’re giving him [chef] suggestions on must-hit restaurants. The consensus: Mintwood Place, Table, Estadio, Graffiato.

11:11 p.m.  Everyone has left. Sitting around the kitchen chatting about the meal. Hits & misses. This meal was 5 courses. It’s the meals that go past 8 courses that put you in a food coma and leave you still sick the next day. The miss was sauce paired with the fish. It will be changed. 

Other table topics: [Washington Post Food Editor] Joe Yonan’s vegetarian reveal. There were a couple people at the table who still regularly eat meat with every meal and didn’t understand it. Personally, I reduced meat consumption to 1-2 times per week a couple years ago and completely understand how making that known when working in the restaurant industry is so taboo. Awesome that he came forward.

On the drive home I call my mom & sister. They live in Cali and the time difference makes it perfect. 

12:13 a.m.  Home! Soda water in hand, DVR’ed copies of Jeopardy and the computer open. Have another 94 emails.

12:34 a.m. We work in an industry where deadlines are extremely sensitive. I have 4 publications needing info by tomorrow that I still don’t have together. 

12:45 a.m. On my couch. Hate trying to sit at a desk in the dark.

Courtesy of Dusty Lockhart

And now I have a little visitor snuggling on my arm. We just got back from California and my 4-year-old is having trouble sleeping.

Wrote 2 pitches. Delayed send until morning so journos would not think I’m cray.

1:28 a.m. Reviewed guest list…Finished press release…Sent to client. With a delay to 6:15am. 

2:25 a.m. Ok, going to sleep. SO much left unanswered…I’m fading.

Ah crap. Forgot I had clothes in the washer. . . Must go put them in the dryer. THEN I’ll get in my bed, hang halfway over the side because there are kids in it, and snuggle.

3:06 a.m. Good night! :)


 Slightly edited for style and readability. Darn auto-correct.


(June 2013)

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2 Responses

Nana and Papa Says:

Wow…..Dusty!! What a day!! We got ‘conked out’ by 6:18 p.m. Your life is replete with: Will, Dedication, Determination, Stick-to-it-tiveness, Energy, stamina, et al!!! We can see only one consolation; i.e., nobody’s shooting at you!! WOW! Get some rest, pretty lady! We love you! Nana and Papa

Macie Anderson Says:

Dang I’m exhausted and need a nap just READING that =0 xo

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