Taco Tuesdays? Tried that already. Early bird specials? Too old-school. A flyer on nearby car windshields? Not bad, but it doesn’t have that special something that really sets you apart.
Sure, tried-and-true promotions exist for a reason, but if you really want to get customers excited about your establishment, you’re going to have to pump some fresh blood into your restaurant promotion efforts.
Modern restaurants are leveraging technology, social media, and customer curiosity to create some truly offbeat promotions that have earned them plenty of retweets and follows. Some of these stunts are so eye-popping crazy that they’ve even managed to catch the attention of national news networks. You can’t pay for PR like that! Here are four truly outstanding restaurant promotion ideas that are pushing the boundaries of traditional restaurant marketing.
Nab Some Viral Attention
It pays to stay on top of your social media mentions! Morton’s Steakhouse did and earned themselves national news coverage with a well-timed viral restaurant promotion. When blogger and Geek Factory CEO Peter Shankman jokingly tweeted to Morton’s, asking them to meet him at the airport gates with a porterhouse, he wasn’t expecting more than a handful of retweets and replies.
Instead, he had his fondest wish answered: a tuxedoed delivery man waiting with a full dinner. Shankman got his steak, but Morton’s got the press: the event was live tweeted and broadcast to thousands of Twitter followers and blog readers.
The stunt paid off precisely because it was so unexpected and so over-the-top — after all, restaurants don’t usually offer that kind of wish fulfillment. You can always scan social media for unique opportunities to design a one-of-a-kind viral restaurant promotion, and you might just land some invaluable media coverage!
Plan a Creative Challenge
Everyone likes to test their limits every once in a while. The Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo, for instance, manages to fill their Texas-sized dining hall seven days a week with their 72-ounce steak contest.
The deal is simple: finish a plate that includes a dish of shrimp cocktail, baked potato, side salad, buttered roll—and of course 72-ounce steak—all in one hour, and you get the whole thing for free, and your name added to the Challenge Hall of Fame. Dozens of people try and fail daily, to the tune of $72 per meal!
The wide notoriety of the challenge has earned the restaurant tons of press: they’re regularly featured in the news when a new record is set (like in 2015, when one woman managed to eat three steak dinners in 20 minutes flat!), and they were even featured on The Travel Channel’s Man v. Food.
Take a cue from their success and challenge your patrons to eat a whole pizza or steel their taste buds against a super spicy hot sauce — after all, eating out should be an experience!
Host a Posh Dinner or One-of-a-Kind Release
You don’t need a gimmick to promote your restaurant, of course. A new menu item, an exclusive beer, or a new spin on a favorite cocktail are all reasons to celebrate. Plan a special event where your excellent service, delicious food, and welcoming ambiance are the guests of honor.
Or choose a pop culture phenom and build a special menu around it. Gastro Park in Sydney managed this expertly when they designed a multi-course Game of Thrones-themed meal featuring a bleeding stag (venison dripping with a bonito-soy-ginger dressing), a soup of crushed skulls (a garlic potato galette with piquillo pepper fritters), and a gigantic cake designed to look like the Iron Throne itself.
This is the perfect chance for cooks to stretch themselves and try their hand at that one new recipe they’ve been itching to try, which is great for morale around the kitchen. And who knows? A successful creation may even turn into a regular feature on the weekly menu.
Ask Your Followers to Share Their Creativity
Out of restaurant promotion ideas? Why not crowdsource them? You probably have plenty of talented creatives among your followers, many of them itching for a new project to sink their teeth into.
Request a funny name for your new burger special or even a new menu item customers would like to see. Or just ask to see your follower’s best Halloween costumes or tell them to share a glamorous selfie of themselves at your restaurant — and offer a gift card or other incentive for the winner.
A golden example of this comes from Taco Bell. When the chain wanted to promote their new beefy crunch burrito, they asked followers to prove their obsession for the spicy, cheesy fast food. One customer went so far as to tattoo the Taco Bell slogan on his arm!
We’re not saying these restaurant promotion ideas will earn you a lifelong human billboard, but hey, it can’t hurt to try, right?