The Best Marketing Contest Ideas for Restaurants

By Raubi Perilli

      Nov 25, 2020     Solutions    

If you’re struggling to attract new and existing customers, you may want to start thinking about marketing contest ideas for restaurants. You can use contests to quickly engage customers who have never visited (or never heard of) your brand and re-engage past customers who haven’t visited in a few weeks or months.  

Let’s look at why contests are a good marketing tool and how you can use restaurant marketing contest ideas to drive more customers to your business.

The Benefits of Marketing Contests for Restaurants

With the right strategy, contest marketing can work for your brand by reaching customers at all stages of the purchase funnel. Here are a few benefits of using marketing contests for restaurants.

  • Build Brand Awareness: Put your brand in front of new audiences by showcasing content that is fun and engaging.
  • Generate Leads: Encourage both new and existing audiences to form a connection with your brand by sharing their email address or phone number.
  • Drive Immediate In-store Visits: Offer incentives that give interested audiences a reason to visit your restaurant in the near future.
  • Increase Organic Social Media Visibility: When winners share their experience online, it boosts your organic social visibility and puts your brand in front of new audiences.
  • Drive Future In-store Visits: By collecting leads, you create remarketing opportunities that can drive customers into your restaurant at a later date.

Related: 6 Ways to Bring More Customers Into Your Restaurant

The Best Marketing Contest Idea for Restaurants

While there are a variety of marketing contest ideas for restaurants, at MyArea Network, we’ve found one type of contest that works best. This type of social media contest builds brand awareness, increases engagement, and generates revenue.  

Here's the process.

#1) Select a grand prize that is redeemable at your location and will be awarded to one winner. It’s key that the prize be tied to your location. This ensures that the people participating in the contest have an interest in your brand, and it means that winners will visit your location.  

We recommend offering a large prize (such as a free $200 dinner for four or a happy hour party for six). The better the prize, the more entries you can expect to receive.  

#2) Select a secondary prize that is redeemable at your location and will be awarded to every participant. One of the best marketing contest ideas for restaurants includes a grand prize and secondary prizes. By giving a secondary prize to everyone who participates (and doesn’t win the grand prize), you increase engagement (more people will enter), and you give every person who joins a reason to try your restaurant.  

We recommended offering something like a 20% off or $20 discount coupon as the prize gives participants an incentive for visiting your location.  

#3) Create a basic landing page to collect contest entries. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to enter your contest. Create a simple landing page that explains the details of the contest and invites the user to enter either their phone number or email address to enter.  

We recommend only asking for a name and either a phone number or email address. The less information you require, the more likely people will be to enter. Later, you can use this information for text marketing or email marketing campaigns. 

#4) Drive traffic to contest landing page through targeted social media ads. People need to see your contest to enter it. Don’t rely on posting it through your organic social media channels, and don’t share it through your email or text marketing list. Those audiences are already familiar with your brand. The idea is to generate new interest in your business. So you want to target new audiences who aren’t already following you or on your list.

We recommend creating a buyer persona and then using hyper-targeting features on Facebook and Instagram to promote the contest to the people who are most likely to be interested in your restaurant. Also, use geo-targeting to reach nearby customers who are most likely to visit.  

#5) Encourage winners to share their experience on social media. When you reach out to the winners (via email or text, depending on how people signed up for the contest), include a call-to-action to encourage them to share their experience on social media. Ask both grand prize and secondary winners to post a photo when they visit your restaurant or check-in to put your brand in front of their friends and followers.  

We recommend training your on-site team to remind customers to share their experience when they redeem their prize in the restaurant. The more times you can nudge participants to share their experience, the more likely they will be to share their win -- and help you promote your brand.

Results of This Restaurant Contest Marketing Idea

Here are a few examples of how our partners have used this marketing contest idea for restaurants.

Local Winery/Brewery: With a small investment of $300, a local winery and brewery ran a contest with a grand prize for two bottles of wine. They gave every entrant a coupon for 20% off their order. It drove:

  • 360 New Leads
  • 70 New Restaurant Visits

Beachside Bar: A beachside bar invested $600 in a contest that awarded a grand prize award of a happy hour party for six. They also gave a coupon for a free drink to everyone who signed up. The promotion drove:  

  • 398 New Leads
  • 102 New Restaurant Visits

Steakhouse: A high-end steakhouse invested $300 to promote their contest that awarded one dinner-for-two grand prize. They gave a 25% off coupon to all entrants. It led to:  

  • 545 New Leads
  • 27 New Restaurant Visits

Other Marketing Contests Ideas for Restaurants

The reason this type of restaurant marketing idea is so powerful is that it combines many types of marketing contest ideas for restaurants. You may have seen other contest marketing ideas such as:  

  • Giving prizes to guests who check-in or tag your restaurant on social media.
  • Choose winners out of a group of people who tag their friends on your social posts.
  • Asking guests to drop a business card and drawing a winner.

The example presented above pulls together the benefits of each of these ideas, and it is easier to run. You can create a simple process for collecting information from entrants, selecting a winner, and monitoring the results of prize redemptions.

Related: 10 Restaurant Promotion Ideas That Attract Customers and Drive Sales

Launch a Restaurant Marketing Contest with mySuite

If you are brainstorming marketing contest ideas for restaurants, don’t start at the top of a list and work your way down to see what works.

Instead, use our proven method to drive results with restaurant contest marketing. Sign up for mySuite to access local marketing tools that enable you to set up a contest of your own.

Access to the platform is free, and our team can help you launch a campaign that builds brand awareness, generates leads, and brings in real revenue for your restaurant.