restaurants can teach us about creative advertising  

21 Things Restaurants Can Teach You about Creative Advertising

Advertising Campaigns

The food industry started long before businesses needed permits to operate, and is one quickly gaining a respectable ranking in top commerce worldwide. Competition is fierce and creativity is needed to make advertising worthwhile, so restaurants know all about what marketing works and what doesn’t. Here are 21 things restaurants big and small can teach you about creative and effective advertising.

Be Unique and Sell It

restaurants can teach us about creative advertising - plate designs lemonade

Image from Lemonade

Having a Unique Selling Point (USP) is crucial to just about any business, but is especially true of food franchises and chains. If you can make your brand stand out and come to mind above others, you’re already ahead in the game! If not, it may be time to rethink what you’re known for, and make the changes necessary to become more successful.

Give to Get

Social media can put small and consistent giveaways in front of both loyal and new customers, and make them come back for more. But don’t just throw up a lottery style drawing, make it fun! Request photos with a certain dish or ask customers to come up with a jingle. These type of giveaways will increase follower numbers and engagement, and possibly aid you in future ad campaigns.

Showcase Strengths, Diminish Weaknesses

This is a double dose of brilliance that Blaze Pizza exemplifies. The boisterous nature of their brand brags about their dome oven as well as the eco-friendly packaging and practices every location adheres to. Meanwhile, you hardly ever hear the word “delivery” since they don’t do so. Instead, they welcome guests to dine in with promos and social media invitations.

The Power of FREE

If you want to see a grand opening that is bustling with return customers, spread the word that the food will be free. This is a wonderful way to build a steady client base at a new location and to create social buzz. Again, Blaze Pizza did this as they cut ribbons on several California locations, and the no-cost pies afforded them the new clientele they craved.

Capitalize on Food’s History and Safety of Products

Traditional preparation or quality of food is nearly as important to the modern consumer as safety of it. The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company exploited this concept by being forthright about their water filtration system, which keeps famous flavors and “toxin-free” health benefits within everything they serve.

Master Utilization of the Perfect Catch Phrase

Your slogan is almost as important as your menu or business name, and should reflect the brand you want. Torchy’s “Damn Good” Tacos does this so well. Their little devil mascot and the spicy tendency of their food are reflected and stuck on everything, and they twist it in so many ways in advertising and social media. For example: “Leftover green chile queso for breakfast? We say hell yes!”

Give People what they want in a Way They Don’t Expect

restaurants can teach us about creative advertising - food samples reporternewscom

Image from

Consumer awareness is at its peak in modern times. People want to know where their feast is sourced and how it’s prepared. If it’s cost effective and a new preparation, so much the better. Lemonade LA uses fresh, seasonal ingredients for healthy dieters but puts them together in simple and delicious ways that aren’t traditional. How often have you had spaghetti squash, balsamic, and almonds in a casserole or pickled nopales tossed with jicama and strips of corn tortilla? All the ingredients are familiar, but together they become a sensation.

Create a Convenience Product That Keeps ‘Em Talking

You don’t always have to make a huge splash with a main product to create buzz. One of the biggest topics on The Original Brooklyn Bagel Company’s Twitter feed is the coffee ice cubes that never water down their cold breakfast drinks. This subtle but genius solution to watered down drinks isn’t something they advertise, but customers appreciate it and that appreciation translates to sales.

Let Customers Redo the Menu

Redoing a tired menu doesn’t have to be laborious. Getting customers involved by holding a contest like Wing Zone’s Flavor Face-Off or Izzy’s Ice Cream is a great way to get customers, and those that could be in the future, involved. Not only will they come up with some interesting flavors or dishes to explore, but you’ll also benefit from the list of flavor profiles to shape new offerings.

Create Memorable Merchandise

In addition to leaving a lasting flavor impression on your customers, sell the idea of a memento. Inventive merchandise they can add to their meal or grab on their way out the door to remember the experience will bring in revenue, turn a one-time customer into a loyal one, and create some social buzz too. Red lobster has a summer drink they serve in branded pint jars for the guest to take home. Another great example of this is Lemonade LA’s beautifully crafted local neighborhood plates.

Nearly Free Reaps Benefits

Many promotions prove this, but the best restaurant example was done by both Moe’s Southwest Grill in August 2014 by letting patrons pay what they valued their meal at. In this type of promotion, those customers that pay more even out the deficit of those that spend less and you still get lots of attention from running it.

Utilize Less Than Desirable Ad Space

restaurants can teach us about creative advertising - restroom_stall_adsDo you have long hallways to the bathroom, bare bathroom stalls, or other spaces in your facility that aren’t doing much? Or do you know of another business with these that might consider plastering your ad up? Take advantage! This can either be a place for revenue to advertise local partners or get your name out there and pull in customers.

Tweak a Drink

Zesting up a drink or dish and slapping a new name on it can help sell it, or even add it to the brand of your business. Customers appreciate inspiration or unique experiences, and they’ll order something they’ve never tried before. It can be something as simple as a different fruit juice mixed into lemonade or as complex as a completely different sauce on a new cut of meat.

Hole-in-the-Wall Really is a Style

restaurants can teach us about creative advertising - the-hole-in-the-wall tripadvisorcouk

Image from Tripadvisor

This over-used expression actually does reflect a number of eating establishments. Hole-in-the-wall literally is a restaurant style, meaning places with a tucked away entrance or your favorite place no one knows about where you feel right at home. Some restaurants go to great lengths to establish this atmosphere and the service to match it.

Birthdays Are a Great Opportunity

restaurants can teach us about creative advertising - happybirthdayCakeDid you know that nearly 50% of people will eat out on their birthday? That is a prime chance to reel in customers with specials made just for them! Of all the ways to get their birthday gift deals to them, email works best to organize all those dates and make sure they’re delivered on time. Many bigger chains use birthday promotion programs, including Red Robin, Famous Dave’s BBQ, and Applebee’s.

Taste Tests Score an A

Though it’s a lot of work, volunteering or even paying for a booth or other community event in which you can offer samples of your delicious food will pay off in the long run. Good food makes a lasting impression. Just make sure that after they’ve licked their lips clean, you give them important details like where to find you and other menu items worth coming back for.

Sustain Your Blog

Running a restaurant is hard work and time consuming, but it shouldn’t stop you from utilizing your blog for marketing. Even short posts with chef tips like how to keep food fresh or flavor combinations that they can utilize in their own kitchen can make your business seem friendlier in the minds of customers.

Host a Local Event

If you want your restaurant’s reputation to shine, hosting an event with other restaurants that’s open to the public is a great way to go about it. Don’t worry that the other restaurants will outshine yours; bring your best food and service, and you’ll impress local residents and bring them back for more.

Harness All Holidays

While major holidays are often used to promote specials and increase customer spending, don’t forget about the special little days too. There are hundreds of national and local holidays that can be celebrated, and every single one offers an opportunity to give customers a reason to eat out or eat something special. Chances are they’ll spend more because in their mind they saved a little with the special. Blast your social media with the details and watch the profits grow. This is especially go for days during the week that sales tend to be down. Ihop uses Interneational Pancake Day like another Christmas and reaps the benefits.

Curb to the Kiddos

restaurants can teach us about creative advertising - kids-eat-freeKids eat free is a common practice because it works. What many customers end up doing is spending a little more because they know that they don’t have to pay for their children’s food. They’ll order an extra drink or an appetizer that they normally wouldn’t. This means your bottom line is better than a normal day.

Well Trained Staff Equals Bigger Tickets

It may seem counter intuitive to pay your employees to stay a little longer to train, but that money is well spent when their knowledge and suggestions will convince guests to spend more. If they know the flavors of dishes, how spicy things are, or how a particular dish is prepared they can provide better, and more persuasive, customer service.

Restaurants can offer lots of wisdom on advertising and what works best to market their food and their location to customers that will come again and again. These 21 tips can be used in a multitude of businesses with the same goal: make profit and continue to provide what customers want.


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