Opening up a restaurant is a costly, time-consuming process. For months – or even years – you have toiled over a menu, branding ideas, a business plan, and legal requirements. Now the big day is here: you’re opening your restaurant to the public. How can you make sure that it’s a success?
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when launching your new restaurant. For example, if you’re located in an area surrounded by office buildings and hope to cater to a lunch crowd, you may choose to do a mid-day opening instead of an evening one.
We know how hard it can be to figure out how to draw in a crowd for your restaurant opening. That’s why we’ve come up with a range of ideas to meet your specific needs and your budget.
Consider Partnering with a Charity
There is a reason why so many businesses team up with charities. Not only does it benefit a good cause, but it also boosts their bottom line. According to the 2018 Cox Business Consumer Pulse on Small Business survey, 71% of consumers will spend more money at a business if it supports a charity.
For your grand opening, think about what causes are important to you. Try to choose an organization that operates in your community – after all, most of your customers will likely come from this area. You will then be able to market your opening using the story of why this particular charity matters to you, and in your region.
Once you have chosen a charity, come up with a promotion idea, like donating a certain percentage of all sales for the month to the organization. Reach out to them to get their buy in, and then start promoting!
Invite Social Media Influencers
For better or for worse, using social media influencers has become almost a requirement for businesses in the modern era. When an influencer posts about an item or business on their Instagram or other social media platform, sales often skyrocket. Finding local social media influencers and inviting them to visit your restaurant for its grand opening is a great way to get your name out to potential customers.
You don’t have to limit yourself to people who are influential online, though. Think about people who are well known in your community, like the coach of a sports team, politicians, or even a newscaster. You may want to avoid people who may be polarizing figures in your community, like an unpopular mayor. For everyone else, send out a personalized invitation and watch your crowd grow.
There are few things that people like more than getting something for free. Studies show that when businesses give something away for free, their customers are more likely to spend money there – and to become repeat customers. That is why it is a smart idea to offer something free as part of your restaurant grand opening.
You can do this in any number of ways. Perhaps you can offer a drink on the house, swag (like custom cups that they can reuse at home), or complimentary appetizers. Think about what might work best for your restaurant, and what is in your budget, and let people know that when they come to your grand opening, they’ll get a little something extra.
Consider a Bounce Back
In the business world, a “bounce back” is some type of offer that you make to customers that encourages them to return. The idea is simple: once you have clients in the door, you want them to become repeat customers. A bounce back can help you do just that.
You have a lot of options when it comes to bounce back offers. You might choose to offer a coupon for a free appetizer on their next visit, or a certain amount of money off of their bill. When your opening night guests come back later, they’ll be hooked by your great food and outstanding service – and you can build a base of loyal customers.
Reach Out to Local Groups
If your restaurant may appeal to a certain demographic, one of the best ways to get a lot of people at your grand opening is to contact organized groups whose interests match your own. For example, if you are opening up a tapas restaurant, consider calling local colleges, universities, and high schools to invite their Spanish clubs. If you are opening a restaurant that offers deals for first responders, contact local police and fire stations to invite them as well.
Of course, not every restaurant has a theme or cuisine that aligns with the interests of a local group. In this situation, you can still reach out to groups like the Rotary, whose membership typically consists of fellow small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals.
Host More Than One Opening
When we think about grand openings, we usually think about one big event. But you don’t have to limit yourself to just one night. You can put together multiple events to build buzz, work out kinks in your service, and get more people into your restaurant.
Most restaurants do a soft opening before they officially open their doors. You may also choose to host a private reception for other small business owners in your area, for journalists, or even for influencers. Smaller events are often easier to plan, and they can be an invaluable way to get more people to try out your restaurant.
Do a Test Run
A soft opening is the perfect way to ensure that you are ready for prime time. The concept is simple: invite family and friends to come test out your food and service, and ask for their input.
Ask people who you know will be honest with you, and who won’t go online to write a negative review or to discourage others from visiting your restaurant. Take their feedback into consideration, and then tweak your opening plans accordingly.
Offer a Tasting Menu
At upscale restaurants, tasting menus are a way for customers to try a range of the chef’s creations. No matter what type of restaurant you are opening, the tasting menu concept can help get customers excited about your food.
To do a tasting menu, simply offer scaled down versions of your menu items. Rather than a whole pizza, for example, offer miniature pizzas or tiny slices. Doing this allows guests to taste more of your menu – and may allow you to limit the amount that you spend on food for the event.
Send Invitations in the Mail
In 2020, it is much easier and cheaper for most businesses to send things via email, as opposed to old fashioned snail mail. Doing mass mailings can be incredibly expensive – but in certain situations, the cost may be worth it. This is particularly true if you are not mailing out thousands of items.
When you invite people to your restaurant grand opening, sending an invitation via the mail can make recipients feel special. Of course, you should still be advertising in other ways – like on social media or even through an ad in your local newspaper. But for those people who are particularly important to you, or who can help draw a crowd, consider sending them paper invitations.
Build Excitement with Decorations
A few years ago, a new trend emerged on social media: metallic balloons in the shape of numbers, used to celebrate birthdays. Now, letter and number balloons are incredibly popular, along with balloon arches and other beautiful displays, like flower walls.
While a flower wall might not be in your budget, other types of decorations may be. By going bold and setting up your decor before your event (if possible), you can generate excitement in your community. These types of decorations are also a perfect place for your customers to take pictures – which may help to draw a crowd and build your brand after the fact!
Contact Local Media
Local television and newspaper reporters often do stories on things happening in the community. You can help them out with a good story – and get some free advertising – by reaching out directly to the media.
Put together a media kit that includes your men, business hours, business card, and any other important information, then send it to local journalists. You may choose to invite them over for a special tasting menu, or invite them to the grand opening. Either way, working with the media can help you boost turnout for your restaurant’s grand opening.
Get on Social Media
One of the best ways to make sure that your restaurant grand opening fails is to not promote it. By contrast, if you spend time – and perhaps a little bit of money – on marketing, you’ll be able to pull in a crowd.
Start by building up a following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media platforms. You don’t want to start your social media marketing for the first time when you are asking people to come to your grand opening. Post pics of your restaurant as it is being built, sneak peaks of menu items, and then as the opening draws near, promote the event with both regular and sponsored (paid) posts.
The saying “a picture is worth 1,000 words” exists for a reason. Pictures draw us in, and capture our imagination in ways that words rarely do. A photograph is incredibly effective in advertising – which is why you should spend some time and/or money having professional photographs taken of your food and/or space.
Bring in a photographer for a few hours to take pictures of your most Instagrammable dishes. Ask them to take pictures of your location, highlighting your unique decor or features. Then use them in all of your advertising, from social media to print ads to your website.
Market Your Event
In the social media era, it’s easy to assume that doing a few posts on Facebook will be enough to get people to your grand opening. While social media is absolutely necessary to any marketing strategy, it shouldn’t be the only step that you take.
Think about different ways to get the word out about your restaurant grand opening. You could put a banner up outside or set up chalkboards to catch the interest of passers-by. Radio, television and print ads may also be effective, particularly if there is a newspaper, magazine, or show that is popular in your area.
This idea is similar to partnering with a charity, but with a twist. Getting ready to open up a restaurant can be a hectic time. But if you are able to do so, try to devote some time to getting involved in local events in your community. You may decide to sponsor a dinner at the local homeless shelter, donate gift cards for a charity event, or have your team participate in a walk or run.
Taking these little steps can be an important way to build goodwill. Remember that your business will thrive when your community knows its name, and you have a good relationship with people in the community. Doing things like showing up for community events can help you meet this goal.
Boost Your Web Presence
If you are opening a restaurant in 2020, you will absolutely need to have an online presence. For most restaurants, this should include a website that has your menu, hours of operations, and information about you. But having a website alone isn’t enough – you should also make sure that you have a presence on social media and various online directories.
In particular, make sure that you take the time to create a Google My Business listing. Doing this ensures that a free listing will pop up whenever someone searches for your restaurant, along with photos, a phone number, and how to locate your business. You can even add an event post for your restaurant grand opening to make sure that customers are aware of the event.
Invite Your Vendors and Builders
When you first begin your journey to becoming a restaurant owner, you start making contact with all of the people who will ultimately help you make it a success. You will be working closely with an array of people: supply and food vendors, builders and contractors, attorneys and accountants. When planning your grand opening, make sure to invite all of these people – and anyone else who helped to make your dream a reality.
This type of invitation serves two purposes. First, it’s a way to express your appreciation for all that they have done for you. Second, they live in your community, and they could become your best customers.
People love getting something for free – and they really love winning. You may have already gotten people into the door by offering free drinks or appetizers. Now it’s time to up the ante by doing a giveaway.
Think about what fits into your budget, and how you can raffle it off. Perhaps you can offer a dinner for two at your restaurant when it is closed to other diners, or a gift card for a certain amount. Promote it along with the grand opening, and you will likely draw quite a crowd.
Go Old School
The internet is one of the best tools out there to advertise your grand opening. But in order to get people to your grand opening, you’ll have to use a variety of methods – including things that may seem old-fashioned, like mailers and flyers.
Sending out mass mailers to people in your community can be costly – but it is also effective when done right. Similarly, if your restaurant is in a high traffic area, have a bunch of flyers printed out, and hand them out to people. You can also ask businesses in the area to post the flyers in their stores.
Try a Stunt
If you really want to draw a crowd, think about doing something unexpected that could get people to take notice of you and your business. There are a number of ways to do this, such as handing out raffle tickets at a sporting event, and then delivering food or gift certificates to the winners. You could also offer something special for teachers, first responders, or other heroes in your community.
The goal of your stunt should be to gain publicity, and to get people excited about your restaurant. That way, when you announce your grand opening, you will have no problem filling up your space with potential customers.
Hire Live Entertainment
If you have the space and budget for it, one of the best ways to get people to come to your restaurant grand opening is to hire live entertainment. By bringing in a popular local band, for example, you can draw in their fans – and perhaps turn them into customers as well.
Of course, by the time that you have paid for supplies, and covered all of the expenses associated with a grand opening, you may not have much money left over for a band. Look around for a group that is trying to gain traction, and see if they’ll play your event for a cost that works for your budget.
Want Help Building Your Business? Reach Out Today.
Running a restaurant is hard work. Not only do you have to worry about food and staffing, but you also have to figure out how to draw customers into your place of business. We’re here to help. Our custom branded products can get your brand in front of thousands of new potential customers so that you can exponentially increase your revenue.
At Budget Branders, we understand that most small businesses can’t afford to order custom disposables by the millions. That’s why we offer branded cups, bowls, bags, and more in quantities and at prices that are doable for small to medium sized businesses. If you’d like to learn more or to request a quote, contact us today by pressing the live chat button, calling 888-373-4880, or sending us a message online.