Five PR Ideas You Can Implement in Your Restaurant This Year

It’s a new year, and if you own or run a restaurant, the best way to start 2020 off on the right foot is to begin thinking of how you can get more traffic in the door. 

There are countless ways to attract customers through creative PR and marketing — so much so that it can be overwhelming. Some PR ideas can be complex, which means taking valuable time away from running the restaurant, but here we’ve outlined five PR ideas restaurant owners and managers can implement in their restaurant this year that will generate attention for your business, while allowing them to stay focused on the day-to-day.

Idea #1: Host a Charity Event

Restaurants can help local non-profits get a head start on their 2020 fundraising campaigns by hosting what’s commonly known as a “give-back night.” Charities are always looking for ways — big and small — to bring in more donations and a give-back night is an effective way to generate additional money. Restaurant owners or managers can contact a local charity to coordinate a day where the restaurant will donate a percentage of sales to the organization, then both can work together to promote the event within their networks. If marketed effectively, the charity event will help the non-profit raise money and awareness for its cause and help the restaurant drive traffic and goodwill in the community.

Restaurants can also consider hosting a canned food drive or winter coat drive. We often see these types of events during the holidays, but then donations drop off. Restaurants can provide ongoing support to their local food banks and homeless shelters by soliciting donations from customers year-round to ensure a steady supply of items the community needs the most.

Idea #2: Create a Unique Promotion Tied to Local News 

Washington, D.C., restaurants hit the jackpot over the last few years with multiple opportunities to drive traffic thanks to big, national news events happening in the city — including the James Comey hearing in 2017, Stanley Cup playoffs in 2018, and the World Series in 2019. For each event, local restaurants created special promotions they knew would generate buzz in the community and, ultimately, get people in the door.

Shaw’s Tavern, for example, knew its customer base well enough that the restaurant opened early to allow them to watch the Comey hearing on the big screens and offered specially priced drinks and an “FBI Breakfast” featuring French toast, bacon, and ice cream.

Another example, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken created a special Nats World Series donut — a vanilla donut with raspberry glaze, curly W white chocolate design, and topped with, you guessed it, a baby shark.

Paying close attention to national holidays, sporting events, local news, and other buzzworthy community happenings can help restaurant owners and managers create promotions that help them stand out in a crowded space.

Idea #3: Help a Local Couple Pop the Question

In 2016, a Dunkin’ restaurant in South Florida created a contest to help one lucky customer pop the question to their significant other. The prize included a $3,000 voucher for an engagement ring, the restaurant’s help in planning the surprise, and, of course, congratulatory donuts. Over 300 customers entered the contest and the proposal was covered by several local media outlets.

Everyone loves a heartwarming story, so helping a local couple pop the question can be great content for traditional and social media. The average wedding now costs nearly $34,000, according to The Knot, so restaurants can partner with a local jeweler, wedding venue, caterer, photographer, or other vendor to offer the couple free or discounted services to help sweeten the moment.

Idea #4: Celebrate the Restaurant’s Anniversary with a Customer Appreciation Day

Restaurants can build goodwill with their customers — and get PR love in the process — by hosting a special day to thank them for being loyal patrons for so many years. Restaurant owners and managers should consider what will resonate with their customers and get them excited about a customer appreciation day.

If the restaurant has a lively bar crowd, offering an extended happy hour or discounted shots could draw customers. If the restaurant’s desserts are all the rage, consider a special promotion that includes a free dessert with the purchase of an entrée.

Idea #5: Surprise and Delight by Covering a Customer’s Meal

Nothing generates a more positive reaction than being surprised with something free when you were ready and willing to pay for it. Restaurants often comp meals when something has gone wrong, but it’s not often that a customer gets a free meal just for being a customer.

Consider selecting one customer or party at random every hour, or possibly one a day for a few days, and surprise them with $0 check — no strings attached. Chances are, the guest(s) will share their experience on social media, tell their friends, and visit again.