The pandemic hit the restaurant industry hard, but with the news that vaccines are on the horizon, we know better days are ahead. Whether your restaurant is operating under restrictions now or waiting to turn the corner in the coming months, now is a good time to think about what you can do in the meantime to keep customers engaged and coming back.
Here’s something to consider: a splashy event that showcases art. We know … “event” in this day and age can seem out of the question but that’s not necessarily true. The recent Titan Walls mural festival in Chicago demonstrated how an art-focused event can create buzz that attracts new and returning customers, gives guests the perfect selfie backdrop and pays it forward with fundraisers benefiting the community.
This year’s version of the annual Titan Walls mural festival was scaled down due to the pandemic, and the trendy spots where the festival opened and closed — District Brew Yards and Recess in Chicago — made sure guests were socially distanced and safe. But attendance was strong, as were beverage and merch sales that raised funds for a local nonprofit.
Restaurants that participate in an event like a local mural festival or create their own occasion by commissioning a mural in their space (indoor or outdoor) can generate a similar sense of excitement that welcomes locals and tourists alike. It’s a great way to build anticipation, bring in new and returning business and get a one-of-a-kind marketing asset at the same time.
For Titan Walls 2020, participating restaurants created an anticipatory buzz using social media and print flyers to draw people in. Instagram stories and posts in the feed teased the events. The result? Socially distanced lines of people out the door, all excited about safely sharing food and beverages with their friends while watching artists work their magic.
The mural art created at the restaurants reflects the vibe of those locations and the character of the surrounding neighborhoods. But the great thing about mural art is that the possibilities are endless. A mural can be fun, elegant, thoughtful, historical or anything in between. The style and the story the work of art tells are up to the restaurant owners’ preferences and the artists’ vision.
Besides the marketing power of the build-up and the art installation itself, having a mural in place permanently creates an amazing backdrop that customers can engage with every time they visit. The restaurant can use it for marketing purposes going forward, the way District Brew Yards has used their murals as the background for food shots and outreach across channels.
Customers also get in on the act, taking selfies and posting photos of their dogs with an outdoor mural in the background on social media. It’s a powerful form of organic marketing. We all know a friend’s recommendation is more influential than the most polished marketing campaign, so customer-generated content is an incredibly valuable gift that keeps on giving.
The Titan Walls experience demonstrates what’s possible when restaurant owners think big and pursue a bold vision. Art is a focal point restaurants can use to start moving past (or through) the pandemic and regain a sense of normality. It attracts people — before, during and after the work is done. So, if you’re looking for a way to let customers know you’re back, think big. Think bold. Think art.