What You Can Learn from Three Weird, but Successful Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Quite often the large corporate restaurant chains play it safe and stick to the straight and narrow. Every now and then though, a brainstorm will turn into a tornado and everything goes a little crazy. We take a tongue-in-cheek look at three weird restaurant marketing ideas that actually worked. Of course if you’re brave enough, you can try them, too.

KFC – Go All in on Your Brand

In 2017, KFC brought out a bunch of promotional items that would normally have nothing to do with chicken. Clothing, chocolate truffles, even sunscreen. Except in this case, they went all out and made it all about the chicken.

Yes, a chicken themed clothing line that sold out, chicken-flavored chocolate truffles for Mother’s Day, and wait for it, chicken scented sunscreen.

On the surface of course, this is a ridiculous restaurant marketing idea, but there is a lesson to be had. Restaurant marketing agency Placepull actually called it “equal parts crazy and brilliant.” Why? Because this is a real demonstration of going all in on your brand and embracing everything about it. If you’re a ribs restaurant, print your menu on your napkins. If you serve seafood, make the kitchen windows submarine portholes.

Identify what is core to your brand and exploit it to a ridiculous degree. In today’s competitive market, having something go ‘viral’ is the holy grail of marketing, and it leads to an explosion of customers through your doors.

Shake Shack – Create an Emotional Connection

This one takes ‘doggie bag’ back to its roots. Burger chain Shake Shack has a special menu just for dogs, right alongside their human food menu. The “Pooch-ini” is ice cream and dog biscuits, and the “Bag O’ Bones” is a bag of those dog biscuits.

Weird? Yes. Successful? Abso-woofing-lutely. Shake Shack understands the deep bond customers have with their pets and uses it cleverly. The customer gets the warm and fuzzies by getting their pooch a treat, and this is proven to carry over into effective restaurant marketing.

Social Media Today tells us that brands that connect on an emotional level receive 200 percent more word of mouth marketing from their customers.

You don’t even need to have special dog treats, just create your own doggie bag, ask the customer’s dog’s name and write it on the bag. It’s a sweet surprise that will get tails and tongues wagging about your restaurant which will no doubt lead to more revenue.

Hell Pizza – Be More Interactive with Your Customers

Pizza chain Hell Pizza served up a promotion where customers could order any pizza they wanted, and opt in to their “Pizza Roulette challenge." If they took the dare, one slice of their pizza would be dosed with a chilli sauce they claimed to be as hot as police pepper spray.

Their disclaimer included Hell Pizza taking no responsibility for "loss of mental faculties, emotional damage, eye bulge, and bathroom destruction.”

In terms of restaurant marketing ideas, this is an extreme example of course, but being more interactive with your customers is becoming more and more popular with creative restaurants. You don’t have to burn customers’ tongues either; It can be as simple as having board games on your tables, or letting customers roll a dice to choose their drinks.

RJ Metrics reports that returning customers spend 300 percent more; so giving them a reason to come back that isn’t necessarily food related will give you a competitive edge, and of course, more sales.

Those are three weird, wacky and out-there restaurant marketing ideas that you can actually copy yourself. Think of your brand, how that might appeal to your customers, and get creative. The sky really is the limit, and it’s a much more enjoyable way to put more money in your registers.