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5 Social Media Contests That Bring Traffic To Restaurants

Your restaurant is on Social Media, but are you seeing results?

Waitress Restaurant

You started a Facebook Page, then one of your employees started a Twitter account for your restaurant and just this week that same employee also set up a Google Plus Page. Some of your guests told you they saw your Facebook Page, but you hardly saw an increase in customers this year.

A lot of restaurants are in this position.

They have done a bit here and there, they share a couple posts a week, or maybe even a couple tweets a day, but there is no plan, and no immediate benefit in sight. The Social Media Stars have to be lined up to bring you success, fortunately you can line up those stars.

Contests are the way to bring traffic to your social media channels, bring immediate awareness to the coolness factor of your restaurant and it gives the boost to people to come in now. Contests help your restaurant stand out online, it can increase the awareness and coolness factor of your restaurant, and it creates a reason for people who hear about the contest to interact with your restaurant right now.

So with that we bring you 5 contest ideas that have been or still are very successful for other restaurants.


# 1: Giveaway promoted inside your restaurant.

Inside the Cuban restaurant Havana Central, in Manhattan you can read and hear about their Giveaway Campaign to ‘Win a Free One Hour Open Bar for You and 9 of Your Friends.’ There are three ways contestants can enter the giveaway: 1st by Liking the Facebook page and writing ‘Open Bar’ on their Facebook wall*; 2nd by following the restaurant on Twitter and tweeting ‘@havanacentral Open Bar'; or lastly by signing up for their email list. Promoting a giveaway to your guests on the table, on signage or in the menu, makes most of your guests aware of it – and it helps get a lot of people participating in the campaign. It is great to bring awareness about the existence of your Facebook Page and other marketing channels, so you can be engaged with your guests when they are not in your restaurant.

*Updated: You are not allowed according to Facebook rules and regulations to have anyone enter a contest by writing on the Facebook wall, or liking a page or a post. What you can do is have someone fill out a form on the table in the restaurant as their formal way of entering and ask them as a condition to participate to either write on the wall OR tweet OR sign up for their mailing list. Thanks to Alice for sharing the link where you can read more about what’s allowed when you are doing Facebook contests.

#2: Facebook Vote for Fan of the Week

Let’s Yo Yogurt in Marlboro, NJ holds an ongoing “Let’s YO Fan of the Week” contest on Facebook. Customers take pictures of themselves with their favorite flavor of yogurt and post it to Facebook. People online can vote for their favorite picture. The person who gets the most votes wins a week’s worth of yogurt. Many people share these pictures with their friends, and it creates a viral effect. People will find out about this yoghurt place by seeing their friends post pictures on Facebook. Smart! Another example is Biggby Coffee, a coffee chain in the Midwest has their customers upload pictures from their travels around the world showing the Biggby Cup.

#3: Offer a Groupon deal

While many restaurants have lost money on Groupon deals, others gained new customers from it. But I will not recommend Groupon to just promote anything you offer for a sharp discount. It has to make sense. And for it to make sense, it’s better to come up with a Groupon unique offer that will not hurt your ongoing business. Can you organize a VIP party night with lots of food for a special price, offer a brunch? Or even offer baking classes at night, like New York City’s Butter Lane Cupcakes that offers two-hour class for 12 students at a time. Come up with a creative offering and use Groupon to attract the masses.

#4: Offer a discount for specific people every day

Let’s Yo Yogurt which is featured above, also features the “Let’s YO! Name Fame” game on Facebook. They pick a name every day and customers with the same name receive 50% off on a cup of yogurt. When people with the name of the day come in to get their discounted yogurt, they usually bring non-qualifying customers with them and increase your foot traffic.

#5: Value your customers checkins’ on Location based networks

Foursquare and Gowalla are probably the largest mobile communities that appreciates people checking into a restaurant, and offer them a reason to come back for more. Scvngr is a platform like FourSquare where people can check in and do challenges inside the restaurant that the restaurant owner or other guests have set up.

“Each customer comes in about 2.4 times in two months, that’s more frequent than our other guests who may come in five or six times a year.” – Christopher Mahl, senior vice president of brands at Scvngr. He attributes the increase to mobile users who are checking in or exchanging information using an app that that allows them to “bump” phones.

If you haven’t set your restaurant up on these location based networks, set it up, in most instances your restaurant is already on there, as your customers will take care of that. You can see how many people check in to your restaurant and how often. Offer the person who visits your restaurant most often (The Mayor) – a gift, maybe a free drink or a free appetizer or recognition – this motivates other people to become the mayor and therefore come back often to get that title. The Matador in Fullerton California does that really well, they promote the mayor of their restaurant on large screen TV’s behind the bar.

You can also offer a freebie to people who come in after a number of times, so when they come in for the 5th or 10th time they unlock a freebie. Another great incentive to have people coming back for more.

So, there you have it. 5 contest ideas that will bring in traffic to your restaurant.

It’s not enough to just create an amazing contest, you need to promote it. If people are not aware of your contest, they are not able to participate or spread the word about the contest to their friends and family – the people you are trying to reach. So make sure you promote it and bring awareness to it to your guests and on your marketing channels.

Have you had any success with contests? I love to hear about it in the comments underneath.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
  • http://Symphonysigns.com Meg

    these are great ideas!, I bet everyone who reads this can find one new idea to raise their foot traffic.

    • http://www.brandingpersonality.com marieke

      Thank you Meg! I hope you got some ideas too! :-)

  • http://adamjustice.me/ Adam Justice

    This is some pretty good research. Your articles are above average in every outing. Groupon deals are an expensive offering, I would definitely advise any restaurant to do some research before opting to start any campaign that costs more than a couple hundred dollars.

    • http://www.brandingpersonality.com marieke

      Hi Adam, Thank you for the compliments! You are right, Groupon is definitely not for every restaurant, and you have to be strategic in your approach. There have been too many restaurant owners loosing money on it. :-)

  • http://socialhospitality.com Debbie Miller

    Great tips! The only one that’s somewhat questionable is Groupon – for larger restaurants, it’s great, but for many smaller ones, it seems to be less profitable as it doesn’t typically generate brand loyalty (people will simply use up their deal, then visit the next place for which they have a deal) plus most smaller venues end up losing A LOT of money in process (since they’re already offering a decently-discounted rate, PLUS Groupon then takes 50% of what they sell).

    • http://www.brandingpersonality.com marieke

      Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that Groupon is not a positive recommendation for restaurants in general. That’s why I only like clever solutions, selling something that is not promoted enough yet. For example, if your restaurants starts to open for breakfast now – use Groupon to bring in the crowd specifically for breakfast times/menu items. Groupon can be very effective, but you have to be creative. And don’t give away the store. :-)

  • http://lauraleewalker.com Laura-Lee Walker

    Such helpful takeaways. This post pays homage to the fact that social media practices–and contests–can be applied to a range of industries.

    It’s important to strive to use social media properly because it if used with reckless abandon could hurt a company’s image.

    The goal of many of these contests is to promote your brand by making your message go–and this is one of my favourite words–viral. This post is a treasure of ideas to make this happen.

    After reading this, I am even thinking of opening a restaurant and using these techniques. ;)

    • http://www.brandingpersonality.com marieke

      Thank you Laura-Lee! I am a really good food tester, so let me know when you are opening up and I will stop by! ;-)

      There are still so many restaurants around us that could use some social media love!

  • http://sheersocial.com Alice

    Great post but unless things have changed, Facebook requires the use of 3rd party applications to conduct contest on its platform. Using likes, comments, votes etc on the network are NO LONGER allowed though people do it because they DON’T know and Facebook hasn’t caught them yet. Here’s a GREAT list of what can and can’t be done via Facebook.

    http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/facebook-promotions-what-you-need-to-know/

    You may want to update your blog just to educate restaurant owners/manager on this not-so-new rule.

    • http://www.brandingpersonality.com marieke

      Thank you Alice, you are spot on about the 3rd party applications. I have updated the text in the post to make sure restaurant owners are aware of it, as I have seen it done too many times the wrong way. Thanks for sharing the link. What do you think as far as my new suggestion goes: have people fill out a form on the table to enter the contest and ask them to write on the wall OR tweet OR sign up for the newsletter? Do you think that is a valid option? Or do you think you can’t even make that as a condition to participate. I know there is not full clarity on this rather preferences, I would love to hear what you think. :-)

  • Pavan Bel

    Nice post, you have used facebook many times in the above article. Apart from facebook, there are still lot of social media sites…you could have used any of such like Twitter, Youtube and even i can’t see pinterest which is quite famous for such type of businesses. Thank You

  • Stuart

    Could the name discount be considered discrimination? Let me explain, if you give a discount to only the people with the name Jeff then in a since you are discriminating by gender. Unless there are women with the name Jeff? I like the idea I just don’t want to get sued.