Captivate Local Customers with Low-Cost Restaurant Contests

Find out why contests work and learn how to use restaurant contests to intrigue local customers and get them to visit your restaurant, and come back more often.

Get High Returns on Low Cost Restaurant Contests

When it comes to promoting a restaurant, well-executed restaurant contests can generate new customer traffic, boost the average ticket, fill seats during slower hours, bring patrons back more often and expand your contact database – if you do it right. Find out how to maximize your chances of getting high returns using low-cost contests to promote your restaurant.

Franchise restaurants and independent restaurants looking for new ways to promote a restaurant in their area may consider running a one-time contest or on-going restaurant contests in order to attract new customers or turn occasional customers into loyal, repeat patrons. As you brainstorm the details and customize a contest to highlight the strengths of your restaurant, here are some things to keep in mind.

An article provided some great tips for restaurants who want to use contests to promote their business, including two important psychological factors: “Your fans… evaluate their odds of winning by looking at the incentives provided and effort needed.”  In other words, they have to believe they can win, and they have to want whatever they get when they do.

5 Prize-Wise Tips for Attracting New Customers with Restaurant Contests

1. Prize-Wise, Bigger is Not Always Better

If you haven’t tried using restaurant contests to attract customers because you didn’t have a lot of money to spend on prizes or give-aways, it should encourage you to learn that bigger is not always better when it comes to contest prizes.

In fact, the bigger the prize value, the less likely people believe they are to win. Smaller prizes or running contests or drawings where more than one person will win will lead more people to believe they can win, which means more people will participate in order to try to win.

2. Make it Easy or Hard to Win, Depending on Prize-Size

People expect to have to do something that takes real effort or sacrifice in order to win something big. By contrast, it should be easy to enter or participate in order to win low-cost prizes.

Therefore, if you want lots of people to enter (whether entry occurs via restaurant visits or signing up to follow your restaurant via email or social networks, you should increase the (perceived) probability of winning by offering more prizes.

3. What Your Prize-Implies: Contest Type Impacts Perceived Ability to Win

Contests (where winners are chosen through some kind of subjective evaluation) may also be perceived to be more difficult to win. Be sure that you clearly lay out contest guidelines including how entries will be judged, measured or evaluated, and who will conduct the evaluation, in order to determine who wins. The more equal people perceive their chance of winning to be, the more likely they are to enter.

On the other hand, subjectively-evaluated and awarded contests that require more effort may result in fewer entries. If you are conducting a contest and want to boost its effectiveness, publicize the limited number of entries, so that you incentivize participation by implying better odds of winning among a relatively small pool.

Customers may feel they have a more equal opportunity to win when prizes are awarded via drawing, especially in drawings where any one participant only has one chance to win. Conversely, you can incentivize customer behaviors by providing them with more entries based on how often they visit your restaurant, how much they spend, visiting on slower days of the week or during slower hours, buying certain menu items or engaging in other desired customer behaviors.

4. Prize-Vies: You Win When Contestants Battle It Out

A contest where people enter by voting on line (such as voting for their favorite menu item, the menu item they would most like to see added to your menu, best looking dish or some other preference) can help you swell the number of names in your email and mobile marketing contact lists as well as the numbers of local patrons following your restaurant on social networks.

To maximize short and long term gains with a vote-based contest, set your contest up with an internet gateway which allows you to collect contact information or requires that someone “likes” your Facebook page in order to enter or vote.

5. Don’t Forget to Prize-Publicize

No one wants to run a contest that flops; whatever contests or drawing you ultimately decide to run to promote your restaurant, publicizing your contest in advance, during and afterward is critical for getting the highest return on your investment of time and resources.

If you let people vote in your contest or enter online, be sure that there’s an automatic share or an option for them to share out their participation status on social networks. This is a great way for people to let other local friends, family and co-workers know about the contest or drawing so they can enter (or vote for a specific entry).

When the contest is over, make sure you plan for a photo op and get a quote from the winner/s to use on social networks, in press releases and on your website.

You might also like: 5 Positive Restaurant First Impressions that Will Bring First-Timers Back


Did you know? You can marry your restaurant’s credit card processing POS solution to your loyalty marketing strategies. Following up with new customers with automated and personalized email marketing could turn that first timer into a long time fan. Reach out to us to find out how it works:

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