When many restaurateurs think of marketing their restaurants, they don't think of events. But events are a form of restaurant marketing—and when executed the right way, they can be very successful. Events can help you attract new customers, inspire repeat visits from past guests, and pack your restaurant on what would otherwise have been a slow night. Some restaurant events can even help boost your bottom line.
If you're looking for restaurant event ideas that can help you delight your guests—and turn a profit in the process—this guide is for you. Read on to learn all about how to throw a successful restaurant event, plus 33 restaurant event ideas to try.
How to Choose the Right Restaurant Event Idea
When choosing what kind of restaurant event to put on, there are a few things you should consider.
Think about the average customer who walks through your restaurant's front door. Are they young, single students from a nearby college? Families with kids? Older people? Is your area affluent, or are guests looking for a good deal when they visit?
Considering these questions can help you choose an event that will be most appealing to your existing customer base. If your restaurant tends to cater mostly to families with kids, speed dating might not be the best event. On the other hand, if you mostly serve young people who don't have families yet, a child-friendly event might not be exciting to them.
Whatever event you choose, it needs to be relevant to get your guests excited. Not only does your event need to be relevant to the guests you serve, but it needs to be relevant to the time at which you have it. For example, a dating event can be great around Valentine's Day. But a tropical party on the patio might not be a hit in cold, winter weather.
Nearly all restaurant events will come with some expenses. In order to set yourself up for success (and ensure an event that can be profitable in the end), you need an event budget.
Figure out all the expenses that will be involved in planning and hosting the event, including food and drink, decor, entertainment, and any other costs involved. Once you know what all the expenses will be, you can figure out how much business your event will need to generate in order to be profitable—and whether that's a realistic goal.
Remember, while it's ideal to profit from a restaurant event, that's not the only measure of success. Events can pay off over time, as they help spread the word about your restaurant and attract new guests.
Tips for Making a Restaurant Event Successful
Before your event, use these tips to set it up for success.
Spread the Word
No one will come to your event if they don't know about it. Advertise it in your restaurant using posters or by adding event information to receipts. Tell diners about it when they come in to eat in the weeks leading up to the event. Advertise it on your website and social media. Take advantage of your mailing and email lists to send out information. You could even consider partnering with a local radio station to run ads. However you can spread the word, do so—the more people you reach, the better.
Have Guests Pre-Pay
If you're worried about your event budget, consider selling tickets ahead of time. This will give you a more accurate idea of how many people plan to come to your event, and whether it will generate enough revenue to offset its costs.
Staff Your Restaurant Correctly
Staffing for an event can be difficult if you don't know how many people will come. But it's important to have your best staff on shift, and that you have enough staff to pull off your event without a hitch.
Engage with Guests After the Event
Once the event is over and all the guests go home, your work isn't done. Right after an event is the best time to engage with guests and entice them to make a repeat visit to your restaurant.
33 Restaurant Event Ideas to Try in 2022
Now that all those tips are out of the way, it's time for the main event: Our 33 best restaurant event ideas. Really, restaurant events are only limited by your imagination. But these 33 restaurant promotion ideas will give you a good starting list to try.
It may seem obvious, but hosting holiday parties is a simple and straightforward way for restaurants to plan a themed event. Host a costume party for Halloween, or an ugly sweater party for Christmas—take advantage of your guests' holiday spirit!
Mother's Day and Father's Day are already common times for restaurants to hold celebrations or use special menus. But consider adding another, similar event for Children's Day, when your restaurant can offer games and activities, plus an expanded kids' menu.
Now that January has come and gone, the time has come for "Resolution Ruiner" parties, where guests are encouraged to eat and drink away whatever New Year's resolutions they made a few weeks ago.
Groundhog Day is a quirky holiday that falls in early February, a time when the holiday season has ended, the weather probably isn't great, and people don't have a whole lot to do. In other words, it's the perfect time for a party.
Valentine's Day is a great time for events, which can be love-themed, or can turn the holiday on its head and host a singles night instead.
March 14 is 3/14, otherwise known as the first two digits of pi. It's also a homophone for "pie," something your restaurant can serve up to celebrate this unique day.
April Fool's Day
Play pranks on your guests or hold a comedy night or "best joke" competition to celebrate this holiday that falls on April 1 each year.
Star Wars Day
Because it sounds like "may the Force," May the 4th has become an annual, unofficial "holiday" for Star Wars fans. What better way for your restaurant to host a themed event? Create a Star Wars meal, play the movies or soundtrack in the restaurant, offer discounts for costumes—there's so much room to get creative with this idea.
If your restaurant offers beer or any German-style food, it's a great opportunity to take part in Oktoberfest celebrations each fall.
Entice hungry shoppers with special deals on the day after Thanksgiving, or create a "Black Friday Hideaway" for those who are avoiding the shopping frenzy altogether.
Beer or wine tasting
Partner with a local winery or brewery to offer tastings of several of their best bottles and brews. To help your restaurant profit off this event, you can offer a special menu of small plates meant to pair with each drink.
Similarly, if you have a bar in your restaurant, you can partner with a local or regional brewery to host a tap takeover. Create a special deal where you offer a few more of their selections than usual, in exchange for their help promoting your restaurant.
Want to experiment with some potential new menu items? Hold a food tasting event where guests get to try new dishes and offer their feedback.
A natural event idea for a restaurant is a cooking class, where guests can order drinks while they learn a signature dish from the chef.
For the foodies in your area, bring in a guest chef from another restaurant or another city to share a special menu. Not only does your restaurant get to build a relationship with another business, but your guests get to try new, delicious food.
Competitive events can be a lot of fun for your guests. Think chef battles or bartender battles. You can even add a humorous element by having a restaurant owner face off against a chef or bartender with more experience.
For a fun event for guests of all ages, plan a "Big Eats" party, where you offer regular menu items or special items in supersizes. You can even offer a prize for guests who are able to finish their extra-large meals.
Family style night
For families and groups of friends, family-style events at restaurants can be a big hit. Simply offer a menu of dishes in large portions so guests can order a few and share them around the table.
Pre-fixe menus are a staple in the fine-dining world. But any restaurant can offer a pre-fixe deal, even if it's only for one night for a special event. Work with your chef to craft a menu with several courses that guests can enjoy as an overall experience.
A fun type of one-off party a restaurant can throw is a theme night for a specific decade. Decorate and play music from the '70s, '80s, or '90s, and ask guests to come in clothing from that era.
Ladies' or guys' night out
Ladies' nights and guys' nights are both popular on their own, especially if your restaurant can offer special deals to celebrate. Another type of promotion to consider is dating nights, when you pack your restaurant with singles so they can get to know one another.
How about a night out just for millennials? Or a seniors-only special dinner? Depending on the demographic your restaurant typically serves, age-specific events can be a fun way to attract new guests.
Arts and crafts
Paint-and-sip nights are already popular events, so why not try a paint-and-sip happy hour, or some other art or craft activity? Serve drinks and appetizers while guests draw or paint with the help of an art instructor.
Murder mystery party
Murder mystery parties fell out of fashion for a few years, but thanks to nostalgic millennials, they're making a comeback. Restaurants can host limited-space murder mysteries with a themed meal included.
Want to turn your restaurant into more of a party atmosphere? Host a dancing night, with the lights dimmed and a DJ ready to provide the music.
If there's a beloved local celebrity in your area, reach out to them and offer to host a meet-and-greet at your restaurant.
Many restaurants offer weekly trivia nights, but it's easy to take this idea a little bit further and offer other kinds of games. Consider a board game night or a casino night with card games.
Karaoke can be tricky, since it requires special equipment. But if your restaurant can pull it off, this is an event that regulars tend to love to return to week after week.
From live music by local musicians, to stand-up comedy, to an open mic night where guests can get on stage and show off their own skills, there are so many options for restaurants looking to add live entertainment for their guests.
Book clubs can be a simple, affordable way to bring a crowd of regulars into your restaurant on a weekly or monthly basis. Consider a themed event, like "Books and Brunch," to make it appealing to as many guests as possible.
VIP access events are for your restaurant's most loyal customers, where you offer sneak peeks of upcoming changes to the restaurant or its menu, or give regulars other special perks, like a free meal or drinks.
As members of their community, restaurants can and should participate in building community and giving back. Charity events are a great way to do so. Offer drinks and appetizers while you host an auction or collect donations for a local organization.
Local team celebrations
If your city has a local sports team, celebrate them at your restaurant! Host viewing parties for games or matches, or after parties where fans can gather after sports events.
Use These Restaurant Event Ideas to Grow Your Business
Hosting events is a tried and proven way to grow your restaurant business—as long as you do so with a careful budget and a solid strategy for ensuring your event will be a success. Happy hosting!