Creative Restaurant Contest Ideas For Increased Sales, Profits & Brand Recognition


Contests are an effective way to accomplish sales and marketing goals for a restaurant. Contests are largely underestimated. Restaurants must realize that contests have the ability to boost sales, enhance brand building endeavors and also win more advocates for the business. 

Contests can vary based on their nature – they can be as simple as sending a tweet to existing followers or a complex combination of multiple mediums over different platforms (requiring specialty software and services).  

All that a restaurant needs to do is to start conducting contests, giveaways and competitions at some point in time. In this blog, we are going to share with you the importance and benefits of contests (that most restaurants overlook), the requirements to run a contest, identifying the right contest for your restaurant, how to run it and (of course) a few brilliant contest ideas that restaurant customers are sure to love.


Unlike other businesses, the restaurant industry is marked by great competition. To stand out from the crowd and secure the competitive edge, it must put in all kinds of additional efforts. 

To be an expert in restaurant management, a restaurateur must have knowledge of not just kitchen and people management, but also marketing, accounting, finance, human psychology and other related disciplines. Since no one can be a master of all business disciplines, it is important to research the rules and regulations that apply to one’s specific industry and know them to get a grasp of the ways that can differentiate you from others.


Every business has a purpose for running contests – most probably, it is to increase traction, sales and profits. It is extremely important for a people-centric business like restaurants. Without people, no restaurant business can survive. It is to attract and retain these valuable people that restaurant owners can make creative use of contests. Restaurants having an online presence, that is, their own website, can reap greater benefits by running contests as they get an exclusive platform for themselves to run them and attract customers towards their food. 

Earlier, running contests involved managing a lot of logistical problems. Once upon a time, people had to drop their contest entries in drop boxes or send them through mail and wait for long durations to know the results. With technology invading every domain, the Internet introduced a metamorphosis in every process. Internet savvy customers now take part in online contests on social media platforms (especially Facebook and Instagram) by sending images and videos effortlessly as contest entries. A restaurant that has a sizable number of followers on Facebook can easily gain advantage by running online food contests. 

Online contests can be run and completed within a fortnight. In the case of competitions, customers can cast their vote with a single click to determine the winners. When restaurants run already established contests, campaigns and social media projects, it can help them unleash their maximum potential.


Contests run by restaurants are most likely to bring positive results. The risk of not getting a strong response from online contests is very low. 

The advantages of running an effective online food contest are:

  • Even if the contest is not well received, the restaurant ends up with a valuable database containing customer information like birthday, Email, postal address, zip code, etc.
  • Greater customer engagement if the contest involves the participation of customers or their votes for the selection of winners 
  • Customer loyalty is rewarded 
  • Brand recognition is achieved
  • Attracts media and community attention
  • Kickstarts word of mouth marketing

Running a contest is not just a marketing tool, but an industry best practice too. 

Restaurant contest ideas must be introduced for servers, stakeholders and visitors alike to create buzz at a greater level and attract new customers.


Online food contests are a great way for restaurants to achieve new goals. This can be done via a contest management system that drives sales and secures several advocates for the brand. The following are the requirements:

  • Use a professional photographer or a high-end device to produce high quality images.
  • State all the conditions of the contest clearly so that customers read the instructions clearly and are aware that entries that do meet the requirements will be disqualified.
  • The content received from participants must be thoroughly reviewed. If entries are found inappropriate, they must be discarded or disqualified based on the discretion of the judges.
  • The possibility of making duplicate entries is very common in online food contests. So, careful checks must be conducted to avoid duplication.

Every restaurant contest must have certain characteristics to be successful. A restaurateur must take into consideration the following criteria while designing a contest idea.

i) Make Sense In Every Way

The contest idea must connect with the brand and the image that has already been created by the restaurant. The contest idea must make sense for every customer. A restaurant serving seafood and located near a body of water can announce a one-day fishing contest. The person who brings the heaviest fish can be offered the cooked fish at a discounted rate in the restaurant.

ii) Contest Should Not Just Be Fun, But Different Too

Making the contest infectious and fun guarantees word of mouth publicity and unpaid media coverage. Restaurants that announced contests around clicking pictures have always received immense response. This is because cameras are within every layman’s reach. Clicking mind-blowing pictures and also uploading them on the Internet can be done in seconds. The visual appeal created by photographs also engages people who are new to your brand name and offerings.

iii) Awarding Every Participant

Most of the contests will have only one to three winners. But, it is not right to disappoint the others who have taken almost the same effort to participate in a rightful manner. Even a modest consolation prize will let them know your appreciation for every little act of your customers. It could be a small freebie to collect which the customer must walk into the restaurant. They will also be motivated to participate in the forthcoming contests that you conduct.

iv) First Act For Further Marketing

Even if a contest that you run does not receive overwhelming response, you have valuable and authentic customer information in hand. This will help you while you devise and execute further marketing strategies. Following up a contest with other traditional forms of marketing has been found to be extremely fruitful. With data like the customer’s email address, birthday or wedding anniversary, you can send them special promo codes that can be used at your restaurant on those specific dates. A contest must not be conducted and later forgotten. It can also be turned into an annual event that will always make people turn to you during that specific month for specials and offers. All marketing efforts (including the contests) should work in unison to build a unified brand identity for the restaurant.


After deciding on the core concept of the contest and the way it is going to be executed, it must be taken online to reach and engage a wider audience. While transferring the idea online, the branding (design and copy) must be kept consistent. While the landing page for the contest must blend well with the look and feel of the entire restaurant website, the copy and design of the contest announcement must make customers jump at the opportunity and start registering themselves. 

Make sure that the contest landing page has details of all the guidelines, rules, the number of prizes, prize amount or other details and the timeline for submission. Including a Call To Action form at the bottom of the landing page that directs interested people to the entry form will help increase the number of enrolments to a great extent. 

Making both the landing page and the contest entry form gadget compatible is important so that people with various devices enjoy the same user experience while registering themselves for the restaurant contest. 

i) Giveaways

While this is the oldest method of attracting people towards your restaurant, it is also the most tested and reliable method. An old fashioned giveaway is a great promotional tool that can be used to increase the number of followers on social media, to generate more traffic to the restaurant website, to have more members in your loyalty program, etc.

ii) Picture Sharing (Check-In)

When customers walk into the restaurant, they can be told to post their current check-in status on their respective social media pages. This can be mandated as a requirement for enrollment in the contest. Unless the customer is physically present in your premises, it cannot be done. Also, it helps spread positive word-of-mouth across various social media platforms.

iii) Online Polls

People are ready to participate even in boring online polls when they are offered a prize for it. A restaurant can start featuring a new menu every month based purely on the number of online votes that it receives. Out of the people who voted for the ‘most wanted menu of the month’, one person can be selected as the prize winner.

iv) Photo Captioning

The restaurant can post an image clicked at the restaurant, preferably a humorous one, on social media and its website asking people to caption it. The funniest caption can be awarded the prize. This method heightens customer engagement and also attracts new social media followers.

v) Tagging

With Instagram and Facebook being extremely popular social media platforms for promotional activities, tagging friends is being increasingly used by restaurants. When a restaurant introduces a new menu item, a photo of it can be posted online. In order to promote it further, ask people willing to try it to tag a friend with whom they would want to visit your restaurant. When the two walk in to try out the new culinary addition, offer them a free meal. This helps you to generate an online buzz and also offline foot traffic to the restaurant.


There are two ways to promote or market online contest

  • Free – Information about your contest can be shared on free content sharing platforms like Contest Bee, Reddit, Any Lucky Day, etc. Blog posts can be created and published on the restaurant’s website and official social media pages. These blog post pages must be linked to the contest landing page for a wider reach. Usage of hashtags on Twitter and several other Facebook advertising ideas are also available for exploitation – at absolutely no cost.
  • Paid – A restaurant can also use paid advertising strategies like Google Adwords, Facebook paid and promoted posts or Reddit Ads to spread word about its ongoing contests.


Online and offline restaurant contests are a great way to boost engagement, brand awareness and also bring people towards your restaurant. When planned and executed with dedication, foresight and in compliance with legal requirements, the ROI will be greater than expected. Get creative and rewarding with contests to reap maximum benefits for the restaurant in the long run. 

If your online presence is not great enough for running a food contest, get in touch with Restaurantify. By collaborating with us, you can build your own restaurant website that will glorify your food and help customers make direct food orders through the website.