6 Restaurant Marketing Campaigns That Set the Bar High

Luke Januschka


May 24, 2024
best restaurant marketing campaigns
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Imagine your restaurant as that cozy spot everyone in the neighborhood knows about, thanks to your regulars and their never-ending chatter about how great your food is. But, here’s the thing – what if those loyal folks start moving away or just wanna try something new? You’re left in a bit of a pickle, right? That’s where getting the word out about your spot becomes super important.

Now, diving into marketing might sound like you’re stepping into a whole new kitchen, especially when you’re the master chef, not the marketing guru. But hey, figuring out the best way to shout about your restaurant isn’t about turning into Don Draper overnight. It’s all about checking out what’s worked for others and finding your own groove.

We’re here to chop it down for you, serve up some killer marketing campaigns that have helped other spots go from “best-kept secret” to “most-visited restaurants”.

This article is all about giving you the lowdown on simple yet effective ways to spread the word, making sure your restaurant isn’t just another face in the crowd but a community favorite where everyone feels at home.

Ingredients of a Good Marketing Campaign

Alright, let’s break it down kitchen-style. You know how whipping up a stellar dish means having the right mix of ingredients, timing, and a dash of love? Well, cooking up a solid marketing campaign isn’t all that different. It’s about mixing the right elements to get people not just tasting but raving about what you’re serving.

First up, you’ve got your base – that’s your target audience. Just like knowing whether you’re cooking for a spice lover or someone who thinks pepper is too hot, understanding who you’re talking to is key.

Next, toss in some goals. What’s the endgame here? More foot traffic, buzzing online orders, or maybe getting folks to try that new seasonal menu? Having clear goals is like knowing your recipe by heart – it guides each step you take.

Then, spice it up with creativity. This is where you get to have fun and stand out. It’s your secret sauce that makes people go, “Wow, I need to try that!” Whether it’s a quirky social media challenge, a mouth-watering video of your signature dish, or an unforgettable slogan, this is what makes your campaign memorable.

Don’t forget a pinch of strategy. Timing, platforms, budget – it’s the how, when, and where you’re going to share your message. Like knowing the perfect moment to flip that steak or let the dough rise, it’s all about precision.

Lastly, wrap it up with measurement. You gotta taste-test as you go, right? Tracking how well your campaign is doing helps you tweak the recipe until it’s just right, ensuring your efforts are paying off.

So, there you go – the ingredients of a good marketing campaign, ready for you to mix up and serve hot to your audience. Get it right, and you’ll have a line out the door, with people eager for a taste of what you’ve got cooking.

Breakthrough Restaurant Marketing Campaigns

In the bustling world of eateries, it’s those wild, out-of-the-box marketing ideas that really get people talking and walking through your doors.  We’re talking about campaigns that didn’t just play it safe but leveraged immense creativity, and out-of-the box ideas until they went viral.

From jaw-dropping promotions that got everyone clicking and sharing, to social media wizardry that turned tweets into treats, these are the stories of restaurants that really got the recipe right.

Leveraging Social Media to Cook Up Buzz

In the vibrant culinary landscape and the bustling world of fast food, Plan Check Kitchen & Bar  and McDonald’s France have set remarkable examples of leveraging social media to ignite brand enthusiasm and drive unprecedented customer engagement. Their stories unfold the blueprint for merging strategic marketing with authentic storytelling, each creating a ripple effect that extended far beyond their initial campaigns.

1. Plan Check Kitchen and Bar

Snapshot from Plan Check Kitchen & Bar FB Page

Plan Check Kitchen & Bar, a contemporary hub for American comfort cuisine, has skillfully utilized a combination of targeted Facebook advertisements and compelling content to attract a significant surge of patrons. Their Facebook marketing approach led to a notable increase in foot traffic, with new visitors flocking to experience their delectable offerings. And the best part? Every time they put out a new promo on Facebook, it’s like a magnet for customers.

2. McDonald's #FritesPotatoes campaign

Echoing this success, McDonald’s France took to Twitter with the #FritesPotatoes campaign, a testament in viral marketing that blended consumer insights with a keen sense of the platform’s dynamics.

Snapshot of McDonald's France X profile

By introducing a novel product that combined fries and potato wedges, and cleverly building anticipation around an April Fool’s tease, they tapped into a widespread user engagement, culminating in over one million sales of the #FritesPotatoes. 

This campaign not only achieved a viral status with over 15,000 Tweets and 20.69 million impressions but also reinforced McDonald’s as a brand in tune with its audience, willing to innovate and engage in a dialogue with its customers.

If you’re looking to replicate these restaurants’ savory marketing success, the recipe is clear: blend authentic storytelling with strategic marketing, sprinkle in a dash of community spirit, and serve it up on a platform where your audience lives and breathes.

The result?

A brand that not only serves meals but creates memories, building a legacy one post at a time.

Elevating Customer Experience with Tech-Savvy Treats

Wendy’s, a sizzling burger chain, orchestrated a campaign that fused the realms of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and interactive gaming, redefining the boundaries of fast-food marketing.

3. Wendy’s “NCAA March Madness” Campagin

During the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, Wendy’s introduced fans to an immersive realm of engagement across Facebook and Instagram, marking a significant lift in ad recall and purchase intent.

gaming image from case study

The campaign unfurled the “Wendyverse” on Horizon Worlds, a free, immersive gaming platform developed by social media giant Meta. Wendyverse offered a virtual experience where fans could mingle, play basketball, and enjoy Wendy’s breakfast in a digital dimension. Complementing this, AR filters and interactive gaming ads on Instagram invited users without VR headsets to partake in the excitement, blending play with the promotion.

This innovative approach achieved a 9.1-point lift in ad recall and reached 52 million people, reinforcing Wendy’s position as a forward-thinking, fan-first brand. The success story showcases Wendy’s adept use of modern ad formats to captivate a broad audience, significantly enhancing its association with March Madness and driving a notable uptick in purchase intent.

The key takeaway is the integration of cutting-edge technologies like VR and AR to create immersive brand experiences that resonate deeply with customers. By offering unique, interactive platforms such as virtual worlds and gaming experiences, restaurants can extend their engagement beyond the traditional confines of social media. 

Building Local Connections through Effective Marketing Strategies

Pizza Hut’s strategic embrace of loyalty programs exemplifies how to cultivate enduring relationships with customers, transforming occasional visitors into fervent supporters. The centerpiece of this strategy, the ‘Hut Rewards‘ program, is a brilliant illustration of leveraging loyalty initiatives to bolster business success, turning every transaction into a step towards greater rewards.

4. Pizza Hut’s ‘Hut Rewards’ campaign

The Huts Reward program ingeniously rewards customers with “Slices” for every £10 spent on delivery orders—these orders constituting the majority of Pizza Hut’s sales through online platforms and the app. The rewards escalate in value: five Slices earn a free side, adding extra delight to the dining experience at minimal cost. 

pizza hut slices reward

Accumulating seven Slices nets a free medium pizza, motivating increased order frequency for this enticing reward. The pinnacle of the program is the ten-Slice reward, offering a free large pizza, a powerful incentive that encourages ongoing customer engagement and loyalty.

What sets ‘Hut Rewards’ apart is its dual focus on rewarding purchases and fostering a community. Members receive exclusive offers and priority service, alongside special surprises on important occasions. These benefits reinforce the value Pizza Hut places on its customers, making them feel recognized, and hooked with coming back to the restaurant for more

Implementing such a program might seem daunting, but Pizza Hut’s approach provides a clear blueprint. Focus on what your customers cherish, and tailor your loyalty program to enrich those aspects. Whether it’s through exclusive deals, early access to new products, or personalized surprises, the goal is to elevate the customer experience beyond the transactional, fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty that keeps patrons coming back for more.

Viral Marketing Campaigns: Spreading the Buzz Far and Wide

In the dynamic landscape of digital marketing, Denny’s and KFC, two well-known quick-service restaurant chains, have each carved out memorable spaces through their innovative viral campaigns, showcasing not just the power of humor and engagement but also the strategic prowess in navigating the unpredictable waves of social media culture.

5. Denny's "Zoom In On The Syrup" campaign

The “Zoom In On The Syrup” campaign brilliantly tapped into the zeitgeist of internet trends, transforming a simple invitation to explore a pancake image into a shared moment of delight that skyrocketed across social media. This campaign was more than an exercise in clever marketing; it was an embodiment of Denny’s understanding of its digital audience. By engaging users in a playful and memorable digital scavenger hunt, Denny’s not only amplified its brand voice but also reinforced the communal spirit of social media, reminding us that at the heart of each scroll and click is a desire for connection and levity.

The viral pancake tweet

This success story serves as a beacon for other brands striving to make their mark in the digital domain. The essence of Denny’s triumph lies in its authentic engagement with current digital culture, proving that content resonating on a personal level with the audience can elevate a brand from mere transactions to lasting memories and community building.

6. KFC “FCK” Campaign

Similarly, KFC demonstrated a masterclass in crisis management with its “FCK” campaign, turning a supply chain debacle into a viral marketing victory. Faced with a chicken shortage that could have severely tarnished its reputation, KFC chose a path of humor and humility. Their unconventional apology, featuring the rearranged letters of their brand name on a bucket, not only diffused a potential crisis but also won over the public’s heart, showcasing the brand’s resilience and human touch.

KFC's FCK campaign

The positive aftermath of this bold strategy was swift and significant, with KFC quickly bouncing back and reinforcing the role of transparency, humor, and humility in brand communication. This episode not only highlighted KFC’s ability to connect with its audience during challenging times but also underscored the evolving nature of brand-consumer relationships in the age of social media.

Both Denny’s and KFC’s campaigns underscore a vital lesson for brands in the digital era: authenticity, humor, and a deep understanding of the digital dialogue can transform challenges into opportunities, creating viral sensations that resonate with audiences worldwide.

Analyzing the Results of Good Marketing Campaigns

Alright, picture this: You’ve rolled out the red carpet, launched your marketing campaign with all the fireworks and fanfare, and now the show’s over. 

So, what’s next? It’s time to sift through the glitter and confetti to see if the party was really worth it. Let’s talk about how to dig into the aftermath of your marketing fiesta and figure out whether it was a hit or a miss.

Think of it like hosting a dinner party. You’ve planned the menu, cooked up a storm, and now you’re watching guests dig in. But how do you know if you’ve truly nailed it? It’s all in their reactions, the empty plates, and the buzz around the table. Analyzing the results of a marketing campaign isn’t much different. You’re looking for the empty plates, so to speak – the signs that people loved what you served.

First off, you need to check the guest list – how many showed up because of your invite? This is your reach and engagement. Did your social media posts get more likes than your cousin’s vacation pics? Did your emails get opened or were they left on the doorstep like an unwanted fruitcake?

Next, taste-test the feedback. Did customers just take a courtesy bite, or did they come back for seconds? This means diving into sales numbers, website traffic, and if you’ve got folks talking about you more than the latest episode of that binge-worthy TV show.

And don’t forget to peek into the kitchen – how did your team handle the heat? Analyzing the operational side, like how smoothly your campaign ran, can give you insights into what to keep on the menu and what to scrap.

Lastly, wrapping up a marketing campaign is about figuring out if your efforts turned heads, filled tables, and got people talking. It’s about learning, tweaking, and sometimes even starting from scratch. But hey, that’s the recipe for growth, right? So grab your apron, and let’s get analyzing – because the next big hit is just one campaign away.

Setting the Table for Your Own Restaurant Marketing Campaign

Jumping into marketing your restaurant doesn’t have to feel like stepping into unknown territory. It’s pretty straightforward: get your spot’s vibe and flavors out there where people can see, like, and share. It’s about making noise in the right places—social media, local events, you name it—without needing a blockbuster budget.

The plan? Keep it simple and genuine. Show off what makes your place special, from your dishes to your diner’s ambiance. It’s less about constant promotion and more about sharing your story in a way that clicks with folks scrolling on their phones.

And if you’re thinking, “That sounds great, but where do I even start?”- Restaurant Growth’s guidance can be a great asset in turning the daunting task of navigating the digital marketing landscape into an exciting opportunity. 


Which marketing campaign is most successful?

Determining the most successful marketing campaign for a restaurant can be subjective, as it depends on various factors such as target audience, location, and budget. However, campaigns that effectively leverage social media, storytelling, and community engagement often yield impressive results, fostering brand recognition and customer loyalty over time.

Which strategy is best for a restaurant?

The optimal strategy for a restaurant is multifaceted and requires careful consideration of its unique attributes, target demographic, and desired outcomes. Combining online and offline tactics such as social media engagement, local partnerships, loyalty programs, and experiential events can create a comprehensive marketing approach that attracts new patrons while retaining loyal customers.

What type of marketing do restaurants use?

Restaurants employ a diverse range of marketing tactics to promote their business, including digital and traditional methods. These may include social media marketing, email campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), local advertising, and collaborations with local businesses and events to enhance visibility and attract diners from the surrounding community.

What is the best food marketing strategy?

Effective food marketing strategies prioritize visually appealing content, compelling storytelling, and engaging experiences that resonate with consumers. Leveraging platforms like social media, food blogs, influencer partnerships, and experiential events helps showcase the restaurant’s offerings, sparking interest and driving customer acquisition and retention in a competitive market landscape.

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Luke Januschka
Luke Januschka is a pivotal partner at Restaurant Growth, where he spearheads strategies that have generated over 30 million dollars in tracked sales for our valued restaurant clients.
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