Out of the Box Restaurant Marketing Tactics

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A subservient chicken.

Gravy scented candles.

Insurance for your pizza.

What do all of these marketing campaigns have in common? They are absolutely wacky.

According to a report from Nielsen research, consumers are putting less trust in paid ads seen on TV, radio, billboards, and newspapers. That same report said that consumers now trust non-traditional advertising strategies. What does that mean? It means it’s time to take a stand and be different from the other restaurants in your community so that you get noticed.

Burger King, KFC, and Domino’s took their marketing to new heights using these out of the box tactics. And while the success of these restaurant campaigns was due in part to their massive marketing budgets, you can use their success as inspiration for your own cost-effective wacky campaigns.

Read on to learn about some unconventional restaurant marketing strategies that will have people dying to eat at your establishment.

Use Reverse Psychology

While it sounds like it defeats the purpose, you can use reverse psychology to get people to make an extra purchase at your restaurant. For example, a customer asks about the best wine your restaurant offers. The server briefly mentions an expensive wine option, then suggests a different bottle as a less expensive option. Often, the customer will buy the more expensive bottle of wine because they want to be perceived as wanting “the best,” regardless of cost.

You can also use reverse psychology in your restaurant marketing campaign beyond your restaurant’s physical location. Little Caesars launched a marketing campaign asking customers not to call the restaurant to order pizza. They instead pushed guests to choose carryout instead for $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza as a reverse psychology tactic. Their commercial warned customers not to order over the phone. If they did, they would get the following recorded message:

“Oh, why have you done this? If you’re looking for pizza, you’ve come to the wrong place. At Little Caesars, you don’t get pizza from a phone; it’s hot and ready and waiting for you now at stores. I’ll give you one last chance to redeem yourself. Do not go to www.forbiddenpizzawebsite.com. No matter what. If you follow these instructions, you will live out the rest of your days in peace. If you do not follow these instructions, and you do visit www.forbiddenpizzawebsite.com, you will definitely regret it.”

The website also offers a warning not to enter their home address or else, their house will become haunted. To find out how to “unhaunt” their house, visitors are then shown the nearest Little Caesars location, with directions included. The chain’s marketing team implemented this unconventional tactic to add quirkiness and boost customer curiosity. People ended up loving the campaign, calling it “funny” and “awesome.”

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing that walks you through creating a marketing strategy to bring in new customers. 

Buzz-Worthy Social Media

User-generated content is an easy and affordable way to create buzz around your restaurant. Your customers do the work for you by posting, sharing, and tagging your business in their social media content. Here are 3 ways to turn your biggest fans into your marketing team.

1. Contests

Social media contests can help your restaurant stand out online and give your restaurant the “coolness” factor that makes people want to do business with you.

Let’s Yo Yogurt runs an ongoing contest on Facebook called “Let’s YO Fan of the Week.” Customers take selfies with their favorite yogurt flavor on Facebook. Then, people vote for their favorite picture. The winner gets a week’s worth of yogurt. As people share these pictures with their friends, it creates a viral effect, making more and more people find out about Let’s Yo Yogurt.

Contests are a great way to boost engagement as people are inherently competitive, and they love winning things. Give prizes or a free meal to users with the greatest number of likes or comments.

2. Voting

Make your customers feel extra special by letting them vote on a real-life decision. Use social media to let people vote on a new menu item or logo. When someone’s suggestion or option wins, they’ll feel like a part of the family!

3. Host Remarkable Events

The word “remarkable” means something to remark on. i.e. Do things that makes your customers talk about it! Hosting a unique, fun event will show the people in your community that you’re invested in the local scene, plus they’ll associate your restaurant with a pleasant memory.

There are tons of options!

  • Sponsor and/or create a treasure hunt that takes customers around the city, ending up back at your restaurant as the final clue.
  • Have a movie night or show the big game in the parking lot. You can project on the exterior of your restaurant or get some of the blow-up screens that are easy to find and rent.
  • Host an eating contest. This could be a timed event to see who can eat the most cannolis in 60 seconds, or who can eat the 5-pound burger in minutes or less.
  • Recurring game nights at your restaurant. Bingo, trivia, or even outside sports if you have space.
  • Summer Parking Lot Party & Adult Waterballoon Fight. Yeah, you heard that right. Complete with food, dunk tanks, and a DJ.

The point is, nothing is too wacky. If you have an idea for something fun and out of the box that you think will generate excitement (and new customers) stick to it! Collaborate with your team and do something remarkable.

Learn more about Facebook advertising for your restaurant.

Unconventional Print

Yes, print is a “traditional” form of advertising. That is if you’re talking about direct mail, flyers, or newspapers.

Unconventional print, on the other hand, would never be caught dead on a list of traditional advertising. So what the heck is it?

Grocery Store Receipt Coupons – Shoppers are always looking for ways to save when eating out. By advertising on the grocery store receipt, your coupon will be available to the local community members every time they shop. Why is this an out-of-the-box tactic? Not only is it a unique medium, but all the challenges of traditional advertising disappear.

Take a look at this comparison. When it comes to targeting, repetition, and exposure (which is what makes advertising successful) no other traditional advertising can compare to coupon receipt ads.

Price for 1,000 Impressions Exposure (how people see the ad) Repetition (how many times the ad is seen) Targeting (who sees the ad)
Receipt Coupons $6 Placed directly into the shopper’s hand 1-2 x per week Everyone who shops within 3-5 miles of your store
Flyers $100 Car windows, apartment doors, or any other place that feels intrusive. As many times as you hand them out Whoever happens to see them
Direct Mail $30-$100 In an envelope inside a mailbox 1 X per campaign Zip codes which can be 30 miles away
Newspaper $15-$50 On the driveway 1 X per campaign  The 3 people who still read the newspaper


Grocery store receipt coupons are out of the box. Think about it, have you ever gotten your receipt from the grocery store and felt like someone was trying to swindle you into eating at the new local restaurant? Of course not! That’s because this unique medium is seen, but not invasive. They don’t face the cost and distribution challenges of traditional ads and they’re not obnoxious like many digital ad. They’re simply unconventional.

At IndoorMedia, we aim to help you increase the profitability of your restaurant with specific tactics that support community-based, out-of-the-ordinary restaurant marketing strategies.

Interested in how grocery store coupon advertising can work for your restaurant? Learn more.

Finding the best ways to advertise in your local area is key to driving new customers through the door every single day. Learn more about some of the top restaurant marketing tactics and how to apply them to your restaurant.

download the complete guide to coupon advertising

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