Winning Customers Through Contests

Winning Customers Through Contests

Winning Customers Through Contests

There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, and the same rings true at your restaurant as well. Here, we’ll talk about some unique ways to increase customer loyalty and help drive new business through contests. Whether you’re looking to increase engagement or generate leads, these ideas won’t break the bank—and most importantly, they’ll be fun. Grab your marketing team and let’s dive in on how you can try winning customers through contests.

Design Contests

Recently, Panera Bread began a Gift Card Design Contest in which entrants design a food-inspired image for a chance to win $1,000 in gift cards boasting their own design. Regular Panera Bread customers are invited to help choose the winning entries. This is the type of contest that gets everyone engaged in the process—especially since the winning design will be used on gift cards nationwide.

Bring a design spin into your restaurant by asking customers to help you with a new logo, menu, or even dining room artwork. Get your in-house patrons and social media followers to vote on a winner. The best part? Outsourcing a design is sure to save you a boatload of money as compared to hiring a design firm to do it for you!

Pick a New Item

Run a contest asking customers to throw in their best ideas for a new dish or cocktail, and tap your guests to vote on their favorites. Feel like you need more control over your menu? Ask you chefs and bartenders to come up with new ideas themselves. Serve small bites of these “test” dishes during a special event one day, asking customers to vote on the one they want to see on the menu. Then you can ask them to…

…Name that Dish

A popular idea Food Network Magazine has run with in the past is a “Name that Dish” contest, which presents a recipe and asks readers to make it and give it a kitschy name. A fun spin on this would be to offer guests a simple description of your nameless dish. Whether they choose to order the dish or not, have them submit name entries. Your employees can have the fun task of choosing a winner, or you can put your top choices out on social media for your fans to vote on.

Customer of the Month

This one is easy, and we got the idea from the exciting Toast blog. They suggest creating a hashtag for your restaurant—go crazy creative—and asking guests to post to social media using the hashtag offering up a reason why they are your biggest fan. Winners get a free drink, dessert, entrée, or gift card and their rightful place as your Customer of the Month. To find your hashtags on social media, check out

Post Your Pet

Everyone loves cute pets! Take a queue from the hashtag idea above and have your guests enter adorable pictures of their dogs, cats, gerbils, etc. for a chance to win a prize. This is an especially fun contest to run around Halloween (costume contest, anyone?) or July 4th (patriotic dogs unite!).

Tag Your Tablemate

Instagram is a great platform to increase engagement for your restaurant. And since food has such a visual component, and Instagram is so obviously photo-driven, this contest is a no-brainer. Post a beautiful shot of one of your most photogenic dishes on Instagram. Have your followers tag a couple people they’d like to have dinner with, offering the winner a free meal for two. Not only have you just increased the chatter on your Instagram page, you’ve essentially crowdsourced an entire new customer base. Easy, right?

As with any contest, make sure your entry rules are clear and posted prominently. Facebook and other social media platforms all have their own specific set of rules for giveaways and contests, so do your research to avoid any legal pitfalls. Remember: contests are supposed to be fun, exciting, and create buzz around your restaurant. Get creative! And always follow the rules.