3 Odd Restaurant Marketing Tactics Guaranteed to Attract New Customers

odd restaurant marketing ideas

Unusual Restaurant Marketing Tactics That Will Help You Stand Out From The Competition

It’s an age-old question in the hospitality industry.

How do you get more customers to come in the doors of your restaurant?

Furthermore, once people start coming in, how do you leverage word-of-mouth marketing so it snowballs into long-term success?

The answer might surprise you: Odd marketing.

That’s right. Strange, unusual marketing could be the answer to all your restaurant marketing questions.

If you think odd restaurant marketing tactics seem like an unorthodox, questionable approach to bring guests through the doors, you would be right—which is exactly why it works.

Oddball Restaurant Marketing Sets You Apart From the Competition

Don’t dismiss this tactic as ineffective without first considering why it grabs guests’ attention.

Despite its “gimmicky” reputation, odd restaurant marketing tactics are calculated and measured. They often involve a promotional strategy that relies on controlled chaos and outrageous, out-of-the-box thinking (instead of tired, overused tactics).

On the surface, the following odd marketing strategies may seem cheesy (no pun intended). However, the key thing to remember is that originality and ‘doing something different’ are alluring qualities to your potential guests.

In order for your business to stand out among the rest of the pack, you have to give the customer something fresh and entertaining. Something that creates curiosity and drives action.

In order to survive in this industry, you are going to need more than just Grandma’s secret recipes to get by. Among other things, you’re going to need a solid marketing strategy to keep customers coming back again and again. Taking the ‘odd marketing approach’ may help you do just that.

Odd Restaurant Marketing Tactic #1 – Host an Eating Competition


As humans, we tend to fixate on competitions.

Thus, we find it fascinating to watch participants race to stuff their jowls the fastest. And we love the opportunity to participate in something truly outrageous.

These are all logical reasons why eating competitions successfully engage audiences.

From a practical standpoint, it’s unlikely that anyone else in your competing neighborhood or community space is hosting such an event at the same time.

Perhaps the best part about hosting an eating competition: Media professionals eat them up (okay, this time pun intended).

Even a mediocre public relations effort can send a flock of food bloggers, editors and local news affiliates to your restaurant’s doorstep when you host an eating competition. All it takes is a press release and an email/phone media outreach campaign to turn “talking heads” into customer-generators.

Most importantly, eating competitions get people talking. If your restaurant has a lively and fun atmosphere, a properly promoted eating competition could easily take your business to the next level.

Odd Marketing Tactic #2 – Contact a Celebrity Chef or Food Influencer

Food Network Star
Image courtesy of the food network.

This tactic works for one simple reason: the presence of celebrities inherently attracts crowds of people.

Even if they aren’t household names, today’s culture holds television and Internet personalities in high regard, so use their influence to your advantage by encouraging them to come in.

If your gut tells you this tactic requires too much work and research, you might be overthinking it. Here are just a few places you can discover big names in the food scene:

Popular food web series:

  • New Brew Thursday
  • Curated
  • Hot Ones
  • Drunken Cooking
  • Economy Bite
  • Dinner with the Band
  • Salt Pepper Ketchup
  • Art of the Drink
  • Munchies
  • CelebrityWineReview

Popular food television series:

  • Food Network Star
  • Bar Rescue
  • The Pioneer Woman
  • MasterChef
  • Cutthroat Kitchen
  • The Kitchen
  • Bizarre Foods
  • The Chew
  • Chopped
  • Iron Chef

Popular food publications:

  • Food and Wine
  • Southern Living
  • Eating Well
  • Saveur
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Martha Stewart
  • Taste of Home
  • Bon Appetit
  • Cooking Light

Popular food personalities:

  • Tom Colicchio, chef, restaurateur and TV personality
  • Catherine Cassidy, VP and editor-in-chief, Taste of Home
  • Grant Achatz, chef, restaurateur
  • Jose Andres, chef, restaurateur
  • Claus (Chile) Klaus, comedian, TV personality, chilienthusiast
  • John T. Edge, Author, Director, Southern Foodways Alliance
  • Thomas Keller, chef, restaurateur
  • Wolfgang Puck, chef, restaurateur
  • Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief, Food and Wine
  • Kevin Systrom, co-founder, CEO, Instagram influencer

If you happen to get in contact with a lesser-known celebrity, this is where your marketing skills really come into play.

You will have to sell the influence of less popular celebrities to your audience. Try to leverage their fan base on social media and keep the conversation going as the event or visit gets closer.

Remember, the mere fact a “celebrity” is coming into your restaurant means plenty of interest and business opportunity.

Odd Marketing Tactic #3 – “Random Customer Winner” Campaign


A “random customer winner” campaign is a fun and creative way to get customers excited each time they visit.

This tactic randomly awards customers just for showing up and ordering your food. The lucky winner could receive something as simple as a short message at the bottom of a plate or surprise confetti in a napkin fold.

When the patron brings their good fortune to a staff member’s attention, their prize could be a free dessert, 50 percent off their bill, or a meal discount on their next visit.

How you choose to reward customers is irrelevant. Just by implementing this campaign, you create an easy, effective way to engage with customers without losing sleep over an expensive promotional campaign.

Things to Remember about “Odd Marketing”

Here are three important things to keep in mind when it comes to odd restaurant marketing tactics.

1.) Know your audience

Obvious, sure, but odd marketing only works when you have a firm handle on whom you are promoting to.

For example, is your restaurant by the beach? Do your customers tend to be sports enthusiasts? Are you located near an industrial area of town?

Once you understand who your customers are, you can better understand what motivates their behavior, and what might entice them to visit.

2.) Look at where your restaurant struggles

Odd marketing shouldn’t just be about getting people talking. It should also be about helping you overcome a challenge that is unique to your business.

Look at where your business is hurting.

Perhaps sales are slow at lunch. Maybe you got a few bad service complaints on Yelp. It could be few people know about your happy hour menu.

Whatever your deepest challenges are, it’s important to address them when planning your odd marketing promotions.

3.) Media or Dollars?

Sure, you need to generate profit for your restaurant. However, you have to decide the purpose of your promotion: Drive revenue or generate buzz. By narrowing down your odd marketing tactic to a singular goal, the results of your promotional effort(s) will be easier to measure.

Has your company launched an odd marketing campaign before? Leave a reply and tell us about it!