Is your bar or restaurant experiencing a slump in business? Maybe you are just looking for something to liven up the atmosphere, or maybe you want to bring in more customers without having to spend a lot on advertising. Whatever the case may be, you want your bar to be the hit spot on the weekends, the go-to place for after work drinks, or the first place people think of when they want to get together with friends.
What can you offer that you aren’t doing already? Well, there are a lot of options to offer your patrons discounts, like happy hour deals, or a discount on a meal with a good review, but what if your bar or restaurant can’t afford to be giving out discounts? If your business is already strapped for cash and is looking for a way to bring in more customers without affecting your bottom line, there are plenty of other options.
Really good bar promotion ideas work well because they do not cost much—if anything—to run, they will bring people through the door, and they will get your guests talking. What you want to do is create a buzz online, whether it’s on social media websites like Instagram or Facebook, review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, or even get some free PR by having a local lifestyle blog site picking it up and writing a story about your successful events, or even including your bar in a list of the top places to go. Here are some easy, budget friendly, business boosting ideas for bars promotion that will create buzz.
There is nothing worse than an empty bar or restaurant on weeknights for both you and your guests. Not only is it uninviting for other guests to be the only ones in the establishment, but you want more business, and they want energy, entertainment, and excitement. People love themed bar nights, because it gives them a reason to get excited and also something to participate in. Think of the virality from other bars or cafes that have themes, like the Central Perk pop-up cafe from Friends, or a Harry Potter bar that serves their own version of butterbeer. While you don’t have to change your entire bar to suit a theme, because that would be a major expense, there are ways to host themed event nights that will help your bottom line, not hinder it.
It’s a smart idea to host events around holidays, sports events, or seasonal events, so you can capitalize on an existing experience. It is much easier to be a part of the buzz that already exists from something, rather than building it up completely on your own. That being said, you can always turn an existing event into a unique experience by adding your own flair and intertwining your business’s existing personality into it.
It can be fairly straightforward to host a themed event night or come up with party ideas for bars or restaurants. It just takes a little creativity, a bit of effort, and a lot of excitement. The main idea to remember is to name your event so people know what to call it. It should be unique in order to stand out from other venues, so try and avoid cliché or overused names. Get creative with word play in order to attract more attention, because after all, attention is what you want.
Here are some ideas for themed event nights you could easily host at your establishment.
Game Day Theme
Most people want to watch sports with their friends rather than by themselves at home, because it’s way more fun and exciting to be surrounded by other fans. However, your goal is to entice people to choose your venue over their buddy’s place and to make an evening of it rather than stay in and order pizza to go with their 6-pack. You might even want to offer the best game day promotions to convince them to visit your bar or restaurant.
If you’re hosting a game day night for a football game, you will probably want to include other activities while the game is on. A three-hour football game really is only 20 minutes of actual action when the ball is in play, so offering other entertainment will keep your guests from thinking your event is a snooze fest. Not everyone will be drinking beer to keep themselves excited, so think of families and others when planning these events. You can include games like Jenga, sports trivia, foosball, or darts, to name a few.
Another promotional idea is to offer deals in real time. People love freebies and are more inclined to remember your establishment if you surprise them with freebies. You could pre-order customized wristbands in the team’s colors, give them out at the door, and encourage guests to pick a team and wear the bracelets for special prizes. When each team scores, you can give a limited time offer to whoever is wearing the corresponding bracelet.
For major sports events, like the Big Game, the NBA finals, or a Stanley Cup final game, why not extend the event night into a full day event? Offer a tailgate experience right at your venue to get the excitement and spirit of the game really going.
The holiday that brings summer to a close is always treated as a last hurrah for the summer parties. Capitalize on that and bring the party to your bar or restaurant. It’s common for people to want to spend Labor Day in their backyards around their pool or grill, surrounded by friends and family, but if you’re doing the planning, cooking, and the clean-up, why wouldn’t anyone want to come visit your venue instead?
Simulate the backyard vibe by decorating your place with garden lights and outdoor decor, or if you have a patio, make sure it’s decorated to the nines as well and highly publicized with a “last chance” message. Create a family-fun atmosphere with party ideas for bars or restaurants, or have kid-friendly entertainment like general or themed trivia, karaoke, a piñata, a bar-wide game of tug-of-war, or a Wii games tournament. Who can resist a competitive game of Mario Kart or Smash Brothers? Nobody, that’s who!
Party Game Night
If you’re looking for some truly unique restaurant promotion ideas, look no further than a party game night. This will work for bars too, and if your bar gets rented out for corporate or private events, you could potentially incorporate this idea into those party packages.
One idea is to have a restaurant or bar-wide trivia night where entrants pay a small fee to play, and the winning team collects the pot money. You can have general trivia, or theme it around a popular movie or TV show, like The Simpsons, The Office, or Friends, for example.
You could also set up each table with different bar game ideas and have participants choose which table they want to be at to start. After a set amount of time, like 15-30 minutes (depending on the games you choose), you can hit a buzzer or ring a bell to signify it’s time to choose a different table and play a new game. You could include games like:
- 2 Truths 1 Lie: where players have to take turns making three statements about themselves, with two being true and one being a lie and the other players have to guess which is the lie;
- Guess Who: where players write the names of famous people on sticky notes and attach one to each person’s forehead. Other players have to give clues on who is written on the active player’s forehead so they can guess;
- Musical Chairs: where players have to run around a circle of chairs until the music stops and have to find an empty seat. Whoever is left standing is out;
- Famous Lines: where pre-written quotes are drawn from a hat and players have to guess what movie or TV show it’s from and who said it.
Board games and card games are also fun to play, so you can play off the popularity of board game cafés and bring the fun to your own restaurant or bar.
Offer Different Menus for Each Theme
Other fun restaurant promotion ideas would be to change up the menu for your themed events. You don’t have to offer a completely new menu if you don’t want to, but having themed food and drinks are a great way to get people involved in the fun even more, especially if the menu theme was an unexpected twist. It’s surprising but delightful for guests to discover when they come to your establishment, because it shows them you are making an extra effort to set the mood for them. They might even be inclined to order more and spend more because they want to try all your themed creations.
If you’re hosting a game day event, people might even expect a game day style menu, because it just seems natural to want to enjoy different finger foods and bar snacks while they watch their teams square off. You could create a special menu inspired by traditional meals that originate in each team’s home states, include classic game day food combos like a wings and beer special, or a platter in the shape of a football field, or serve regional beers as hockey or football promotions ideas. With some luck or coincidence, those states will have a brew rivalry going on that you can play up. If you aren’t sure, you can always reach out to your beer reps or distributors to gain some insight. This could draw in the craft beer connoisseurs, as they will want to come for a chance to try some of the out-of-state brews.
For a seasonally themed event, like a summery picnic or Labor Day party, you’ll want a menu to match. Having family-friendly options is key, so include menu items specifically for kids like frozen juice made into slushies, melon kabobs (take a melon baller to scoop out various kinds of melons and put into a kabob stick), banana split pops, or Freezies. Have kid-sized meal portions as well for dishes like hamburgers, chicken fingers and fries, steamed veggies or sliced fruit as sides. You could offer up other bar promotions for football season, like a free appetizer on their next visit if the home team scores over a certain number of touchdowns, or a two-for-one drink promotion for a limited time after the game ends. This can be applied to any sports event too, so don’t feel limited by just football.
For the adults, main dishes don’t necessarily need to be the standard barbeque affair like hamburgers and hot dogs. Feel free to branch out to other menu items like BBQ ribs, grilled pork tenderloin, party-size sub sandwiches, fish tacos, or Southwest Turkey burger sliders. Pair your mains with sides like sautéed vegetables, coleslaw, corn on the cob, potato or pasta salads, or fresh, summery greens.
Dessert can’t be overlooked, so go with a campfire classic like s’mores to really get into the picnic, outdoorsy vibe. Go with classic options like apple pie and ice cream, chocolate or vanilla cake slices or cupcakes, or fruit dipped in chocolate. Desserts don’t need to be fancy, because remember, it’s a picnic theme.
Use Social Media to Get the Word Out
The most important thing is to create a buzz, and someone has to get it started, so make that someone you! If people don’t know these events are happening, they won’t know to choose your establishment over a different one, so make sure to publicize your event all over your social media pages and on your restaurant or bar’s website. This is a cost-effective way to advertise your event, so be sure to take advantage.
Make a few social media posts leading up to the event, ideally starting about a month out from the date. If you have a monthly calendar of events, include it. This will help give people a chance to learn about it and make plans in advance. If you don’t give them enough time, they might make plans elsewhere.
You can take it a step further and make an actual event on your Facebook page and send out invitations to everyone who is a fan of your page, so regular patrons will get the first notice of the event and you can boost your attendee count before pushing it to the general public. This will make it look like there’s already a buzz, so it can potentially snowball from there. As for Instagram, it might be a good idea to create a unique hashtag for the event, and possibly even offer a promotion around it to encourage people to use it while they attend the event. Maybe include it in a raffle draw or offer a small discount to anyone who shows you a post they make on their own account, both geo-tagging your location and using your hashtag.
No matter what style of promotion or party you throw at your bar or restaurant, with the right planning, good creativity, and proper promotion, it will be sure to be a hit.