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Steps In Running A Restaurant Contest

Two months ago, we emphasized the need for restaurants to stay relevant: many begin their venture with a grand launch, a massive buzz and critical acclaim; but later on, as time sets in, the buzz dies–traffic deteriorates, sales go slow. We stressed the importance of continuously giving customers new things to buzz about, and we gave examples of marketing promotions that can be done to create a buzz in the restaurant.

Among the marketing tools we highlighted are restaurant contests.

Everyone loves the challenge presented in contests, coupled with the chance to win free gifts. Restaurant operators can take advantage of this fact and use contests, online or on-site, to bring new customers to their restaurant and ensure repeat business with their regulars.

To guarantee a successful and effective one, the activity should be well-thought out and planned properly, following these steps:

Step 1–Identify the target. Operators should not hold any form of contests without first identifying who they want to reach. Determining the customer segment that they want to seek out is crucial. Most neighborhood marketing concentrates in reaching customers who are within a ten-to-fifteen-minutes drive from their restaurant, choosing their specific customer segment—whether they want the participants to be the locals, professionals, tourists, or the “special occasion” guests.

Step 2–Know what the customers want. Identify which type of contest they will be interested to join in, and check which are the ones that will entice them to visit and eat at the restaurant. The contest should make sense to them—tourists will be interested in discounts, but not the ones given for future meals. If the goal is to reach families, a happy hour contest would definitely not resonate.

Step 3–Brainstorm and conceptualize. There are four fundamental types of on-site contests that can be done: raffles, giveaways, games and competitions. Giveaways and raffles allow customers to exert an effort to do something in order to get a chance to win any of the prizes, like spending money at the restaurant or attending a particular event. Competitions can be simple ones like an eating contest, a name-a-drink contest or a best-paper-chef-hat-design competition; and games can be a simple bingo night or bar trivia.

If the plan is to have an online contest, check the tools and the resources available—will the restaurant be using its Facebook page, its Twitter account or just its website? Does the brand have enough Facebook fans or Twitter followers that can give the contest a kick start?

Step 4–Publicize. The contest should have as much exposure as possible – using restaurant signage, placing ads in the local papers and sending announcements to the customer base. A contest that catches infectious word of mouth and dramatic media coverage gets the best results. Youtube videos of the pie-eating contest, Facebook photos of the creative paper chef hats and Twitter announcements of the raffle are proven to be very helpful, too.

Step 5–Enhance the customer database. Being able to collect information about the restaurant’s diners and the contest participants is one of the best things that will come out of the activity, even if the contest does not take off as expected. Restaurants should grab this opportunity, and use this in their succeeding marketing efforts. The participants themselves, if handled rightly, are captured clients. Do not make them feel like losers even if they did not win–give them something in return for the effort they have made in joining the contest.

Step 6—Measure and evaluate the results. Determine the numbers after each contest so as to identify which worked and which did not, both for the restaurant and for the customers.