Grand openings can make or break a restaurant. Having a successful grand opening comes down to proper planning and organization as well as some excellent grand opening ideas.

There are many steps that you can take before your grand opening to ensure that it is a success and you see repeat customers from it. You’ll also want to take some steps before the event to ensure that everything at the grand opening runs perfectly and you get the name of your restaurant out there.

Here are 12 Grand Opening Ideas to ensure a memorable first day for your restaurant — as well as ensure its continued success on every day after that!

1. Before the Grand Opening, Invite Your Friends and Family First for a Soft Launch

Before you open up, you want to ensure that your systems, operations, food and staff are all in order and running smoothly. Prior to your grand opening, have your friends and family over first.

Your first customers should be your closest friends and family. They are the ones that will be the most honest with their feedback. Make sure these friends know not to go public with any mishaps that may occur. These visits should be totally free and it should be a limited menu event. There should be a verbal agreement with each guest, so they understand that they will be test subjects and must not share anything publicly.

Your second round of friends and family should still be free with the same agreement. The second time, you’ll include the full menu and one seating. The third round of friends and family are usually now the employee’s friends and family. For the third round, you can start charging for food and beverages.

These three rounds should be spaced out over the course of three days. Keep in mind, you are testing out your services with these events. You will likely make mistakes, but now is the time to learn from them and correct them.

2. Show Vendor Appreciation

Some owners have a tendency to forget that people who helped build your restaurant also live in your community and can be your best customers.Grand Opening Ideas - show vendor appreciation

Make sure that you treat these individuals well. Throw them a party where they can bring their families and show off the work they did. Vendors and builders are always the first core group of customers. They supported you in your endeavor to get to where you are. Throw them a bit of support as well.

This can be done in an event prior to the grand opening, or you can give them some VIP treatment during the grand opening, but don’t forget to show some appreciation to your vendors and those that helped your build your amazing restaurant.

3. Support a Local Charity

Including a charity in your opening celebration can help to get a few extra people out. Charities often have huge lists of locals who are supportive through donations. You can leverage that by offering your place up your event as a way to help them raise money.

Make sure that you do this because you want to help the charity, not simply for the publicity and word of mouth marketing. Many restaurants help the local high school sports teams. This is a great strategy because often the teams will celebrate after games at a restaurant. It is always great to have repeat business, especially with high school kids. Some people will attend because they want to support their favorite charity, but may not be all that interested in your restaurant. This is a great opportunity to let them taste your food.

4. Host an Event for Local

Influencers and Bloggers

One aspect of your grand opening should include an influencer. Influencers recommend businesses that they like to their followers, which in turn generates a lot of interest.

Influencers will help to increase community excitement about your grand opening. Reach out to every single tweeter, blogger, facebooker, author, speaker, and reporter that is in your network. Throw them a party and show them a good time. Don’t expect anything in return. Don’t even ask for it. If you deliver, they will show their support. They can’t help themselves from taking pictures and posting them for their followers to see, especially if they enjoy the experience.

Grand Opening Ideas

5. Spread the Word about Your Opening

There many great ways to promote your business’s grand opening. You can start with the standard printed flyers and banners and then create printed advertisements and use social media. There are some great ways to reach a lot of people for every budget.

Grand Opening Ideas - Use Social Media

Social media is one of the most budget-friendly ways to rapidly spread the news about your event. To generate the most interest in your grand opening, you should incorporate the following aspects into your event:

  • Use the Facebook Event Feature to get the word out
  • Offer deals and contests exclusively for your social media followers
  • Utilize hashtags in your posts to make it easy for patrons to discover you online
  • Team up with relevant community groups that may attend(schools, networking groups, sports teams)
  • Run an affiliate program where people can refer their friends and earn rewards (some affiliate program ideas here)
  • Drum up excitement for your restaurant with pictures of the restaurant, food and the offers that you’ll be having that day
  • Post your menu online

Want to get your customers talking about you? You need some ideas to turn your customers into advocates and influencers.

6. Host a Grand Opening Party

If you’ve followed the above recommendations and done it correctly, you shouldn’t be worried about whether you’ll be busy or not. You will be! You should be more concerned about how you’ll handle the crowds.

Make sure that you have signs, balloons, banners and a buzz around your town for the event. If you’re wondering about design, you can always look for grand opening ideas on Pinterest and learn how to make a successful grand opening event.

Grand Opening Ideas

Reach out to everyone that you know and invite them in. If your restaurant has the capacity, you should have bands and activities happening all day or all weekend. This is your last chance to get people talking about your restaurant before your big opening – but also a great way to get them to look forward to it!

7. Send Out Unbeatable Deals & Offers to Redeem at the Grand Opening

Previous to this day, you should have been passing out invitations to people in the community and/or have been mailing residences within a certain radius of your restaurant a coupon for opening weekend.

The offer is in celebration of your grand opening and whatever you do, make sure it’s a buy one get one type offer. You need to start generating revenue, so don’t do a completely free offer. Also, this usually leads to someone brings a friend or family member, so it’s another face your restaurant can be introduced to. This promotion can last anywhere from three days to two weeks.

8. Offer a Bounce Back Offer (so customers come back)

Create a bounce back offer. This is a coupon that will be valid after your opening day ends for another couple of weeks, but is only valid on the customer’s next trip back to your restaurant. You should be handing these “bounce back” offers out during your entire launch window.

The trend started with Disney resorts, offering deep discounts for families to book next year’s trip to Disney – but they could only do so before checking out. Many families know that they will return to Disneyland every year, and so take up the offer and become regular visitors.

Everyone should receive these bounce back offers – your vendors, friends, family, influencers, charity attendees and VIP day attendees. The goal is to get repeat customers as soon as possible. It may take multiple visits to create new habits, so the faster you can get them back into your restaurant, the faster your food can become part of their routine.

Of course, the best way to get repeat sales is to create happy customers. A bounce back offer is a way to put a smile on their face and to get them to look forward to coming back – the same principle as a customer loyalty program.

9. Consider a Publicity Stunt for the Grand Opening

The Tour de France started as a publicity stunt to promote a new French newspaper. Warby Parker launched with a flash mob in a public library during NY Fashion Week. The Macy’s Day Parade also started as a stunt. Even Pornhub (Safe For Work!) engages in guerilla marketing tactics to generate word-of-mouth and attention.

Attention-grabbing stunts can create a lot of buzz for some of the most effective grand opening ideas. Publicity stunts will generate media attention as well. You may want to consider creating a human billboard, choreographing a flash mob, creating an annual race or throwing a parade down your street. These will all draw a crowd and garner some media attention from the local media outlets. They will also get the community involved and interested in your restaurant.

10. Play Up Nostalgia for Past Decades

Nostalgia for past decades is so much fun especially when you apply it to food establishments. While a famous artist may not be in your marketing budget, there are many cover bands that hearken back to a specific musical era. Many of these bands will draw a surprisingly large crowd. You can also create a theme with a particular decade not only with the food and music, but also with the decorations. You can encourage your customers and staff to wear clothing from that era. Another great idea is to create a prize for the best costume during your grand opening.

The Fifties with its fabulous diners and classic trends lends itself well to bringing a past decade to life. The Eighties with their wild hair and crazy neon colors is another great decade to bring back.

Grand Opening Ideas - Decades

11. Dress It Up

People love themes. They love to dress up and have an excuse to go out. More than fifty percent of millenials will cite Halloween as their favorite holiday. However, it doesn’t have to be Halloween for people to want to dress up. Creating a thematic costume challenge for your grand opening will entice many people. If you’re opening a 50s themed diner, encourage your attendees to dress in 50s costumes. If you’re an Irish pub, encourage your customers to come dressed in Irish garb.

Having a theme can keep the enthusiasm for your restaurant going in the photos that are shared long after the event. A themed event creates an opportunity for great social media worthy photo opportunities.

Other fun themes for a grand opening:

  • Masquerade
  • Decades
  • Black and White
  • Valentine’s Day Hearts
  • St. Patrick’s Day – Irish themed
  • Halloween
  • Pumpkins and Fall
  • Patriotic
  • Springtime Floral
  • Movie themed – James Bond, Indiana Jones

Grand Opening Ideas - Themes

12. Become Involved with Community Events

Before the official opening, make sure that you start to build a buzz about your restaurant through involvement with local events. Go where your potential customers go. Give the public a taste of your culinary or confectionery creations. You can set up a stand at a local farmers market or a community event.

Hand out samples to the community or sell items that will be on your menu and inform the customers of your upcoming opening. A great idea is to use a catering tray and paper food trays to easily display and hand out the samples. You may want to pass out your menu and information with the samples to get customers excited to try your other menu items. A tasty sample from your menu can entice them to put your grand opening on their calendar.

The Chipotle Example

Chipotle would hire college aged kids to attend community events like outdoor concerts and games. The college kids would randomly throw t-shirts, which they had wrapped up to look like burritos into crowds. Inside the t-shirt would be a coupon to get a free burrito during the store’s grand opening. This sort of fun community outreach and grass roots marketing can make the grand opening of a restaurant special. It also will set the stage for a spectacular first year in business.

12 Grand Opening Ideas for Restaurants and F&B Outlets

Incorporating a few of these grand opening ideas can improve your chances of having a successful launch for your food and beverage outlet.

Melinda Curle

Posted by Melinda Curle