The Greatest Restaurant Grand Opening Ever

June 12, 2019
Jeremy Wells

If you are getting ready to open up your new restaurant, you might think the hard part is over. You’ve considered the location. You have nailed down your concept. You have financed it, after weeks and weeks of applications, letters, meetings, and presentation of your ideas.

You have sent the menu to the graphic designers and they have sent back a menu that would make Gordon Ramsay hungry. The staff has been hired, from the host all the way to the chef.

You are ready, right? Not so.

This is not meant to discourage you or prevent you from feeling the well-deserved joy that you will experience as the doors open and customers with empty stomachs come by.

This is meant to make sure that you cross that finish line like a true champion-that is, by hosting a grand opening that will leave a positive impression on the minds of your customers and keep them coming back week after week.

Stay with us as we discuss various ways to start your business with a bang and keep it booming.

The Basic Steps

At long last, it is time to throw a fun party because it’s true: The really tough stuff is done. So, what are the basics of throwing a memorable grand opening? Let’s take a look.

1. Figure Out the Sort of Event You Want, And A Budget for It

When you think about all that has gone into starting this business up to this point, it can be extremely tempting to handle the opening of your establishment as just another day; a relatively minor thing.

However, having a well-mapped out restaurant grand opening is a huge part of your overall restaurant marketing strategy. The key to opening a restaurant with a bang is relatively easy; you are going to need to know how to get people in the door, and throwing a great party is a way to make it all happen.

However, this does not mean you have to go crazy and spend heaps of money as a way of holding a super grand opening. It is better overall that you do not do this, as there are going to be lots of other expenses that come your way once the business gets up and running.

There are lots of ways to get a restaurant grand opening going. You can actually roll out a “red carpet” to make guests feel like VIPs. You can set up a buffet of samples and then tempt customers with a special offer, like buying an entree and receiving a percentage off the second one.

You can also offer some refreshments or feature live music. You might also print up some coupons in the form of fliers that guests can use on a future visit.

Make yourself a comprehensive list of all the expenses needed for your opening and be sure the total cost is budget-friendly. Once you have thought about and priced fliers, music, decor, food and any giveaways or promo products, you can see if you need to modify your budget or celebration in any way, whether you are under budget or need to take it down a notch.

having a well-mapped out restaurant grand opening is a huge part of your overall restaurant marketing strategy.

2. Allow Ample Time for Yourself

Give yourself plenty of time to plan. A month to three months will be sufficient. You may wish to print up fliers, or invitations, depending on the type of establishment you are opening. You will need time to mail the invites/fliers to the local area, or at least time to hang them in public areas where everyone can see them.

Delegate tasks to your staff members, or the restaurant PR firm so that duties and deadlines are met and filled. Be sure that you keep track of everything you do, and how much money you spend. Use Excel spreadsheets or checklists so that nothing is overlooked. And be sure that you check in with all of your help so that everybody’s on the same page.

You may even consider doing a dry run. You might start doing business before the grand opening takes place so your employees know what to do, are well trained, and any little bugaboos or issues can be worked out ahead of time.

3. Know Your Target Audience

The art of launching a restaurant has many facets, and one of them is knowing the demographics of people you would most like to reach. Your restaurant’s grand opening needs to draw in your customer base, but also the restaurant supply companies you are working with as well as the local media. It is a chance for you to show off your new restaurant and enter your community with a bang.

Let the local media know that you are new in town. This is a great way to get some publicity, before and after the grand opening takes place. About three weeks before your grand opening is scheduled, contact your local media by phone. You can also mail out a press release if you like. (We will discuss shortly how to do well when using a press release).

If you can, ask a local celebrity like a popular radio host or the mayor to come in for a meal and drink, and also give him or her the honor of cutting the ribbon if you plan to do such a ceremony. Be sure that you also inform the media as well. This can result in photos being sent to the local newspaper or a social media site, along with a column about your new eatery.

Preparing for the media is just as important as planning your grand opening. Be sure that you have that press kit available-and this is not nearly as complicated as it sounds. You can simply pick up some pocket folders and include your business card, a copy of the menu and some questions and answers about your restaurant, and some other helpful facts about your business.

The art of launching a restaurant has many facets

4. Be Sure the Event Is Restaurant-Friendly

For a restaurant, you will want to do things like give away free samples of the food you are offering, as well as have menu copies available so customers always know what great meals you offer.

You might have a staff member offer to show guests around if you have varying areas of the restaurants. For instance, if you cater to families, show off the banquet rooms or areas designed for groups with little kids or babies.

If you are running an upscale establishment, show off your intimate table settings and bar areas. Your goal is to sell your establishment as the place your target demographic would like to be when it’s time to go out to eat.

5. Make Sure Your Expectations are Realistic

Remember, things don’t happen overnight. Your grand opening will be a great way to get your restaurant off on the right foot. But restaurant marketing must be a top priority as your business grows and expands.

Some great ways to keep the word going about your great eatery include:

  • Fun giveaways, like magnets with your phone number and a photo of your signature dish
  • Keychains (perhaps shaped like a food item you offer) or can koozies customers can use to advertise for you
  • Email newsletters or loyalty programs that keep customers coming back for good deals and specials
  • Praising and showing off your hardworking staff on social media
  • Asking grand opening attendees to tell a friend or family member about your place

Restaurant marketing must be a top priority as your business grows and expands.

Regarding Press Releases

Okay, so you have sent out some press releases to your local papers, magazines, Pennysaver, and other media outlets, like radio or television. But there have been no callbacks! What is going wrong? What can somebody do to increase their chances of being published?

First, do not assume that you have completely missed the boat on this one if you haven’t heard back from the people and outlets you have contacted. There have been stories published in some major newspapers and magazines long after the press releases have been sent in. However, we sometimes don’t have that much time to wait. Try again, revising your submission in such a way that appeals to the readers of the publication you seek to advertise in.

When you send out a press release, consider who you are sending it to, and how newsworthy it is. The editors of your local paper have to publish things that appeal to their readers. Therefore, you want to make sure your press release appeals to the people in your local area. Be sure you read and revise your press release over before sending it so that it conveys interest to the editors of your local publications.

Do your best, and perhaps have your PR specialist go over it. They can help you be unique and appealing with the way your release is presented. Don’t use buzz words or try to sound like something you’re not; most editors usually edit the release so that it fits the target audience. Make your headline attention-grabbing so that the editor stays hooked and doesn’t simply put your release at the bottom of the pile.

Make your release sound more like news than anything. Promotion is what editors find most annoying; your goal is to make your release sound like useful info, entertainment, or relevant news.

Remember, keep on keeping on. One publication may want nothing to do with your establishment, but another one will take joy in publishing your story. Editors are always seeking some news. Just keep it short, sweet and to the point while still telling why your restaurant is important and valuable to the community.

Make your release sound more like news than anything. Promotion is what editors find most annoying.

Generate Some Hype

One important aspect of any restaurant start-up event is getting people ready for your establishment. Get them amped and excited to come down and give it a try!

In this portion, we are going to talk about how you can use some marketing strategies to get the word out and get people excited about your restaurant.

  • Keep an eye on your presence when it comes to social media. Social media is a huge deal in today’s world. Sure, you can slip some menus under the door and mail out some coupons, but that’s not enough. Restaurants that have a strong social media presence tend to do well. Start up a Facebook page before you open that shows off your planned Grand Opening festivities, menu, and photos of meals you plan on serving. You can even use your Facebook page as a place to share savings opportunities, promote news and let people know your hours. You can also use this as a place to promote the positive press your company gets!
  • Promote visual content with Instagram. Show off the front of your establishment so people will know what to look for when they come looking for it. If you are a steakhouse, upload photos of the meat cooking on the grill or the fields from which your beef grazes. If you specialize in family dining, upload photos of families who happily celebrated birthdays or special events at your establishments, thanking them for their business. Make hashtags fun again-you can use old favorites like #TBT or create some of your own. Photos of food, employees working hard and more will appeal to customers.
  • Keep Your Menu Easy to Navigate & Functional. Do not make it hard for users to locate your menu. Publish one that is easy to read, accurate, and current. Be sure you include what dishes are good for those with dietary restrictions: gluten free, vegan/vegetarian, diabetics. Customers today NEED to access menus online, or they will take their business elsewhere.

Get People Inside

The whole town will not be able to make it to your grand opening, unfortunately. So, what can you do to get people in the door once they have time to come down?

This section ties in with our previous discussion of generating some hype. This portion is all about enticing the customers into your establishment.

  • Invest in Photography. Photos are what your clientele sees before they even set foot in your restaurant. Your website should feature top-notch photos of your food, settings, and bar area. Try to hire a food photographer if you can, and, combined with your fun Instagram photos, put them all over social media and in your fliers/commercials to get people excited about what you sell.
  • Have Regular Events. This is dependent upon your restaurant. You might bring in live music, have a wine tasting event where you collaborate with a local winery, or bring in a face painter or balloon artist for families with kids. You can even host events that correlate with big movie releases or concerts and invite people to dress up as their favorite character or wear a band t-shirt to get a percentage off their bill.
  • Be the Hangout Spot. Is there a major sports event coming up? Be sure you can broadcast it and offer drink and appetizer specials in honor of the occasion. A lot of people like to go out and share the joy of sports with friends and they don’t have to be in charge of cleanup. Large groups of people will eat, drink and linger while they watch the event for a few hours.

Encourage Repeat Business

Great food and amazing service from your staff are the key drivers in making sure your customers keep coming back. But what are some other methods you can use once your grand opening is over?

  • Keep the Menu Fresh. Fresh foods are loved by diners everywhere, but for this scenario, we mean keeping it changing. Restaurants always offer daily specials, and this makes the experience exciting for customers. You might even have the chef make up some samples and distribute them to diners, imploring them to try. You can then let them know it will be served next week, so be sure to stop by again. Ask your chefs what their specialty is. If your chef perfectly replicates his Italian grandmother’s lasagna, for instance, make sure it appears as a special one of the nights and you advertise on social media.
  • Have a reward system in place. Everyone and we mean everyone, loves a good deal. Giving away a free item once in a while is a good way to bring diners back. Families and couples alike always look for ways to save money. Cards that can be stamped toward a free meal or appetizer are surefire winners. Email lists are a great and unobtrusive way to offer customers deals and get them coming back for more. Send these out before special days like Super Bowl Sunday or Mother’s Day so that they can plan to come to your restaurant and celebrate. You might offer a free dessert or 50% off the purchase of a second meal on these special occasions.

Summing It Up

Keeping your restaurant at the forefront of everybody’s mind is going to be tough, but you can absolutely do it. Plan ahead, budget accordingly, and of course, have confidence in your staff, food, and ability to provide excellent service. Your community will be enjoying your eatery for decades!

Longitude is a hospitality branding and concept development agency. For questions, please reach out to Jeremy Wells at

Jeremy Wells

Partner at Longitude°

Jeremy is a Partner at Longitude°. He’s also the author of “Future Hospitality”, a book focused on how branding can create more impactful guest experiences. Additionally, he’s an honored member of the Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) Education Committee and has spoken at industry events and associations including AAHOA, Global Hospitality Summit, Hospitality Talks, and more.