It’s no longer enough to serve great food in the perfect location with the best seasonal ingredients. For that matter, the competition is too fierce and the market is too saturated to rest on your laurels or hope that word alone will get your restaurant the recognition it deserves. In today’s foodie climate, you’ll want to look to brand activation to give your business that certain je ne sais quoi. 

Brand activation simply means driving consumer action through brand interaction. It’s all about bringing your brand—your restaurant, brewery, or cafe—to life through unique and specific community experiences. By activating your brand successfully, your customers will connect with your business on an emotional and personal level, making them customers for life. 

The best way to get started with activating your restaurant is to hold a brand activation event. Well-thought-out, exclusive events draw the right audience out of their homes and off their computer screens, ready for an unforgettable experience.

Think of a different way to get your brand across to the public.

To give customers an unforgettable experience, you will need to brainstorm a brand activation event that represents your brand but also delivers a shareable experience that’s difficult to replicate.

Up to the challenge? Here are a few brand activation event ideas for your restaurant to get you started. 


We all know the power of the pop-up. Due to their limited availability and timeliness, these short-run food experiences can generate a lot of buzz from the community. Since you already have your brick-and-mortar restaurant, you need to take the idea of the pop-up and turn it on its head. 

Take, for example, Subway, which created an outdoor salad bar pop-up that both encouraged healthy eating on the street and promoted their new salad of the day offering during the summer. The event was a hit because it didn’t solely focus on brand promotion, but rather a larger, health-conscious movement.

You don’t have to look just to other restaurants for inspiration.

An easier and more affordable option for your restaurant might be to set up a tent at your local farmers’ market. But instead of just doling out food samples off your new menu, think of a different way to get your brand across to the public. For instance, incorporate an interactive component, such as a blind taste test, and award the winner with a gift card to come in for a meal at your restaurant. 

Scavenger Hunts

A scavenger hunt is a great way to get customers to explore your restaurant and its local city, learn about its history, and share their experiences with the online community. 

You don’t have to look just to other restaurants for inspiration. Consider taking a page out of the Bloomingdale’s playbook. The department store designed a scavenger hunt where participants were able to learn insider knowledge while engaging with both the staff and the products in-store. Customers were able to learn unknown stories about the brand and its history all while sharing the fun on social media to win prizes.

A competition like this is a simple way to engage your local community and have that community promote the one-of-a-kind qualities your restaurant has. Consumers listen to other consumers—they are actually 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by your brand. That’s why brand activation events like shareable photo scavenger hunts can generate a buzz for your restaurant like no other.

Hands-on Experiences

It’s easier to get people connected with your brand and what you represent when they get their hands dirty. That’s why a hands-on experience could be the perfect way to engage your desired audience. 

To celebrate Kit-Kat’s 80th anniversary, the company created a storefront where the public could create their own custom chocolate bar with its own unique Kit-Kat flavor. And to educate consumers on how the other senses come into play during a tasting, Häagen-Dazs set up an Ice Cream Master Academy to engage their audience in a hands-on class.  

Brand activation events are still a rarely used marketing tactic compared to other channels.

Is there a specific ingredient your restaurant is using that others aren’t? Or is the cuisine or your chef’s cooking style widely unknown? Engage and educate your audience by setting up a cooking class or some type of hands-on workshop that can help customers connect with your restaurant, staff, and chefs on a much more personal level. 

While these types of experiences usually garner a robust turnout, high levels of engagement, and a vast reach online as they’re shared by attendees, brand activation events are still a rarely used marketing tactic compared to other channels. If you want to give your restaurant a leg-up in 2020, come up with your own unique and personal brand activation event to excite potential customers. 

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