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Nothing brings people together quite like a party with delicious food. Creative restaurant event ideas can attract a crowd and transform guests into loyal customers. Not sure where to start? Use these ideas as inspiration — just put your own spin on them to suit the vibe, food, and location of your restaurant.

Benefits of hosting restaurant events

It takes more than great food to make a profitable restaurant event — even a small gathering requires extra labor and expense. Before you commit to the process, take time to evaluate the benefits. They can help you determine the size and type of restaurant event that will work best for your bottom line.

Benefits of a restaurant event include:

  • Attracting new customers. An event gives potential customers a reason to try your restaurant. The increase in traffic can be particularly significant if your customer base includes millennials — 78% of people in this generation prefer to spend money on experiences and events rather than physical products. If they have a positive experience, they’re more likely to return for meals and future events.
  • Building brand awareness. People are always looking for new and interesting things to do. When they see you’re hosting an event, it sets your business apart from local restaurant-industry competitors. This bump in brand awareness can boost attendance at the event itself and improve name recognition in the long term.
  • Improving brand perception. When you host restaurant events, it automatically changes the way customers and potential customers perceive your business. Events such as happy hour, open mic night, and comedy night make the restaurant feel more fun; a food tasting event or charity event can give your brand an elevated, upscale vibe.
  • Increasing restaurant sales. Because you can charge more for a restaurant event, it tends to create a short-term boost in revenue.

Restaurant event ideas to inspire you

If you’re new to restaurant events, use these ideas for inspiration. Once you choose an event, remember that marketing is everything — reach existing guests and new customers by promoting the event on social media, putting up flyers, and posting on your restaurant website. You might even consider taking out targeted social media ads on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to reach more people.

1. Social gatherings

Give people in your community a reason to get together by hosting events that promote socialization. Karaoke nights, trivia nights, and singles’ nights encourage members of your target audience to bring friends and meet new people. It’s good for your restaurant business, too — a fun, lively atmosphere encourages diners to order more.

2. Interactive classes

Expand your guests’ culinary knowledge by hosting classes. Ask your chef to teach attendees how to make one of the restaurant’s best-selling dishes, for example, or get your sommelier to host a wine-pairing class. Offer hands-on instruction so guests can get involved in the process. This unique, valuable experience is an effective way to attract new customers who want new skills or date-night activities.

3. Tasting events

If your target audience is interested in broadening their palates, host tasting events for food and wine. For a flat fee, guests can taste a variety of dishes and drinks — no need to choose. To make sure everyone can participate, consider offering options that are vegan and gluten-free. It’s a fun way to give your kitchen crew the freedom to experiment; you might even discover new items to add to your menu.

4. Theme night

Plan an event around a specific theme and create an immersive experience with decorations, music, food, and activities. If you run a diner, for example, you could host a 1950s night with retro music, a sock hop dance, and classic comfort foods. For an extra element of fun, ask guests to dress to match the theme. Other theme ideas include Taco Tuesday, murder mystery night, and wine around the world.

5. Chef collaboration event

Bring in a local chef or culinary expert to showcase a type of cuisine your restaurant wouldn’t normally serve. You might work with another local restaurant to swap chefs for a day or host a “fusion night” between the two cuisines. To make the event more exciting, host a food challenge where the two chefs create different dishes and the guests vote on the contest winners.

6. Holiday celebrations

Host events on holidays to capitalize on the energy and excitement that surround the day. Halloween is a great example — you can move the tables aside and host a costume party with appetizers, cocktails, and dancing. On Valentine’s Day, do a date-night extravaganza with romantic music, candlelight, and an aphrodisiac menu. Don’t limit yourself to the big holidays; you can also plan a special event for Black Friday, the fall harvest season, or back-to-school.

7. Food holiday events

National food holidays and food delivery holidays are the perfect excuse to host a fun, lighthearted restaurant event. Celebrate National Dumpling Day (September 26) with a dumpling-tasting evening, or host a pizza-making workshop for National Sausage Pizza Day (October 11). Since these holidays tend to trend on social media, your restaurant marketing team can spread the word with hashtags.

8. Invite-only dinner

Show you appreciate your guests with an exclusive chef’s dinner. Invite your most loyal customers to the private event, and plan a special menu. This is a great opportunity to get guest feedback — you can ask them to try potential new menu items, for example, or have them vote on a new Scotch or red wine. They’ll feel honored to be included by the restaurant owner, and you’ll get valuable input from the people who are most likely to come back.

9. Family activity night

Dining out can be stressful for families, especially those with young children. A family activity gives parents a break. Set up child-friendly activities to keep kids busy and safe; the adults can enjoy their meals knowing the little ones are happy and engaged. Highlight your kids’ menu and add a few restaurant promotions to the menu to provide an extra incentive; family meal deals or cocktail specials work well for a multigenerational crowd.

Boost your establishment’s reputation

A restaurant event is a fantastic way to promote your restaurant — people love parties. With the right event ideas and marketing strategy, you can build brand awareness and boost name recognition.Want to get delivery customers in on the fun? Consider extending the event to the to-go menu with discounts, themed meals, or other special offers. Leave the food delivery to Grubhub; our professional drivers do the hard work of getting meals to diners so you can focus on creating an exciting event experience. Get started with Grubhub today to test it out for your next restaurant event.