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How to Plan a Grand Opening for a Restaurant

Do you want to launch your new restaurant with a buzz and attract customers? If YES, here are 42 best ideas on how to plan a grand opening for a restaurant.

You have invested stressful days, sleepless nights, as well as a ton of money to set up your dream restaurant, but there still remains one last hurdle to scale before your restaurant takes off full time, and that is your grand opening.

To some restaurant business operators, a restaurant opening day might be nothing more than a fun-filled party, but you should know that how your opening day turns out can be the deciding factor of the success or failure of your business.

Much more than a welcome party, a grand opening is a restaurant’s first chance to make a splash in the community. It is an opportunity to introduce the facility, the food and the ambiance to potential customers. With a successful grand opening, you can create a buzz in the community that will help set you apart from other restaurants, and bring in some new and loyal clientele.

You should also know that if your grand opening is successful, you may never have to spend your profits in marketing again. Planning a grand opening can be quite complicated as they are a lot of major and minor details to take note of. In this article, we would provide you simple yet effective ideas that will guarantee you a successful grand opening.

ideas for Planning a Grand Opening for a Restaurant

  1. Define Your Goals

The first step when planning a restaurant’s grand opening is to know what you aim to achieve with the opening. Ask yourself if the goal of the event is to simply have fun, build your customer base, show appreciation for valued customers and clients, connect with new business opportunities, or to thank your staff for their hard work during what was hopefully a not-too-stressful time.

The goals you choose for your restaurant opening would help you know how to go about planning it. If you are looking to get customers, then you have to focus more on your food and the atmosphere of the restaurant; if you want to show appreciation to people for their help, then you may just have to throw a jolly party; if you want loads of publicity, then you have to do a lot of PR, etc.

  1. Set a Budget

When you know what you aim to achieve with your restaurant grand opening, you now have to look at the capital you have at hand and set a reasonable budget for the event.

When it comes to planning an opening event, a lot of people have different opinions on the amount you should spend. Some sources say to allocate 20% of your yearly marketing budget to a grand opening. That may be on the high side, but the most important thing is that no matter how much you choose to spend on the event, make sure to include a little buffer in case of unexpected last minute expenses.

Again, ensure you don’t clean yourself out because you want to have the best opening this side of the country. With proper planning, you can make the little cash you have to go so far.

  1. Set a workable date

Note that for your grand opening to be successful, you have to pick the perfect date. When choosing a date for your grand opening, check the calendar for possible conflicts. Depending on your audience, you may want to avoid scheduling events on school nights, days when a popular sports team is playing, the day of a competing business’ event, holiday weekends, etc.

Though it would seem difficult, but you should endeavor to look for a time that will work best for your ideal clients and customers; and also for you. Note that you have to communicate with your local council once you have picked a date.

  1. Draw up a marketing plan

Everything that ever became a success was planned. Without the right marketing plan, you may not reach your target market, or you may miss out on some of them. You could pay for a spot on the radio or a billboard ad, and while this is effective it is also very costly.

An alternative to this is to run location based Facebook ads. With Facebook’s built in ad manager, it is possible to target people within a certain radius of your restaurant, increasing the likelihood they will visit. You could also send out press releases to the various media houses asking to be published.

  1. Lay the groundwork

Planning for your grand opening should start months ahead of time. This gives you time to interact with the community and business leaders to make them aware of the services and even food you plan to offer.

For example, use farmer’s markets or events in the community to give people free samples of your food so they will get a taste of the pudding and want to come to the grand opening for more. If your meal offerings are fantastic, you may have gotten your very first customers this way.

  1. Take care of logistics

After having picked a date for your grand opening, you now have to decide how long the event will last. You can decide that the opening might last only a few hours, take place in one night or span an entire weekend. You now get to choose the menu for the opening.

You could go with your full menu or a partial one available for just one evening. Find ways to make the event exciting for your target market. For instance, if you are opening a family restaurant, offer activities for kids such as face painting or entertainment by a magician.

  1. Have your brand identity mapped out

Brand identity is crucial. Before you begin to promote your restaurant, you must determine how you want your customers to remember you.

Elements of a strong brand include promise, personality, and memorability. Once you have created your brand image, you will need to market it. Select a quality vendor to help you design marketing materials and custom cut business cards.

  1. Distribute invitations and coordinate RSVPs

Having chosen the theme of you party, you fashion your invitation according to that theme. You should first of all compile the list of people you are going to invite before you print your invitations, but if you want your invitations to reach more people for less cost, you should think of using use email invitations.

They are easy to send and make keeping track of RSVPs quite easy. You just have to create a compelling invitation and start sending them to your list of contacts.

  1. Print and pass out your flyers at local events and festivals

Another very important detail you have to take care of is your flyers. These are one of your major sources of publicity. You must ensure that your flyers are colorfully printed with catchy characters. Make sure your message is clear and distinct.

You can drop off these flyers at parks or train stations, or event centers etc. You can as well take advantage of festivals in your community to share your flyers. Art shows, college events, festivals, parades, food tastings, local music events – these are the places where your target market can be found. Ensure that you take full advantage of these places.

  1. Cross promote with merchants

Cross promotion is an excellent way to build partnerships in the restaurant business. In tight knit communities around the country, small business owners are considered local influencers, and their opinions matter to consumers who shop at their stores.

Rather than go it alone with their local marketing campaigns, some of these merchants are finding success by partnering with peers in their communities and implementing new cross-promotional marketing strategies. You can cross promote your grand opening with quick serve restaurants, car washes, your local grocery etc. The key here is to get your flyers to as many people as possible.

  1. Create a Website

Local diners increasingly get information about restaurants online, so develop a website and an online marketing strategy to brand the restaurant and establish professional authority. You should do this well in advance so that your website has enough traffic to promote the event.

Restaurants open without customers unless they advertise to a receptive audience based on location, culinary preferences or demographic profile. Using targeted ads online, outdoor signs and ads in local media will optimize your grand opening marketing campaign.

  1. Arrange for the press

Another very important thing to take note of when opening a restaurant is the press. You need to assemble press kits for the media that include a press release, sample menu, fact sheet and interior/exterior photographs. Distribute these at least six weeks before your grand opening.

Ask whether the appropriate editor or reporter would like a private tour along with an interview with you or your chef. Include an invitation to attend your opening and receive a complimentary meal.

Design a professional, easy-to-navigate website with photographs of the ambiance and sample dishes, the menu and prices, your location, and hours of operation. Once your establishment takes off, you can add favorable reviews from restaurant critics and satisfied patrons.

  1. Hire a Photographer

Professional photographers are worth their weight in gold. While you’re speaking with guests and customers, they’ll be taking great pictures that you can share on social media or use in promotional materials. If you like the results, you can have them come back after the event and take photos of your new space. You’ll need these to update your website and any other marketing/advertising materials you have.

  1. Hire an MC

So with all these ideas for creating a spectacular grand opening, how exactly is your staff going to manage all the festivities while serving customers at the same time?

The answer is an MC. It’s an expense, but a very necessary one because MC’s are experienced in working a crowd, plus it allows your staff to have time for their core duty. Look out for a good one that comes recommended. You can probably attend a few of his or her shows to ensure the person can keep your customers comfortable.

  1. Offer live entertainment

A grand opening is not complete without some entertainment, so make sure you have some arranged for the grand opening.

Try scheduling the entertainment in advance to have time to build excitement leading up to the opening. If at this point you have exhausted your budget, try hiring local talent looking for exposure. This will both provide you with entertainment, and give back to the community.

  1. Take your promo to the streets

It is not only important to start a conversation about what is interesting and different about your restaurant; it is just as vital to use the right communication channels.

Nowadays, we are being bombarded with information on social media, and offline promotions are pushed down to a secondary level of priority. We believe that using the right offline channels combined with organized online posts on social media channels can bring a more personalized message to your target group.

A great example is street promotion. You can choose a special promo idea to ensure that many people would see your brand every day while walking the streets. You can take out vehicle adverts in order to achieve more visibility.

  1. Invite decorators

If you are preparing for the grand opening of your restaurant, then you should make decorations a priority. You should think about printing massive banners to drape across the front of the restaurant, and placing signs and balloons around the venue.

The combination of these decorations leading up to the event will help generate interest within the community. While doing thing, ensure that your decorations are not in bad taste as it could put off the more sensitive group.

  1. Get custom signs made

No business owner would argue that signs are essential for a business. But what about smaller, custom printed signage and sidewalk signs? These are essential in much the same way.

You need to get a good graphics designer to prepare a very compelling sign for your restaurant, after which you get it printed out. Always remember that you must get the permission of your community council before you can set up any sign, and you may have to pay a small fee.

  1. Consider affiliating with a Charity

Charity has a way of bringing out the humane side of people, and as such you should consider partnering with a charity if you want that bang in your restaurant opening day. Including a charitable element in your grand opening celebrations will not only draw people who like to spend their dollars to support good causes, but it will help you to build relationships within the community.

To get started with this, you can choose a charity that reflects the values that your restaurant preaches. The lasting effect will be a positive reputation among those who also support your cause.

  1. Have other events lead to the big day

Here is where the power of doubles come in. Having multiple events leading up to the grand opening is important when it comes to generating a buzz. Host a friends and family night to thank your staff for all of their hard-work leading up to this important moment.

Also consider having a private reception for journalists and other related local business owners. This reception can also include a tour of your facility especially for the journalists and you can gift them menu cards. This alone can get you positive press coverage. These smaller events can make your attending guests feel extra special.

  1. Invite Influencers

Using influencers is one other way to get a bang out of your opening. There are various kinds of influencers, and the key is getting the ones that roll with your kind of business. Social media influencers, often including bloggers, are people who have garnered thousands and thousands of online followers.

Find them and invite them to your opening. If they are treated favorably, they can use their influence to get you loads of customers. By inviting a large number of local influencers to your grand opening, you can guarantee thousands of unaware online users will see and hear about your restaurant within a matter of days.

Asides that, you can also invite popular figures like local politicians, local school principals, the police chief, and the fire chief… these people are often popular networkers and they can spread valuable word-of-mouth. You should also endeavor to invite groups that are particularly aligned with the cuisine you offer, which means sending invitations to local Italian clubs if your restaurant is a pasta place, for example.

  1. Invite friends or family to visit

Your family and friends are one of the people in the series of opening that would lead to your grand opening. You can use your family and friends to taste whether things are running smoothly in your restaurant, and if you are really ready to take care of a much larger clientele.

On the upside, if things doesn’t seem to be all set as you had thought initially, it would not put out a bad image for your business. They are family, so they would always understand.

  1. Hold a Community Dinner

This is one other event that should lead up to the opening proper. You can hold a community dinner for people that live around your community.

Make a special effort to reach out to people who live within walking distance; hand-deliver invitations to create a personal connection and create goodwill in your area. Serve outdoors and indoors, hire a band to play and if you can, rope off the street or the parking lot. If your restaurant has a theme, use it as inspiration for the music and decorations.

  1. Show Vendor Appreciation

Vendors are most times the people who have contributed to building and equipping the restaurant in one way or the other.

These people need to be appreciated too, as they have the potentials of giving you good word of mouth publicity. So you need to treat them well while you are building and/or remodeling and then throw them a party where they can bring their families and show off the work they did.

  1. Have a special menu for the event

The grand opening should be your opportunity to show your guests what you are capable of, so you should endavour to pull out all the stops and offer as much menu options as you can.

You can serve smaller versions of your favorite dishes, thus allowing your customers to try many dishes all at once instead of offering only one main course. By doing this, you are increasing the likelihood that customers will like at least one of the dishes and come back again.

  1. Don’t go completely free

You have done all the necessary publicity prior to this day, and all these cost money, but one way to ensure that you do not go bankrupt after your grand opening is to not to offer everything on your menu or drink rack completely free. You can do it on a buy one and get one free basis.

You need to start generating revenue, so don’t do a completely free offer. Also, this usually leads to someone bringing 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, as much as your restaurant can handle.

  1. Hand out bounce-back offers

Bounce-back offers are usually in form of coupons that are valid after your opening day ends, and may even extend to another couple weeks. You can hand these out to vendors, friends and family, press people, influencers, charity attendees, VIP day attendees, everybody.

The goal is to get them back in as soon as possible. It takes multiple visits to create new habits, so the faster you can get them back, the faster you can become a part of their routine.

  1. Make great show of your menu

There might be other restaurants out there offering a similar cuisine as yours. Therefore, the key is to clearly show how your menu is different from others. You can add specialty ingredients to everyday dishes to give them that unique appeal. The same should also go for your drinks.

  1. Use custom-made tableware

A specifically photogenic element that gets people to fall in love with a restaurant is custom-made tableware. A few restaurants already discovered the effect of branded plates, and they commissioned specialized artists for the creation. If you can afford it, you can choose a unique design and get a company to produce it specially for you.

  1. Set yourself apart from other restaurant events going on the same day

Do something from the start that is unique and gets people talking. There are many ways to be creative and innovative without being complicated.

Choose a simple and subtle way to stand out from the crowd. Some examples of great ideas for restaurants include using cheese graters for lights or barstools that seat two people. You can also have a signature drink or menu item that is memorable.

  1. Offer freebies

I don’t think there is anyone who is averse to free things; you can use this strategy to get more people through your doors on your restaurant opening day.

It can be a complimentary drink, or some branded little gifts, but the bottom line is having something given to them—especially if it’s something not everyone can get—makes people feel special and develop positive associations with your restaurant and brand.

  1. Hold a ribbon cutting ceremony

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is a popular choice for any new business. If you can get a well-known public official to take part, holding and publicizing a ribbon cutting ceremony for your business can be a good way to generate positive buzz. You can arrange for the members of commerce to stand in on the ribbon cutting ceremony for you.

  1. Talk to area businesses about parking

A grand opening is a big event. Parking might be an issue. You may have to go to other businesses around you and ask permission for your customers to part around their areas. You should also inform your local council about this so that they can give authorization for it.

  1. Arrange for security

If you are planning to have a very grand opening, you must have to arrange for extra hands to man security that day. You may need security personnel to maintain law and order, arrange parking, and take care of other little issues that may tend to escalate into fracas.

You may not need the guntotting types, but the types that would help maintain law and order. Your customer’s would feel more at ease if they notice the presence of security. You may contact private security outfits for this service.

  1. Join your local Chamber of Commerce

A Chamber of Commerce can be a great avenue to reach other businesses with the same goal in mind. Plus the Chamber gives you access to other members as well. Joining your local chamber of commerce before holding your grand opening would sure help you get great advice on how to proceed. Again, their presence can help to boost your opening.

  1. Have a photo booth for kids

If you are opening something like a fast food or a family friendly restaurant, then you may want to include kids in your plans.

Amongst other things, you can hire a photo booth for kids complete with mustache props, hats and funny glasses against a backdrop. The photo booth can equally help your customers capture exciting moments at your grand opening celebration.

  1. Bring in a bounce house

This is another way to get kids engaged during your opening. It’d be a toss up to see who loves bounce houses more – kids or parents. One thing is for sure – kids will spot these things from miles away. You have to ensure however that it doesn’t distract from the main event of the day.

  1. Create window graphics

Every inch of your real estate is valuable, more especially if your location is in a strip center. Make use of the front windows by adding some window graphics custom printed with your restaurant’s logo and slogan.

  1. Arrange for banners and balloons

There should be banners hanging in your property screaming of your restaurant’s grand opening to anyone passing by. Your banners should be colorfully made and strategically mounted so anyone passing by can see it. Get this printed out early so as not to avoid last minute rush.

You also have to have balloons both in and outside your restaurant. You can take it further by printing your restaurant logo on the balloons, and have kids go home with them.

  1. Arrange hotel accommodation for people coming from outside the state

It is a grand opening after all, and friends, families, acquaintances and business associates who reside outside the state would like to be present. Depending on the size of the restaurant and your finances, you may have to arrange hotel accommodations for them.

  1. Finalize guest lists and other details

The days are winding down, and your grand opening is fast approaching. You have to start going over your guest list to ensure that everybody who needs to be at the party was invited.

Work with area Concierge Guild to compile concierge kits with discount info, menus and fact sheet; compile information about scheduled interviews, photo shoots, tastings and make the final calls to ensure things would go according to plan; call up the decorators to see if there are any hitches, etc. They may be a lot of details to go over, and you must ensure that they are all taken care of.

  1. Host your grand Opening Party

It’s finally time, the day has arrived, and it’s your restaurant’s grand opening. If by this point you have done everything correctly, you should not be worried about whether or not your will be busy. You should not be worried about how you are going handle the crowds because you have security.

There should be signs, balloons, banners, and – hopefully – a buzz around town for this by now. Personally reach out to everybody you know and invite them in. Depending on the type of restaurant, you should have bands and activities happening all day or all weekend. This is your last chance to get people talking.