Before we get into the meat of this article, it must be noted that not all of the restaurant entertainment ideas will work for every establishment.
That is because each restaurant has a different audience…
People frequenting Spur Steak Ranch will value different things to those making bookings at 5-star Melton’s Restaurant in the UK.
While families flock to Spur, Melton’s will be peppered with adults…family board games may work well at Spur, but they won’t do it for the Melton’s diners.
The point? Select your entertainment wisely, as it impacts the reputation and brand of your restaurant.
Entertainment is for marketing purposes
The next point that needs to be made is that restaurants should never only be about the food. Instead, the most successful places make it about the experience, and that is what this article is about – enhancing the experience of your patrons.
Providing entertainment that delights is good marketing, and profit is the aim of any business.
Be sure to maximize every idea with event marketing. It’s no good planning an event that only you know about until the day of the event.
Lastly, use social media to boost marketing purposes: people like to take photos of cool experiences and share them with friends and family on social media, so for every event, include an event wall that has good lighting and your logo, and include branded hashtags your guests can use that will promote your restaurant.
Right. On to the 46 restaurant entertainment ideas…
Table of Contents
- 1 Entertainment is for marketing purposes
- 2 #1 Eat in the dark
- 3 #2 Pop up art gallery
- 4 #3 Photobooth
- 5 #4 Wine tasting
- 6 #5 Craft beer tasting
- 7 #6 Hubbly
- 8 #7 Speciality cocktail night
- 9 #8 Board games
- 10 #9 Popup theme
- 11 #10 Meet the chef
- 12 #11 Joint ventures
- 13 #12 Theme it
- 14 #13 Bring a pet
- 15 #14 Taste evening
- 16 #15 Turn waiters into characters
- 17 #16 Dress up
- 18 #17 Issue a mission
- 19 #18 Dinner and a movie
- 20 #19 Build a meal
- 21 #20 Arcade evening
- 22 #21 Combos
- 23 #22 Fashion show
- 24 #23 What’s in this?
- 25 #24 Sketch artist
- 26 #25 Pay what you want
- 27 #26 Mental ward
- 28 #27 Prison break
- 29 #28 The waiter is the show
- 30 #29 TV supper
- 31 #30 Banish phones
- 32 #31 Teach ‘n eat
- 33 #32 Meal according to personality
- 34 #33 Love night
- 35 #34 Game night
- 36 #35 Local Battle of the Bands
- 37 #36 Speed date night
- 38 #37 Boys night out
- 39 #38 Open mic night
- 40 #39 VIP evening
- 41 #40 Selfie spot
- 42 #41 Busy mom’s spa night
- 43 #42 Break a record
- 44 #43 Hold a contest
- 45 #44 Dance class
- 46 #45 Theatrical preview
- 47 #46 Neighbour gathering
- 48 Last words
#1 Eat in the dark
Give your guests a brand new sensory experience (and education while you’re at it), with a blind eating evening.
Place tables together to create a sense of community. Guests are served by blind waiters and eat in the dark, gentle music playing in the background.
The experience drops barriers and connects people powerfully.
You could also get a blind charity involved.
This idea was sparked by the Blind Cafe:
Image Credit: Seattle Globalist
Guests entering the Blind Cafe to experience eating a meal in the dark.
#2 Pop up art gallery
Replace the restaurant’s usual decor with pieces by local artists for guests to buy.
Set up the premises to allow guests to browse the art, cocktail in hand while waiting for their meals.
Image Credit: Widewalls
Example of an art exhibition-cum-restaurant
Photo booths are always popular at events and is sure to do well at any restaurant. Stock the booth with props and costumes that support your brand, to add that extra bit of fun.
Have a photographer on site, include your logo on the photographs, and tag guests on social media for great brand exposure.
Image Credit: Showtime Photo Booth
#4 Wine tasting
People love wine tastings.
Offer guests various wines from different regions and have the wine expert discuss wine origins. Focus on finding a sommelier who has the ability to entertain guests via storytelling.
Wine tastings are also a great idea to introduce specialty menus designed to complement the wine.
Image Credit: The Wild Fig
Wine tasting at The Wild Fig restaurant.
#5 Craft beer tasting
Offer a special price to taste craft beer on a slow night of the week and you’ll find people swarming in to sample the craft beers to find their next best favourites.
Hookah pipes are sure to be a big hit! Offer any flavour of Hubbly to guests and the aromas will create a relaxed atmosphere. Hubblies build a community atmosphere that is chilled.
#7 Speciality cocktail night
Showcase an exclusive, specialty cocktail menu for one night only.
Offer drinks made from fresh seasonal ingredients.
Your guests will jump at the chance of tasting a cocktail they’ll never taste again.
#8 Board games
Forget the newspaper, and give families and groups the opportunity to play board games.
Perhaps offer the winner a free coffee or a discount on their meal.
You could also advertise game nights on slow days.
#9 Popup theme
Change the decor of the restaurant dramatically to provide experience of a themed evening.
Get waiters into character, and request guests to dress up accordingly.
In today’s culture, when so many eat-outs are done in T-shirt and jeans, people find it fun to have the opportunity to dress up.
Image Credit: Encore
Secret Kingdom theme at the Crown Palladium Ballroom.
#10 Meet the chef
Most people would love to meet the person behind the meal.
On a slow day, give guests the opportunity to meet the chef.
You could even offer a special taster menu and get the chef to speak to people about his or her culinary expertise, philosophy and the process behind each dish. Chefs could also leave guests with one bonus take-home food prep tip.
#11 Joint ventures
Partner with another business to create entertainment or events where both parties win.
- Local farms for fresh produce or wine
- Competitors on the same street so you can offer a bar or dessert hopping experience
- Chocolatier for wine and chocolate pairing
- Fitness club for a fitness day: guests go to the gym on a free pass and then sit down at your restaurant for a healthy meal and smoothies
#12 Theme it
Create themes around special days and have the whole restaurant “dress up” for a magical experience:
- Valentine’s day: go all-out to create romance for couples, giving them space, gentle music and an atmosphere that is conducive to intimacy.
- Christmas Eve: set up a festive atmosphere with color, Christmas trees, and baubles. Provide paper hats and crackers.
- Easter: if your restaurant revolves around family, have a treasure hunt.
#13 Bring a pet
There are people who would love to bring their pets with lunch or dinner. Animal lovers will be happy to support you, and kids would love the concept.
You could rope in an animal welfare society to offer a talk while the special guests (the animals) are served animal-friendly hors d’oeuvres.
Image Credit: Bravo
#14 Taste evening
To encourage new business, provide little tastes of the menu, or even fun platters for tables to share.
To spice things up, provide the history of each dish.
You could also offer the best wine samples to go with each dish.
#15 Turn waiters into characters
Get your guests into the zone by turning waiters into characters. They could become ninjas, warriors, butlers, Mickey Mouse, and so on.
To make the experience a full one, provide training so that waiters really play the part.
#16 Dress up
Couple up with the character waiters by having guests dress up. Why not offer an entire room full of costumes, so that they can also get into character?
Make sure the costumes are clean and that you provide various sizes.
The Royal Cliff Hotels Group offers themed dinners. This one was pirate themed.
#17 Issue a mission
You’ve heard of the popular murder mystery dinners, but you can adapt those slightly…
How about turning the evening into a James Bond experience by giving guests a mission that needs to be completed by the end of their meal?
Adapt the mission to accommodate children.
#18 Dinner and a movie
Provide a full night’s entertainment by throwing in a movie after dinner.
Add popcorn and make more money by offering drinks and dessert during the movie.
Alternatively, partner with a cinema and either hold dinner at the cinema or get the cinema to run the movie at your restaurant.
Image Credit: VCStar
#19 Build a meal
On certain days, you could offer a “build your own meal” concept, either as a buffet or with a set list of ingredients.
For instance, put out a table of pizza making ingredients, give each guest an apron and gloves, and then get them to build their own pizzas.
Once the meal is built, it gets handed over for cooking.
Image Credit: Dineinvb
#20 Arcade evening
An arcade evening is one of the simplest events to set up because all that’s needed is for you to hire arcade machines and place them in good spots on the evening.
Image Credit: Press Citizen
How about trying something really different, like a combo package? Not just with food, but with other services or products.
For example, offer car washes while guests have lunch, or a play area for kids so parents get to eat in peace.
Focusing on convenience is always a good combination for combos.
#22 Fashion show
Boost the glitz with a fashion show during dinner.
Get inspired by this example of a fashion show held at a Japanese restaurant:
#23 What’s in this?
Lots of people love new experiences but without the commitment. Try offering vegan dishes that taste like “the real thing” (like cheese and meat), and get people to guess what’s in the dish.
(If you are familiar with vegan foods, you will know there are clever ways of making some foods that taste just like “the real thing” but which guests will find hard to recognize, making it a fun experience filled with “oh’s” and “ah’s”).
#24 Sketch artist
Bring in sketch artists to draw tables of guests. At the end of the meal, the sketch is handed over to the party to do with as they see fit.
You could also use artists that animate pictures for something extra special. Be sure to include a logo of your restaurant on the drawing.
Image Credit: Pixabay
#25 Pay what you want
Try a “pay what you want” day.
Offer a menu with no set prices. Instead, guests pay what they feel the food was worth.
Tip! This works well with those who don’t often find value in eating out, like many vegans who often don’t get many food choices from standard restaurants, or dieters who have limited options, or those on a specific diet like raw foodists and banters.
If you provide good options and variety for this audience, and if your marketing is good, this idea should work very well.
#26 Mental ward
A bit extreme, but a good guest experience: kit out waiters and waitresses as nurses and set the scene of a mental ward so that guests get the full picture of what it’s like to dine in a mental facility.
#27 Prison break
Similar to the mental ward idea, think TV series “Prison Break”.
Set up the decor to represent a prison, and get actors to play the part of sinister jail mates. Serve food on trays.
Allow for broken plates!
Image Credit: Straitstimes
Set the scene of a prison hall!
#28 The waiter is the show
Waiters must be able to act the part of some character, be it Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck or a Ninja.
Whatever it is, the waiter needs to be skilled at providing some kind of show to the guests he or she serves, like magic, singing, acting for a short skit, statue, comedy, and so on.
Opera singing waiters by Contempo Productions.
#29 TV supper
Arrange couches to face a big screen that runs a movie during dinner. Serve dinner on comfy trays, as if guests were at home.
A lovely time for this idea is during a cold winter, where your restaurant can have a fire going and provide light blankets for each guest.
#30 Banish phones
This one’s not really restaurant entertainment, but banishing the phones of guests will provide an opportunity for them to be present in the moment.
On the side, when guests don’t feel obligated to keep checking their phones, they tend to enjoy themselves more. Research shows that people are not as bored when they do not have their phones with them at dinner. As a restaurant, your goal must always be to create a space of enjoyment for guests, so guests holding on to their phones during dinner is your problem.
Image Credit: GoodtoKnow
Frankie and Benny’s give kids free meals if the phones of their parents are banned.
#31 Teach ‘n eat
Get your chef to teach guests how to prepare a meal or give tips on something related to food and eating.
A very popular idea is for restaurants to offer practical cooking lessons, and then guests eat what they’ve prepared in the kitchen.
A good event for slow days.
#32 Meal according to personality
Get guests to complete a short form that gives you insight into each of their characters, and then prepare a meal based on personality.
You may even want to get an expert in to link personality to food choices.
Have the pro write out a keepsake to show why the particular meal was chosen based on which character traits.
It’s a lot of fun for guests!
#33 Love night
You don’t have to wait for Valentines Day. Create your own “night of love”, and go all-out to provide a luxurious and romantic couples experience.
Limit the number of guests to give each couple privacy and make the event exclusive.
#34 Game night
Game nights are always popular with adults, especially for some restaurants that are frequented by people who enjoy the social aspect of a game night.
Good ideas for game nights are trivia, board games, darts, video, and bingo. The key is to get a host that knows how to make the night a fun one.
Image Credit: Upserve Restaurant Insider
Lola, pictured with a guest, is a drag performer and host of Luscious Lola’s Bingo Brunch at Phunky Elephant gastropub.
#35 Local Battle of the Bands
Local music artists would jump at the opportunity to play for your restaurant. Consider a local Battle of the Bands evening.
All artists should be checked out prior to the event to make sure they can actually provide good music.
Get 5 – 10 local artists to perform free of charge and consider offering the winner a monthly or weekly paid spot.
#36 Speed date night
Many single people love the concept of speed dating, so why not hold a speed date night at the restaurant, the night focusing on singles and mingling?
Hire an events planner and be sure to set the scene for romance and fun.
Image Credit: FindVegLove
Buddha-Full, a vegan restaurant in Vancouver, hosted a speed dating night promoted as, “Veg Speed Date” that allowed vegans and vegetarians to connect.
#37 Boys night out
Hold a boys night out. This could mean a big screen TV when there’s a special sports event and discounted beer. Make the space comfy by offering couches to slouch on. Keep the drinks flowing…
Pepper the restaurant with the kind of snacks men enjoy – peanuts, jerky and so on.
You are sure to make a killing that night!
Bonus resource: Super Bowl Marketing
#38 Open mic night
Host an open mic night for one-man performers from the audience. Encourage a variety of performers so that guests get a good show for the duration of the evening.
Be sure to screen all applicants first, to make sure they actually provide value and use a host that is entertaining.
Add an extra dash of fun by getting guests to vote for the best, and then give a voucher to the winner.
#39 VIP evening
Hold a VIP evening for faithful customers.
You could do this annually, offering a loyalty card type thing throughout the year, letting guests know that the 20 – 50 most loyal customers throughout the year are invited to an exclusive event.
Make sure you really go to town for this one, so that it can become a “need to be there” annual event.
Alternatively, simply host a once-off VIP evening where you roll out the red carpet and charge extra for the experience.
#40 Selfie spot
As the Instagram-selfie craze grows, use it to your advantage by creating a selfie space in your restaurant where guests can snap and share images of themselves.
Keep costumes and props in the area so that guests can have fun taking all kinds of photos in between orders.
Be sure to include your restaurant logo in the background, for marketing purposes.
Additionally, it would be super smart to create a branded Instagram hashtag for guests to use as part of their selfie posts. Consider running a whole campaign based around selfies.
Disruptive Advertising provides good tips for using selfies in marketing campaigns.
Example of a selfie wall.
#41 Busy mom’s spa night
More than anyone, mom’s need a break from life, and a spoil.
As a restaurant, you can provide a decadent night of unwinding and pampering.
Join up with other services to offer babysitting for the night while Mum has a head and shoulder massage and pedicure with her friends.
Pretty-fie the table with some glitz and glamour for an extra dash of special.
#42 Break a record
Apply to the Guiness Book of World Records to break a crazy record! You may not achieve it, but promoting the event will draw in the crowds.
Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:
- Largest serving of burgers
- The most expensive hotdog ever sold
- Biggest layered sandwich
Image Credit: SBS
The world’s largest baklava.
#43 Hold a contest
Similar to the break a record idea above, this one invites people to take part in a contest involving food.
This could be “eat the most chilies”, “the fastest one to consume 10 scoops of ice cream”, and so on.
The crazier the idea, the better.
#44 Dance class
Advertise that you’re offering a free dance class to all guests for one evening.
Hire a dance instructor and get people on the dance floor doing the salsa, ballroom or latin american…
#45 Theatrical preview
Pitch your idea to a theatre production as a free promotional opportunity: they send a few cast members to do a preview performance at your restaurant and get free publicity for the night and via the restaurant’s marketing of the event.
#46 Neighbour gathering
If your restaurant is situated in a residential area (or even a business district could work), why not try a neighborhood gathering evening (or business gathering lunch), offering free low-cost appetizers and coffee, or something equivalent?
Punt the occasion as a way to meet and greet neighbors.
Be sure to send marketing emails that allow for sharing to friends and family in the area.
There you have it. 46 Brilliant ideas.
- Choose restaurant entertainment ideas that appeal to your specific audience.
- Remember that entertainment is for marketing purposes, so make the most of the occasion by marketing it sufficiently.
- Make use of social media to maximize marketing results.
- Don’t forget to promote the event via your restaurant app!