Before we get into the content 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
Restaurants should never only be about the food. Instead, the most successful places make it about enhancing the dining experience of their 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, along with branded hashtags your customers can use that will promote your restaurant.
Let’s take a look at 45 restaurant entertainment ideas.
Eat in the dark
Give your customers a brand new sensory experience (and an education while you’re at it), with a blind eating evening.
Place tables together to create a sense of community. Customers eat in the dark or blindfolded and enjoy gentle music playing in the background.
The experience drops barriers and connects people powerfully. You could also get a blind charity involved and use the event to raise money for the organisation.
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.
Pop-up art gallery
Replace the restaurant’s usual decor with pieces by local artists for diners to buy.
Set up the premises to allow guests to browse the art, cocktail in hand while browsing the menu and waiting for their food.
Image Credit: Widewalls
Example of an art exhibition-cum-restaurant
Photo booths are always popular at events and are sure to do well at many restaurants. 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 customers on social media for great brand exposure. These photos will be a great addition to your website, too.
Image Credit: Showtime Photo Booth
People love wine tastings.
Offer customers various wines from different parts of the world and have the wine expert discuss wine origins. Focus on finding a sommelier who can entertain guests via storytelling.
Wine tastings are also a great idea to introduce speciality menus designed to complement the wine.
Image Credit: The Wild Fig
Wine tasting at The Wild Fig Restaurant.
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 and find their next favourite to enjoy at the bar.
Speciality cocktail night
Showcase an exclusive, speciality cocktail menu for one night only. Offer delicious drinks made from fresh seasonal ingredients.
Your guests will jump at the chance of tasting a cocktail they’ll never taste again.
Forget the newspaper and allow families and groups to play interactive board games.
Perhaps offer the winner a complimentary coffee or a discount on their next meal. You could also advertise game nights on slow days.
Change the decor of the restaurant dramatically to provide the 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-shirts and jeans, people find it fun to have the opportunity to dress up.
Image Credit: Encore
Secret Kingdom theme at the Crown Palladium Ballroom.
Meet the chef
Most people would love to meet the person behind the meal. On a slow day, allow diners 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 course. Chefs could also leave guests with one bonus take-home food prep tip.
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
Find 29 other joint venture ideas here.
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 colour, Christmas trees, and baubles. Provide paper hats and crackers.
- Easter: if your restaurant revolves around family, have a treasure hunt.
Bring a pet
Some people 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
To encourage new business, provide little tastes of the menu, or even fun platters for patrons 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.
Turn waiters into characters
Get your guests into the zone by turning waiters into characters. They could dress up as ninjas, warriors, butlers, Mickey Mouse, and so on.
To make the experience a full one, provide training so that waiters play the part.
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 provided in various sizes and don’t forget to have your waiters welcome guests at the door with a quirky greeting!
The Royal Cliff Hotels Group offers themed dinners. This one was pirate themed.
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.
Dinner and a movie
Provide a full night’s entertainment by throwing in a movie after dinner. Add delicious 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
Build a meal
On certain days, you could offer a “build your own meal” concept, either as a buffet or with a setlist 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 pizzas or burger.
Once the meal is built, it gets handed over for cooking.
Image Credit: Dineinvb
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 a good location on the evening.
How about trying something 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.
Boost the glitz with a fashion show while guests are dining. Get inspired by this example of a fashion show held at a Japanese restaurant:
“What is in these dishes?”
Lots of people love new experiences but without commitment. Try offering vegan dishes that taste like “the real thing” (like cheese and chicken), 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 “ooh’s” and “ah’s”).
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
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.
For this idea, think of the 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 and allow for broken plates!
Image Credit: Straitstimes
Set the scene of a prison hall!
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.
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 great time for this idea is during a cold winter, where your restaurant can have a fire going and provide light blankets for each guest.
This one’s not restaurant entertainment, but banishing the phones of guests will provide an opportunity for them to dine and be present in the moment.
On the other hand, when guests don’t feel obligated to keep checking their phones, they tend to enjoy themselves at restaurants 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 diners, 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.
Teach and 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 courses, and then guests eat the dishes they’ve prepared in the kitchen.
This is a good event for slow days.
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 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.
This is something many guests won’t experience at restaurants and most importantly, it’s a lot of fun.
You don’t have to wait for Valentine’s 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.
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 the rules of the games and how to make the evening 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.
Local Battle of the Bands
Local music artists would jump at the opportunity to play at popular local restaurants. 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.
Tip: Don’t forget to post photos from this event online to create a buzz for the next one!
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.
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. Pepper the restaurant with the kind of snacks that typically appeal to men – peanuts, jerky and so on. You will definitely make a killing that night!
You can also take a look at this bonus resource for more ideas.
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 a quality service and use a host that is entertaining.
Add an extra dose of fun by getting guests to vote for the best, and then give a voucher to the winner.
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.
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. Disruptive Advertising provides good tips for using selfies in marketing campaigns.
Example of a selfie wall.
Busy mom’s spa night
Busy moms deserve to be spoiled. 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 Mom has a head and shoulder massage and pedicure with her friends.
Make the tables look appealing with some glitz and glamour for an extra dash of speciality. Another great idea is to create a special menu for this particular evening to combine the pampering with excellent dining.
Break a world record
Apply to the Guinness Book of World Records to break a crazy world record. You may not achieve it, but promoting the event will draw in the crowds.
Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:
- The largest serving of burgers
- The most expensive hotdog ever sold
- Biggest layered sandwich
Image Credit: SBS
The world’s largest baklava.
Hold a contest
Similar to the break a record idea above, this one invites people to restaurants to take part in a contest involving food.
This could be “eat the most chillies”, “the fastest one to consume 10 scoops of ice cream”, and so on. You could also sell tickets to the event to make the occasion even more official, and make some extra money that could go towards the snacks or the menu.
The crazier the idea, the better.
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.
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.
If your restaurant is situated in a residential area (or even a business district could work), why not try a neighbourhood gathering evening (or business gathering lunch) that features free or low-cost appetizers and coffee, or something equivalent?
Punt the occasion online as a way to meet and greet neighbors.
Be sure to send marketing emails that allow for sharing with friends and family in the area.
There you have it: 44 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 and your website to maximize marketing results.
- Don’t forget to promote the event via your restaurant app!