restaurant contest ideas
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Contests are a fun and easy way to ramp up excitement around your restaurant, raise engagement on social media, and ultimately win over more customers. Thanks to platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you have plenty of online contest ideas to explore, which won’t cost you a dime to set up. Let’s look at some restaurant contest ideas and how you can implement them into your marketing strategy.

How to Increase Sales: 20 Restaurant Contest Ideas

1. Share a photo of yourself enjoying our dishes

One of the most popular food giveaway ideas is prompting people to share photos of themselves eating at your restaurant or ordering takeaway for a chance to win a free meal or coupon code.

If you’re doing the contest on Facebook, ask them to tag you so you can share the photos on your wall and get free, user-generated content. If you decide to go with Instagram, create a unique hashtag for people who upload pictures so you can keep track of them.

2. Tell us about a unique experience you had at our restaurant

Most people have at least one story to tell about their favorite restaurant and a pleasant moment they experienced with their friends or family. Tweet this challenge and ask for people’s stories. The story that gets the most likes wins. This will motivate people who participate to get their loved ones to like their comment, which will bring you extra engagement.

3. Submit a video trying to recreate one of our recipes

This type of content would work well on TikTok, where video challenges are the norm. Create a hashtag and ask people for videos of them cooking one of your most popular recipes. Remember that you also need to come up with out-of-the-box prize giveaway ideas to convince more people to join. For instance, here, the prize can be a 3-hour cooking class with your chef.

Read more: How TikTok for Restaurants Can Shake up Your Marketing Strategy

4. Finish the game to find a clue

Not all restaurant contest ideas have to feature one or two winners. You can also allow more people to win by lowering the stakes. Offer a 10% discount coupon to everybody who finishes the game and unlocks the clue (hint: the clue can be the coupon code).

The game doesn’t have to be complicated either. You could even hide the code in a Snap and challenge people to find it quickly since Snaps are so short-lived.

Read more: How to Use Snapchat for Restaurants to Get New Customers

5. Get your friends to enter for extra entries

When it comes to food-related contests, the more, the merrier. People want to share the love, so help them do so by giving them one extra entry in the contest whenever they get a friend to enter. More engagement for you, more chances of winning for them. It’s literally a win-win situation.

There’s nothing quite like offering free food for an extended period in terms of bold giveaway contest ideas. This is a power move, so you have to think it through and ensure you get enough benefits to outweigh the money you’ll spend feeding someone for free for a year.

However, there’s a reason this type of contest works. The prize is so exciting that it gets people talking. Even customers who don’t usually bother entering contests might be on board with this one.

7. Visit us behind the scenes

Looking for cheap giveaway ideas? Everybody loves a good sneak-peek and exclusive look at what goes on behind the scenes at their favorite restaurant. Take the lucky winner on a trip around your restaurant after closing time. Show them how the kitchen works, how the bartender mixes drinks, and treat them to a meal on the house.

8. Tag a friend to win a free meal for two

You might’ve noticed most Instagram contests for restaurants are based on tagging friends in the post to enter. Do this by itself, or pair it with a follow on your page as well. Choose the winner randomly and offer them and the friend they tagged a free meal at your restaurant. It’s that easy!

9. Celebrate your birthday with our food, and we’ll throw the next one

One of the unique giveaway ideas you could implement is celebrating one lucky customer’s birthday by throwing a party at your restaurant.

Here’s how it works: you ask people to take photos of themselves celebrating their birthday with food from your restaurant (either dine-in or takeaway). Then, they have to share them on social media using a dedicated hashtag. You choose a random winner for whom you’ll throw an awesome birthday party next year.

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Restaurant giveaway ideas that center around giving back to the community are a perfect choice for the holidays. For Thanksgiving or Christmas, pledge to help a charity of your choice and encourage your customers to help too by spending an extra $5 when they dine with you.

Those who do will be automatically entered in a contest to win a free meal at your restaurant. Celebrate the season of giving by instilling this spirit in your customers as well.

11. Free wings on us on Superbowl Sunday if you wear a jersey

Sporting events make up for inspiring restaurant contest ideas. For example, if the Superbowl is a big deal in your city, throw a watch party and offer one serving of free wings to every person who comes wearing their favorite jersey. This doesn’t have to be Superbowl-related to work. Any sporting event that people are passionate about will be good enough.

12. Celebrate your mom with a free Mother’s day meal

Not all social media giveaway ideas have to be about the person entering. Encourage people to join for a loved one and surprise them with a unique gift. On Mother’s day, ask customers to share a fond memory they have with their mom. The one that gets the most likes wins, and they can treat their mom to a free dinner at your restaurant.

13. Become our fan of the month

Much like companies have an employee of the month, your restaurant too can celebrate one customer a month for being the most involved, dedicated one. Either have people share why they’re your biggest fan on social media or, if you can, choose the one who spent the most money at your restaurant that month.

Either way, they will be showcased on social media as your biggest fan that month, and they will also receive a free meal. The good thing about this contest is that it’s long-term. Each month, a new person can win.

14. Help us name our newest menu item

Stuck on ideas of how to call your new menu item? Get your customers to help. They submit their most creative ideas, and you choose the one that you like best. As a reward, the winner can get a whole month of that menu item for free.

15. On your name day, the dessert is on us

Most restaurant contest ideas ask for customers to actively do something to win. This time, they can just show up at your restaurant, show you an ID to confirm it’s really their name day, and claim their free dessert.

I suggest going with a prize like a dessert or an appetizer to motivate people to buy an actual meal as well since they’re already there.

16. Choose next week’s dessert

Another fun contest idea is to let your customers decide the dessert you’ll be serving all of next week. Open up a poll, allow them to enter their ideas, and then open it up to a vote. The option with the most votes wins, and the person who submitted it gets to try it for free. This is an excellent way to make customers feel more involved and close to your restaurant.

17. Treasure hunt around the restaurant

Hide envelopes with random prizes around the restaurant and organize a treasure hunt challenging people to find them. The rewards can range from a 10% discount to a free meal, gift card, complimentary champagne, and so on. Limit one envelope per person, so everybody (or almost everybody, depending on how many people show up) gets something in the end.

18. Caption this photo

If you’re looking for promotional giveaway ideas to help you ramp up anticipation for a new menu item, here’s an idea. Post a sneak peek of it on Instagram and ask people to caption the photo. Then, choose a random winner who gets to taste test it a week before anyone else does.

You will also get extra engagement since the person who wins will most likely want to share their experience of tasting the new menu item on social media and tag you.

19. Guess what we’re cooking live

I know some Facebook contest ideas can be too expensive for small businesses, so here’s a free one. Do a Facebook live from your kitchen where your chef presents all the ingredients needed for cooking a meal. Then, as they start cooking, ask users to comment with their guesses of the meal. The first person to guess gets to come to the restaurant to eat it.

Read more: Facebook Contest Ideas to Increase Likes

20. Fill in the blanks

Finally, get back to basics with a classic fill-in-the-blanks contest. Start a phrase like “The best pizza topping is…” and let people answer on Instagram or Facebook. The comment that gets the most votes wins a 50% discount on your online menu.


As I hope I’ve managed to show you today, you can develop many restaurant contest ideas if you jumpstart your creativity and think outside the box. For now, you have these 20 ideas to last you until you come up with your own.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She creates guides and resources designed to help restaurants grow their presence online and boost sales.

She has been featured on the Oracle Food and Beverage Blog and wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.

Find me on LinkedIn.