restaurant soft opening ideas
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Opening a restaurant is no easy feat. With so many things you need to attend to, from menu to design, staff, and so on, you’re bound to make mistakes. A good way to prevent some of those mistakes is to organize a restaurant soft opening before the grand opening.

Here’s what that would entail and how you can make your soft opening a success.

What Is a Soft Opening for a Restaurant?

A soft opening works as a sort of trial run before you open your restaurant to the general public. It gives you a chance to test your menu, customer service, and atmosphere.

Typically, a soft opening is an invite-only event that happens a few days or even weeks before the grand opening.

Soft opening vs. grand opening

If you’re wondering what is the difference between soft opening and grand opening, the main one is the number of people attending and the purpose of the event.

While a grand opening is opening your doors to a larger audience, a soft opening is made up of a smaller group of people, for the purposes of testing the waters.

What Is the Purpose of a Soft Opening?

Besides testing your operations and ensuring your staff is ready to serve customers, a soft opening gives you the chance to:

  • Generate excitement for the grand opening. The people you invite to the soft opening can talk up your restaurant offline and online.
  • Identify areas of improvement. Not everything will go smoothly from the very beginning. But a soft opening gives you the chance to fix any potential issues before your big opening.
  • Collect honest feedback. You can’t improve without feedback. Invite people who you know will be honest and you will gain invaluable insight into how you can improve your operations.
  • Get return customers. If you manage to impress people with your dishes and services, they will likely return to your restaurant, especially if they’ve been a guest of honor at the soft opening.

Who gets invited to a restaurant soft opening?

Most restaurateurs invite close friends and family to the soft opening because they can give you their honest opinion without risking a bad review or unfavorable news article.

Generally, you should keep local media for the grand opening, after everything has already been tried and tested.

You could, however, partner with local food influencers for an exclusive soft opening event. Then, they can hype up your food to their followers and even provide them with a discount coupon code for the grand opening.

Research top influencer marketing agencies in your area if you’re not familiar with this type of marketing and you need someone to help you navigate the process.

10 Restaurant Soft Opening Ideas to Generate Hype

1. Write an enticing restaurant soft opening invitation

Any event you have planned before the big day should start with a restaurant soft opening announcement that will capture people’s attention, especially if you’re going to invite local businesses or influencers.

Here is crucial information that every soft opening flyer should contain:

  • Date and time
  • Address
  • Menu and promotions
  • Dress code (if any)
  • RSVP information

That doesn’t mean you can’t make your invitation stand out with creative restaurant soft opening invitation wording:

You are cordially invited to attend Restaurant Pronto’s pre-opening party for a unique chance to sample our dishes before anyone else!

The entire menu will be half-off, and we’ve prepared many other promotions and surprises throughout the evening.

Join us on the 21st of December at 6 PM at 1305 Cortelyou Rd, Brooklyn, NY, to eat, drink, and be merry!

Dress code: smart casual.

Send your RSVPs to by the 19th of December.

For digital invites, include a digital business card and add your contact details, and email IDs along with links to your personalized gift coupons and share it in your emails or social media handles.

A small menu is perfect for a soft opening because it takes some of the pressure off you while allowing you to showcase the dishes you’re most proud of.

To make the evening even more special, create signature cocktail recipes that will make your restaurant stand out.

As for pricing, typically, soft openings don’t charge full-priced meals because this will make people less likely to attend. However, if you’re concerned about having everything be free, you can do neither and just discount all dishes to 50%.

3. Implement exclusive discounts and promotions only available on the day

Besides the discounted menu, we encourage you to surprise guests with additional promotions and limited-time offers that they’ll only be able to sample that night.

This will bring a sense of exclusivity to your event, enticing more people to join and talk about it with their friends and family.

4. Invite local businesses to build long-lasting relationships

If you want your restaurant to become a pillar of the community, you need to develop relationships with other business owners in the area.

And what better way to kickstart a fruitful relationship than with a party where you can enjoy delicious food and drinks?

Invite neighboring businesses and their staff to show you care about making friends in the community.

5. Add a charitable element to the celebrations

In keeping with the theme of community, fundraising will distinguish your restaurant as a charitable business from the start.

Perhaps you can donate part of the profits you make at the soft opening or organize a charity raffle in support of a cause that’s important to the community.

6. Give out personalized coupon codes for the grand opening

A soft opening is also an excellent chance to promote your grand opening. To encourage people to attend, and even bring a plus one, hand out a discount coupon code they can redeem that night.

Check out the video tutorial below to learn how easy it is to create personalized coupon codes using GloriaFood:

7. Decorate the place to put people in a celebratory mood

No matter what soft opening event ideas you come up with, you need to decorate the space accordingly. From a banner to balloons and festive centerpieces, the décor is an important part of any restaurant experience.

If you want people to spread the word about your soft opening on social media, consider renting a photo booth or fashion one yourself with a camera and photo props. Display your Instagram handle and encourage people to tag you in the photos they post of the event.

8. Organize fun contests and games to keep guests entertained

A soft opening is not just a night like any other. People expect to be dazzled, so beyond the food, drinks, and décor, brainstorm other entertainment ideas as well.

From contests with cool prizes to a trivia game or even a live band, make sure it will be a night to remember.

9. Promote your online services

Throughout the soft opening, take the opportunity to showcase any online services that people can expect from you, from online ordering to table reservations.

Encourage people to book a table for the grand opening before they run out by visiting your website. That will bring you traffic and help you prepare in advance.

Add a Table Reservation button to your website for free Accept table bookings and food pre-orders with a tap

Motivate them to order your food at home by giving out flyers with a small discount for the first order. You can easily generate those if you use our online ordering system:

how to create a restaurant flyer

Kickstart online orders with a discount coupon code for the first order Use GloriaFood’s online ordering flyer generator to sell more food online

10. Hand out comment cards at the end of the evening

The importance of reviews for restaurants cannot be understated. A great place to start is at the soft opening. Kindly ask people to give you feedback by providing them with handy comment cards.

That way, you will close the night with a bunch of suggestions of what you can improve and prepare for as you open your doors to the public.

That’s a Wrap

As you draw the curtains on your soft opening, you will be left with precious information you can use to better your restaurant and improve customer service.

To ensure your restaurant soft opening is a success, implement the suggestions above and make your eatery the talk of the town.

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.