How to Make Your Restaurant Stand Out from the Competition

Feb 23, 2024 2:41:11 PM

As you might have felt first-hand, the competition in the restaurant industry is tough, making it hard for both new and existing businesses to grow.

The problem often boils down to visibility.

If you’re facing the challenge of getting noticed in a crowded market, this article is for you. 

We'll explore practical ways to differentiate your restaurant, attract more customers, and give you valuable examples to help you get started. 

We’ll cover six key strategies, from hosting and participating in events to engaging with your community and figuring out your restaurant’s unique twist.

Let's dive into how you can make your restaurant the place everyone wants to be.

Host Events

Hosting events is a familiar strategy that needs to be utilized more.

While you may have your standard happy hour at your establishment or your annual Christmas celebration, hosting events at a restaurant is a step further. 

Let's look at some ideas.

restaurant event ideas

Source: Tablein

Each of these events can help create a buzz around your business, whether it's by providing valuable educational content for the community (culinary workshops), excitement with themed nights and unique tasting events, or the thrill of a food competition. 

Think of this hypothetical situation.

Say you had a common Valentine's Day event like the one shown below, offering appealing discounts for this holiday.

valentines day event poster

Source: Texas de Brazil on Instagram

While this would be a great way to host an event to incentivize customers to visit, what if you went one step further?

Instead of a cocktail discount, you could host a couples' cocktail workshop where couples can make their own cocktail under the guidance of a pro. 

What would you think would stand out more? One of the dozen restaurants offering a standard Valentine's discount or a unique experience guests aren't used to? 

You can go in a fun direction with events as well. 

For instance, you can attract your more competitive guests with a food competition. 

Challenges like eating an unreasonably large dish or a competition among multiple diners are fun ways to engage customers and create memorable moments. 

And you can get free promotions from guests who do win competitions like this one guest did for The City Cafe in Edinburgh.

screenshot of an instagram post about a restaurant challenge

Source: Beard Meets Food on Instagram

An exciting experience for guests and a free promotion for your business. It's a win-win. 

Hosting varied events not only spices up the guest experience but also keeps them coming back for more, curious about what you'll think of next.

Engage With the Community Online

What can really help make you stand out is being more engaged and connected with your community.

Social media is amazing for enabling this practice. 

Many popular chains like Wendy's and Burger King have taken the route of funny tweets to drive engagement, as you can see below.

burger king tweets screenshot

Source: Cheezburger

They even regularly exchange tweets with guests, boosting their connection with the chain even further. 

But you don't have to go the route of funny content and making jokes with guests. 

You can also win by providing valuable content that displays your restaurant to guests in a more genuine way. 

For example, take a look at one of the many Instagram posts by HOY Paris.

It creates an entire narrative, showcasing the story of their head chef, the quality of their ingredients, and the passion behind the restaurant.

hoy paris restaurant instagram post screenshot

Source: HOY Paris on Instagram

Or what about this video post, shown below?

hoy paris restaurant instagram video post screenshot

Source: HOY Paris on Instagram

It is a short behind-the-scenes video of one of their chefs that follows the chef from buying their favorite ingredient—mushrooms—to a look into how they prepare and serve it. 

Audiences love this kind of content because it gives them a peek into the restaurant's world, helping them feel a closer connection to the food and the people who make it.

To achieve this yourself, try to create content like the following:

  • Chef interviews and day-in-the-life videos
  • Cooking tips and recipe shares
  • Behind-the-scenes looks at food preparation
  • Customer spotlight stories or testimonials
  • Live Q&A sessions with the kitchen or service team

Interesting content, coupled with regularly communicating with guests, can build your brand and your following, making your establishment a more attractive place to visit.

Overall, engaging with your community online turns your restaurant from just a place to eat into a shared experience and a part of your customers' lives.

Invite Guest Chefs

While we're on the topic of creating buzz around your restaurant, guest chefs can be a real game changer.

Inviting guest chefs breaks the pattern in your establishment, introducing a fresh perspective and new flavors, which can reinvigorate your menu and provide an exciting experience for your regulars. 

On top of that, novelty attracts attention, making your restaurant a talking point and drawing in guests curious about the unique culinary experience on offer.

A guest chef can be both a treat for your regulars and attract new guests who want to try out a particular cuisine or something new. 

Restaurateur Loren Martinez emphasizes this point:

quote about the benefits of inviting guest chefs

Source: Bar & Restaurant

Who wouldn't want a fresh audience that may decide to stick around even after the guest chef leaves?

If you decide to go with this strategy, here are a few tips you'll want to follow.

First off, make sure to promote your guest chef properly. 

Do a great social media and website announcement and highlight the chef and their achievements. 

The Parkway Grill did just that for their guest chef Rochelle Daniel.

restaurant guest chef poster

Source: The Parkway Grill

They showcased her accomplishments and awards in detail, along with a brief biography that aims to attract guests by highlighting her culinary expertise and the distinctive dishes she offers.

Another tip is to really leverage your guest chef's strengths. 

While a guest chef preparing your regular menu is one method, it’s even better to create a temporary menu for the chef in accordance with their expertise. 

Follow the example of the restaurant Carousel, whose team created a unique and limited-time menu for their guest chef, Takashi Taniguchi of Sushi Saeki.

screenshot of a limited time menu for a guest chef

Source: Carousel

This menu was, of course, available only while the chef was around. 

This limited availability is sure to attract guests who want to experience something new and don't want to miss out on the limited-time availability of the new menu.

By inviting guest chefs you keep your restaurant's offering fresh and exciting, ensuring that both new and returning customers have something to look forward to.

Improve Your Curb Appeal

Now, let's turn to how well the outside of your establishment looks. 

We’re talking about curb appeal, and it's an important aspect of the design of your restaurant that can set it apart. 

After all, you don’t want people to be dissuaded from the wonderful dining experience you offer just by how your outside looks and getting reviews like the one you can see below.

tripadvisor restaurant review screenshot

Source: Tripadvisor

Remember that people do judge a book by its cover, and attractive curb appeal can get a passerby to stop and look, draw them into the restaurant, and set up their entire dining experience. 

There are many aspects to consider in curb appeal. One is your restaurant sign. 

Even if you can't drastically change the outside look of your restaurant, you can change your sign. 

Take a look at one example below.

example of a restaurant sign that stands out

Source: Danthonia Designs on X (Twitter)

You want your sign to reflect the character of your restaurant. 

If you're a casual restaurant that's famous for one type of dish like Slack's Hoagie Shack, you want to proudly present that on your sign. 

If you're a fine-dining establishment, on the other hand, use this chance to give a sophisticated look just like Pétrus did with their sign.

an example of a sophisticated restaurant sign

Source: Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay

On another note, if you look at the image above, you can see that some of Pétrus' interior is visible as well. 

You can go one step further to try to be as attractive as possible and bring the inside of your restaurant outside.

Take a look at the following example.

a photo of the exterior of pirana restaurant

Source: Yellowtrace

Along with the bold red color, South American bar and restaurant Piraña has tables already neatly set up so guests can immediately take a seat if they are interested in their restaurant. 

The entire front of the restaurant wonderfully showcases Piraña’s unique and appealing retro concept, luring guests in.

So, make a strong first impression and design your restaurant's exterior to be inviting and reflective of the dining experience.

Participate in Local Events

You want to use every opportunity to stand out with your restaurant, and staying on top of local events is one way to do so. 

There are a lot of events constantly being held, and you want to figure out ways you can capitalize on them to boost your restaurant's visibility and attract more customers.

First, you need to look at the annual events in your country or state and make a calendar of sorts.

For example, the image below shows the annual events held in Colorado.

a screenshot showing the annual events held in Colorado

Source: Uncover Colorado

But, beyond holidays and festivals,  there are a lot of other events, such as concerts and sports events, that happen occasionally. 

You can use all of these events in two ways. First, you can give exclusive offers at your establishment that are related to the event. 

For instance, take a look at what Portillo's did by partnering with the Chicago Bulls.

portillos restaurant promotion screenshot

Source: Portillo’s

Every time the Bulls play, they have a special offer for game attendees that they can redeem when the opposing team misses two consecutive free throws. 

This is just a fun way to boost Portillo's appeal with fans and an interesting way to make them more popular.

But these in-restaurant offers are just one way to participate in local events. 

The other is by actually going to the event in question. 

We're talking about opening a booth or truck at event venues and capitalizing on the boost in sales from the visitors. 

An example is the restaurant Rougemarin from Zagreb, Croatia, which often acts as a pop-up restaurant at festivals or other events, offering their delicious food and service.

rougemarin bistro instagram post screenshot about a pizza festival in zagreb

Source: el Ginjoler

Restaurants that have this approach don't just get more sales from a crowded event but also boost their visibility. 

Just imagine some eventgoer who liked your dishes, and your service made the event even more enjoyable for them. That’s a new regular patron waiting to happen. 

All in all, engaging with local events in these ways not only increases your restaurant’s sales during the event but also builds long-term recognition and customer loyalty.

Come up With One Unique Concept

Our final strategy to make your restaurant stand out among the competition is just that—be as unique as possible and differentiate yourself from other establishments.

You can come up with one unique concept that sets you apart and ensure that no one else has a similar offer. 

You can work with several types of concepts, such as the following:

  • Cuisine
  • Theme
  • Service style
  • Location
  • Ambiance

For example, take a look at Karen's Diner, offering a unique service where the staff is intentionally rude and forces guests to play various silly games.

a screenshot describing the concept of karens diner

Source: Karen’s Diner

This is a unique concept that few restaurants offer. 

If guests are looking for a fun and interactive night out, they'll likely remember and talk about Karen's Diner long after their visit.

Concepts don't necessarily have to be over the top, though. 

Take a look at The Forest restaurant, for instance.

a photo of the interior of the forest restaurant

Source: The Forest Restaurant

Their concept is—you guessed it—a restaurant that is forest-themed. 

This theme extends from the restaurant's interior, ambiance, and decorations to its very menu.

forest restaurant menu

Source: The Forest Restaurant

Guests exploring a new restaurant to visit will undoubtedly be at least intrigued by the looks of The Forest and possibly be interested in visiting. 

And by the looks of The Forest's reviews, their unique concept and atmosphere work well.

screenshot of a tripadvisor review about the forest restaurant

Source: Tripadvisor

Coupled with good food and pleasant service, what's not to love about a unique experience like this? 

Setting your restaurant apart with a unique concept is a surefire way to attract attention, create buzz, and build a loyal customer base looking for something beyond the ordinary dining experience.


And there we have it.

We've navigated through six impactful strategies to elevate your restaurant above the competition, focusing on creating memorable experiences and fostering strong connections with your patrons. 

From revitalizing your restaurant's appearance to engaging both online and in local events, these approaches aim to build a unique identity for your restaurant and deepen customer loyalty. 

The takeaway is clear—differentiation and active engagement are key to standing out. 

So, what are you waiting for? 

Try some of our suggestions and watch how you not only draw attention to your business but also turn first-time visitors into regulars. 

Cheers to your restaurant's successful journey ahead!