11 Unique Restaurant Contest Ideas to Attract More Foodies

Are you struggling to get customers at your restaurant? Running a contest can help attract more foodies to your establishment. Not sure where to start? Here are 11 unique restaurant contest ideas to get you started.

Restaurant Contest Ideas

Why Should You Run a Restaurant Contest?

Before, let me tell you why you should run a contest at your restaurant.

Boost Customer Engagement

Hosting a restaurant contest can significantly increase customer engagement. It encourages customers to interact actively with your brand by creating a dish, sharing contest details on their social media, or visiting your restaurant to claim their prize.

Attract New Customers

A well-promoted restaurant contest can attract a broad audience and attract new customers. People who may not have been familiar with your restaurant might get intrigued by the contest and decide to participate or visit.

Increase Brand Exposure

A contest is a fun and creative way to increase your restaurant’s visibility, especially if it involves social media. Participants sharing their entries or using your contest hashtag will expose your brand to their followers, creating a ripple effect.

Collect Customer Data

By running a contest, you can collect valuable customer data. Participants might need to submit their email addresses, preferences, or other information to enter the contest, which you can use for future marketing efforts.

Foster Loyalty and Create Memorable Experiences

Through contests, you can create meaningful customer experiences that foster loyalty. Prizes like naming a dish after the winner or offering a VIP dining experience can make customers feel valued and appreciated, encouraging them to return.

Boost Sales

Lastly, contests can boost your restaurant sales, especially if the contest requires a purchase to enter or if the prize is a discount or gift card. Participants will likely spend more than the gift card value, increasing revenue.

Types of Restaurant Contests

Based on the platforms, you can run two types of restaurant contests.

  1. Online restaurant contests: In such contests, people participate through various online channels like social media platforms, blogs, or websites. For example, a restaurant can organize a photo contest on Instagram by asking people to upload photos of their meals at the restaurant and tag them with specific hashtags.
  2. Offline restaurant contests: These contests occur in your physical location, i.e., your premises. For instance, you can have a chili-eating competition where participants must eat as many chilies as possible within a set time limit.

I have included online and offline options for your convenience in the restaurant contest ideas below.

11 Unique Restaurant Contest Ideas

Each business has its unique way of attracting customers, and restaurants are no exception. In the increasingly competitive food industry, restaurant owners must generate innovative ideas to attract more foodies and distinguish themselves from others. 

Check out the fun restaurant contest ideas below to make your restaurant business stand out and fill your tables with food lovers.

#1. Recipe Contest

A Recipe Contest is an excellent way to engage with your customers and show appreciation for their culinary skills. Participants are invited to submit their unique recipe using your restaurant’s ingredients or dishes as a base. This contest could be run online, where participants submit their recipes and photos of their dishes.

Alternatively, it could also be done in your restaurant, where contestants cook and present their dishes to a panel of judges.

#2. Mystery Dish Contest

A Mystery Dish Contest is a fun and exciting way to challenge your customers’ culinary knowledge. In this contest, participants are served a dish and are required to identify the ingredients or guess the dish’s name.

This can be done either online, where you post a picture or a description of the dish and have participants submit their guesses, or offline, where you serve the dish at your restaurant.

#3. Themed Menu Contest

A Themed Menu Contest is an engaging way to keep customers excited about your restaurant. This contest can be run either online or offline. Here’s how it works: You pick a theme – a cuisine from a particular country, a holiday like Halloween or Christmas, or even a concept like vegan food or comfort food. Participants are then invited to create a menu based on this theme.

For instance, if the theme is ‘Mexican Cuisine,’ customers can curate a menu that includes starters, main courses, and desserts, all popular Mexican dishes. If done online, participants can submit their menus through social media or email, and if done offline, they could present their ideas at your restaurant.

#4. Food Critic Contest

Hosting a Food Critic Contest is an awesome way to show off your restaurant’s amazing dishes. You can invite food bloggers or critics to come and review your place, then have them write blog posts or articles about their experience.

To make it even more fun, you could run an online contest where customers vote for their favorite food critic’s review.

#5. Food Photography Contest

A Food Photography Contest is an excellent opportunity to showcase your restaurant’s mouthwatering dishes and engage with customers. This contest can be conducted online, primarily on photo-centric platforms like Instagram. 

Participants can be invited to capture delicious photos of their meals from your restaurant. Then they will upload them on their Instagram profiles using a unique hashtag, such as #FoodPicAtYourRestaurantName.

For instance, if your restaurant is called “The Gourmet Grill,” the unique hashtag could be #FoodPicAtTheGourmetGrill. This hashtag allows your restaurant to gain exposure whenever it is used.

Moreover, the participant who submits the most captivating food photograph will have the chance to win enticing rewards.

#6. Caption Contest

A Caption Contest is a creative and interactive way to engage with your customers and enhance your brand’s visibility on social media platforms. Here’s how you can conduct it: Post a fun or intriguing photo related to your restaurant on your social media handles and invite your followers to create the most creative caption.

For instance, if introducing a new dish, you could post an enticing photo and ask your followers to caption the image.

The caption could be a dish description, a funny comment, or a short story. Something like: “New menu item alert! How would you caption this picture of our latest creation? The most creative caption wins a free meal!”.

#7. Food Quiz Contest

A Food Quiz Contest is a great way to educate your customers about different cuisines, ingredients, and dishes while keeping them entertained. This can be done online or offline. You can post a food-related quiz online on your social media pages or website and have participants submit their answers through a form or email.

Offline, you could host a live quiz event at your restaurant, where contestants can participate individually or as a team.

#8. Speed Eating Contest

A Speed Eating Contest is an exciting way to challenge your customers’ appetite and have some fun at the same time. This contest can be done offline at your restaurant.

Choose a dish or menu item known for its large portion size and invite customers to compete in eating it as quickly as possible. You could have different rounds with different dishes, and the customer who finishes all the meals first wins a prize.

Be sure to have rules to ensure safety and fairness, such as no touching of food until the start signal and no excessive force while eating.

#9. Guess the Ingredient Contest

Hosting a “Guess the Ingredient” contest is a fun and interactive way to get your customers involved with your menu. You can do this online or right in your restaurant. Here’s how it works: You show them a dish with a photo on your social media or right at their table and ask them to guess a hidden ingredient or a unique spice used in it.

For example, if you’ve used a special homemade sauce in your burger, you can challenge your customers to guess the secret ingredient that gives it that special flavor. The first person to guess correctly could win a prize like a free dish, a discount on their next visit, or even get recognized on your restaurant’s social media accounts.

A Cookie Contest is a sweet and delightful way to engage your customers and showcase their baking skills. Here is how it can be conducted: Announce a theme like ‘Holiday Cookies’ or ‘Cookies with a Twist,’ and invite your customers to submit their unique cookie recipes based on this theme.

For instance, if the theme is ‘Cookies with a Twist,’ customers are challenged to add an unexpected ingredient to a traditional cookie recipe. They can submit their recipes and photos of their finished cookies online through email or social media using a unique hashtag like #CookieTwistYourRestaurantName.

Moreover, if done offline, you can host a cookie-tasting event at your restaurant where participants bring their freshly baked cookies for judgment. Such a contest is very special for the holiday season, as you can also sell the winning cookie recipe at your restaurant for a limited time.

#11. Cake Baking Contest

A Cake Baking Contest presents an excellent opportunity to engage with customers and encourage them to showcase their culinary creativity. Here’s how it works: A theme, such as ‘Exotic Fruits’ or ‘Classic Cakes with a Twist,’ is announced. Customers are then invited to bake a cake aligned with the chosen theme. 

For example, if the theme is ‘Exotic Fruits,’ participants can incorporate fruits like Dragon Fruit, Passionfruit, or Starfruit into their cakes.

Participants can submit their cake recipes and photos of their finished creations online via email or social media using a unique hashtag like #CakeBakeYourRestaurantName. If preferred offline, a cake-tasting event can be hosted at the restaurant, where participants bring their baked cakes for judging.

10 Prize Ideas for Restaurant Contest

You have different, unique, and fun restaurant contest ideas. But what will you give to the winner(s)? You must have decided or thought about the prizes, but here are a few ideas:

#1. Free Meal/Meal Vouchers

One of the most common and popular prizes for restaurant contests is a free meal or meal voucher. This could be a set menu or a dish/drink from your restaurant. It gives the winner(s) a chance to try out your food and encourages them to return in the future.

#2. Discounts on Next Visit

Another prize idea is to discount the winner’s next visit to your restaurant. This can be a percentage off their total bill or a specific amount off, depending on your preference. It rewards the winner and encourages them to return for another meal.

#3. Social Media Shoutout

A Social Media Shoutout is an impactful way to reward your contest winners. This involves highlighting the winners on your restaurant’s social media platforms, giving them recognition in front of your online community. It serves as a token of appreciation for their participation and creativity.

Moreover, it boosts their social currency, making them feel valued and special. This generates positive buzz about your restaurant and helps foster a loyal and engaged customer base.

#4. Gift Baskets

Gift Baskets filled with gourmet treats, unique condiments, or your restaurant’s merchandise can be a delightful prize for contest winners. Depending on your restaurant’s theme and specialization, these baskets could include various items.

For a bakery, it could be a selection of baked goods; for a wine bar, a bottle of fine wine with cheese and crackers; for a brew pub, a collection of craft beers. Packaging these items in an attractive basket and presenting them to the winners adds a personal touch and makes the prize more special.

#5. Cooking Classes

Cooking Classes are a unique and valuable prize for food lovers. You can partner with a renowned chef or have your chefs teach the winners how to make signature dishes from your restaurant’s menu.

Also, consider offering these classes as a group activity, where winners can invite their friends or family to join the fun.

#6. VIP Dining Experience

A VIP Dining Experience can be a memorable and exclusive prize for contest winners. This could include a private dining room, personalized menu, and special attention from the restaurant’s staff. It gives them a taste of luxury and makes them feel like valued guests at your establishment.

#7. Food Tour/ Tasting Experience

A Food Tour or Tasting Experience is an exciting prize for winners who enjoy trying new foods and exploring different cuisines. It could involve a tour of your restaurant’s kitchen, sampling dishes from your menu, or visiting local food markets with your chef to learn about sourcing ingredients.

#8. Gift Cards

Gift Cards are a widely appreciated prize that can be easily personalized to reflect your restaurant’s brand. They offer the winners the flexibility to choose from your menu what they want to try, be it a hearty meal, some delicious desserts, or a round of refreshing beverages. With a specified worth, these cards can be used for dine-in, takeaway, or even online orders. 

Moreover, if the winners enjoy their experience, they will likely return and become regular customers.

#9. A Special Menu Item Named After the Winner

A fun and creative prize idea is to name a menu item after the winner(s). This could be a dish, drink, or even a dessert. It makes them feel special and creates a unique and memorable experience for them when they visit your restaurant.

#10. Cash Prize

A cash prize can serve as a significant incentive for participants to enter your restaurant contest. Depending on your budget and preference, it can be a set amount or a percentage of the total revenue generated from their winning dish.

Offering a cash prize rewards the winner and acts as an attractive marketing tool. Winners will likely share their winnings with friends and family, potentially bringing new customers to your restaurant.

How Do You Promote a Restaurant Contest?

Promoting a restaurant contest effectively requires a well-thought-out strategy. Here are a few methods, complete with examples and explanations.

Social Media:

Social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, are powerful tools for contest promotion. Post details about the contest, including the theme, rules, and prizes, to engage your followers. 

For example, if you are running a “Best Burger Recipes” contest, you might post pictures of burgers at your restaurant along with the contest details. Consider using a unique hashtags, like #BestBurgerContestYourRestaurantName, to make it easier for participants to find and follow the contest.

Here find more restaurant hashtag ideas.

Email Marketing:

Email newsletters are an excellent way to reach out to your regular customers. Send a detailed email about the contest with an engaging subject line like “Enter our contest to win free meals for a month!” Be sure to include all the necessary details about the contest in the email body.

In-restaurant Advertising:

Promote the contest within your restaurant. Display posters, provide flyers, or even make announcements to the visitors. 

For instance, if you’re holding a “Salsa Recipe Challenge,” you could have your waitstaff inform customers about the contest when they order any dish that includes salsa.

Collaborations and Partnerships:

Collaborate with local influencers, food bloggers, or other businesses for cross-promotion. They can help spread the word among their followers, who might be interested in participating. 

For example, a local food blogger could announce your “Ultimate Cake Decoration Contest” on their blog or Instagram, encouraging their followers to participate.

Website Updates:

Update your restaurant’s website with a dedicated contest page. This page can provide comprehensive details about the contest, including how to enter, rules and regulations, judging criteria, and prize details. 

For instance, if your contest is “Design Your Pizza,” you could provide an online form for participants to submit their unique pizza recipes on this page.

For more restaurant promotional guidelines check out the below video. 


Organizing contests is fun and interactive to engage with your customers, increase brand awareness, and generate buzz for your restaurant. With the rise of social media, these contests can also help you gain exposure and attract new customers. 

Be sure to plan carefully, promote effectively, and provide enticing rewards to make your contests successful. So go ahead and get creative with your restaurant contest ideas and start reaping the benefits!

Julia Nancy
Julia Nancy

I have vast experience arranging online voting contests for hundreds of clients worldwide in the last 8 years. I also helped countless clients to win their online competitions. Here, on royalvotes.com, I am just sharing knowledge from my experiences. If you need any help regarding the online contest, email me at julia@royalvotes.com