Looking for restaurant marketing strategies to help boost business? Give your restaurant an excuse to create a buzz and fill seats on an otherwise quiet night by hosting a theme night. 

The key to coming up with fun theme nights for restaurants is choosing ones that fit your brand and stay true to your restaurant. You also want to pick a theme that won’t disrupt your regular clientele, while also welcoming new guests who are excited to check out your establishment and have some fun.

1. Guest Chef Night

Inviting a chef from another restaurant in your city, or even a nearby city, can be beneficial to your restaurant, and your guest chefs. Both restaurants work together to get the message out in their circles, broadening the reach of each. Be sure to choose a chef that you genuinely think your customers will like and establish a valuable partnership.

A similar spin on this idea is just to have your guest chef create a special signature item that pairs well with one of your specialties, or an ethnic version of one of your dishes. Or, you could bring your guest out of the kitchen and into the dining room to do a demonstration.

2. TV Theme Night

With TV so binge-able these days, people get really into their TV shows, and certain shows are ripe for watching and sharing together. Pay attention to your customers and their interests. Would they have fun at a viewing party for Riverdale or The Masked Singer? Whatever the show, come up with fun drink specials and snacks.

Alternately, if you’re inspired by a show or live TV event, you could design a menu around it. For instance, in Providence, local restaurant The Malted Barley hosted Game of Thrones inspired trivia nights on Mondays, following the show’s Sunday night time slot.

The Malted Barley Providence Game of Thrones Trivia Night

3. Decade Night

Who doesn’t love a good 80s party? Probably people who might prefer a 70s or a 90s party instead. Decade nights can be a lot of fun and simple to pull together. All you need to do is come up with a playlist (most streaming services already have decade lists ready to go), and create inspired drink and food specials. Maybe a “Purple Rain” cocktail for 80s night? Or how about a “Y2K-osmopolitan” for the 90s? Then, find some inexpensive decade decor, available at most party supply stores.

You can encourage guests (and even wait staff) to wear something decade-related to be entered into a drawing for a restaurant gift card.

Learn the most effective way to share your theme night plans with your customers with help from our Instagram Restaurant Marketing Guide.

4. Networking Nights

The word “networking” can conjure up images of painfully boring get-togethers, full of people in suits asking “So what do you do?” over and over and over. It doesn’t need to be so awful though. Consider hosting targeted theme nights to make networking less painful for Millennial Entrepreneurs and other Women-Owned Businesses. You could also be the meeting place for a neighborhood association get together.

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You could charge an entry price and set aside an area of your restaurant for the networkers. Then, put out some complimentary appetizer platters and have a cash bar.

glass of wine and appetizers

5. Charity Night

Team up with a local charity or organization that you’re passionate about and plan an evening together. Events like these can be valuable community builders, and also help you work your personal values into your business. Donate a portion of your proceeds to the organization, and invite them to set up a table to get information out to your customers. 

Many restaurants also have good relationships with local schools, community groups, youth sports organizations, and more to offer space for charity-related outings, or discounted catering options.

6. Kids’ Night

It can be expensive for families to go out, which is why many restaurants have incorporated “kids eat free” nights. Usually, it allows for a free kids meal with the purchase of an adult entrée. Better yet, the real draw is when the restaurant packages in some fun kid-friendly activities, such as having a costumed performer on-site, a crafts table, or letting the kids make their own pizza or decorate cookies.

Getting the Word Out

Coming up with fun theme nights for restaurants can be tricky, but you won’t know how customers will respond until you give it a try. Remember, you want to choose ideas that align with your style, so if you’re more upscale, perhaps you might do a wine tasting or live cooking demonstration rather than play bingo. If you have more of a bar crowd and rowdy atmosphere, think about pub theme night ideas that will turn your place into a popular hangout, whether it’s a beer pong tournament or a dart competition.

It might take a few weeks for a regular theme to catch on if you decide to host a trivia night or karaoke. Encourage patrons who do partake to spread the word on social media (maybe incentivize them with a raffle entry), and offer group discounts to encourage work colleagues, large families, and “mom’s night out” groups to come in together.

Be sure to also use old-school signage in your restaurant window or on your sidewalk so your neighbors can see what you have coming up. And of course, post updates on your website events calendar and Facebook page.

Bottom line: Theme nights can help you create a buzz around what would have been an otherwise quiet weeknight. And if you serve up great service and delicious food to your new guests, they’ll be more likely to come back with friends on the weekend, too.

Check out Upserve’s Instagram Marketing Guide!

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.