5 min read

5 Restaurant Marketing Campaigns to Get Inspired by (+10 more)

Written by
Pavlo Fedykovych
Published on
October 2, 2023
May 29, 2024

2023 is a year dominated by ChatGPT and AI. That is reflected heavily in the restaurant marketing campaigns. We’ve seen brands quickly adapting to new artificial intelligence-driven advertising. For some reason, there was lots of mutual trolling too that heated things up in the industry and brought lots of creativity in the process. McDonald’s dissed Burger King and then both were dissed by Subway. In other words, quite a successful year for marketing. 

Let’s see the 5 best restaurant marketing campaigns to get inspired by in 2023.

1. McDonald’s and Burger King ChatGPT battle

best restaurant marketing campaigns - McDonald’s vs Burger King
Credit: Burger King

Why: the hype is really strong with this one. McDonald’s started the whole thing by quickly adapting to a new ChatGPT reality with their billboards featuring the chatbot’s answer to the “What is the most iconic burger?” question. Was it super original? Probably not. Did it get people talking? As a stunt, definitely yes. McDonald’s has great agility when it comes to marketing and the company can easily execute numerous differently-angled campaigns at once. The ChatGPT one is a child of McDonald’s Brazil. 

But the famous arched company has an arch-rival. And Burger King didn’t wait long to have a good old marketing diss. The brand placed another ChatGPT-generated OOH billboard alongside McDonald’s ones responding to the question “And which one is the biggest?”. And who doesn’t like a good rivalry? We do and righteously place both companies on our list of the best marketing campaigns.

2. McDonald’s Milkshake

restaurant marketing campaign - McDonald’s Milkshake
Credit: McDonald's

Why: when you’re a widely recognized brand, the minimalist is a way to go. That’s exactly what McDonald’s is opting for in their summer campaign for the iconic strawberry milkshake. The billboards just feature two things: the contours of the arches and the melting drop of the milkshake. In other words, a marketing perfection. The company masterfully utilized the season and the popularity to get the message across. And the message is simple, nothing works better to cool up than a strawberry milkshake. 

3. Subway taking part in ChatGPT battle

Credit: Subway

Why: three parties in the battle? Joining the McDonald’s vs. Burger King fight, Subway cleverly takes a dig at both. The tool is the same, ChatGPT answers the question “How do they [burgers] compare to footlong?”. While it’s a cool diss in its own right, AI-generated marketing doesn’t seem to have much success in the future. At least in its present form. It’s a kind of trick that’s interesting only once. And with Subway being third utilizing the same formula, it’s easy to say that the fast food marketing got oversaturated by the ChatGPT involvement. Hype-seeking was always a highlight in fast food marketing and Subway did everything right in this case.

4. We give up - Burger King

Why: everything is perfect in this amazing restaurant marketing campaign of Burger King. With a running time of 60 seconds, it gives a brief look at the history of the company, of the iconic Whopper domination, includes a diss at McDonald’s, and poignantly concludes with a man ordering Chicken Royale. Why so? The slogan of the campaign is “We give up. There’s room for two in this house”. 

5. La Vie trolls McDonald’s announcing Burger King cooperation

Credit: La Vie

Why: another one from the best restaurant marketing campaigns 2023 and another trolling example. This time it comes from an unlikely direction. The UK-based vegan company La Vie takes aim at… McDonald’s announcing a plant-based cooperation with Burger King. Has anyone expected that? Probably not. But here we are with the billboards saying “Sorry Ronald, C’est La Vie”. Brutal vegan diss done right that’s what it is. 

Bonus: Our sincerest apologies to utensils everywhere - KFC

Why: KFC did one of the most creative restaurant marketing campaigns of 2023 with their “Our sincerest apologies to utensils everywhere”. We see forks and spoons getting sad to the soundtrack of the Air Supply duo while humans are shamelessly enjoying their fried chicken using their hands. Did we know that utensils have feelings too? Not at all. Are we concerned about poor forks now? Definitely. 

The video is an awesome take on KFC’s legendary “Finger-Lickin' Good” tagline that has been around since the 50s. The campaign takes place both online and offline, but the YouTube video directed by Henry Scholfield (music video director for Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Rosalía, Ed Sheeran, Stromae, and Stormzy) takes the cake.

Here is our 2022 list of 5 Best Restaurant Marketing Campaigns to Get Inspired by

We’ve collected the best restaurant marketing campaigns in this article to highlight the coolest restaurant marketing ideas and trends that are cooking at the moment. You can use them as a reference for your own campaign or just get inspired by unlimited creativity. 

First thing’s first, what makes the best restaurant marketing campaign? We’ve got some criteria here: 

- it’s relevant

Relevance is very important in marketing. To have a successful campaign the company should be in the now, it should be in line with the latest trends and moods. The Internet has changed the advertising landscape forever. Also, it made it easier to make a mistake. You should always keep a hand on the pulse of what’s hot right now. Not a month ago, and God forbid, a year ago. 

- it’s high-quality

Quality matters when it comes to an advertising campaign. The audience can feel when something is off. Your job is to craft something that will inspire, something that is not cringeworthy. 

- it’s modern

You may think that this criterion is about going digital. Partly. It’s about leading modern marketing. The kind of marketing that utilizes the latest know-how. Whether it’s static signage or DOOH, it should be a sign of the times we live in. And certainly not done with approaches that worked 20 years ago. 

- it’s memorable

This is pretty much self-explanatory. The campaign should stick in your mind. It should evoke emotions, and it should influence you on the deepest level.

Are you ready for the 5 best restaurant marketing campaigns? Here they are. 

1. DOOH Campaign for McCafé Iced 

Why: this McDonald’s campaign masterfully utilized the weather to make a point. The point is a necessity to buy a frozen drink at McCafé. While it may look like an easy idea, the actual execution is awesome. It combines powerful digital signage with a sense of place and a sense of nowness (the weather factor). The result is an amusing and charming campaign that invokes an irresistible feeling to buy a drink. What else is needed really?

2. There’s no smoke without fire by BurgerKing 

Why: the future is already here and this 2021 makes fun use of it. Here it’s all about the AR. The majority of smartphones allow this feature so having such a campaign is among the brightest restaurant marketing ideas and trends. The concept is simple yet very complicated technically. And immensely original too. You come to a screen, you use the AR on your phone to see the smoke, and the smoke trail leads you to the nearest Burger King. Has anyone in the 90s thought about such an application of a billboard? We doubt that. But the 21st century is just starting and so many cool technological things are ahead. The advertising only wins. 

3. "For Real" campaign by Chipotle

Copyright: Chipotle

Why: going grande is never a bad idea. Advertising in Times Square is even better. Chipotle could put this out in their “For Real” DOOH campaign that used multiple screens at the heart of advertising of New York City to highlight the “radical ingredient transparency”. Basically, they showed all the ingredients they are using to prepare the food. It’s an extremely visual, immediately recognizable, and very creative way to make a campaign work. Also, it’s DOOH done right. Although not any restaurant can afford Times Square, sometimes it pays off to go big. Just try not to go bust in the process. High-profile advertising campaigns take a lot of preparation.

4. Hometown Tweet Off Taco Bell DOOH campaign

Copyright: Taco Bell

Why: yes, it’s 2012. But what Taco Bell did back then still rings well today. It was a perfect lesson in interactivity and the user-generated content approach. The company organized a special Twitter contest that asked people to tweet a Doritos Locos Tacos-related content. Afterward, the best tweets got broadcasted on the big screens using digital signage technology. Although it sounds simple, it’s quite a bold thing to do. And 2012 is not 2022, Taco Bell was ahead of its time back then. Still, user-generated content is as relevant today as it was back then and it is one of the greatest things that you can use for your own marketing campaigns. 

5. Burn that ad campaign by Burger King

Why: yes, it’s Burger King again. But what can we do, their creative approaches to DOOH are excellent. This one comes from Brazil and it’s called “burn that ad”. It asked the audience to use AR to literally burn the ad. The plot twist, the ads that were proposed “to burn” where those of competitors like McDonald’s, for instance. Quite brutal, but hey, the advertising rivalry is such an organic part of the fast food competition as the rap beefs. So this campaign is definitely among the most audacious out there and deserves praise. 

Here is our 2021 list of 5 Best Restaurant Marketing Campaigns to Get Inspired by

Every restaurant launches marketing campaigns at some point. Tight competition forces them to go beyond trivial advertising tools, and that’s where restaurants can get really high on creativity and inspire others along the way. We’ve browsed through numerous campaigns for the brilliant and the best restaurant marketing campaigns that should be studied in detail and used by marketers worldwide to get their restaurants noticed.

It's always great to learn. In the creative spheres, learning means inspiration. And inspiration leads to better performance and more sales. These best restaurant marketing campaigns we've chosen give you an idea of how seemingly simple things and ideas can be made into unstoppable marketing behemoths. At the end of the day, it's all about the audience and emotions. It's essential to know what your audience is interested in to strike the right chord and win big. Because it's the marketing with a heart that works best. We sincerely want you to achieve the same results as the companies we've chosen for this list

Here is our roundup of the 5 best restaurant marketing campaigns to get inspired by.

1. Follow the Arches OOH by McDonald's

A brainchild of a Canadian creative agency Cossette, Follow the Arches is one of the best restaurant marketing campaigns ever. They took a minimalistic yet innovative approach to the billboard advertising by reducing the message to simply a part of an iconic McDonald's logo and adapting it to the way people perceive the traffic signs.

Key takeaways: think creatively and don't be afraid to enhance the power of your advertising message by using the surroundings.

2. Finger Selfies by Nando's

Nando's Twitter - best restaurant marketing campaigns

Nando's know a thing or two about social media marketing, they have created many memorable campaigns to promote their chicken-selling fast-food chain. The one we love the most is Finger Selfies, an adorable and imaginative trend that Nando's started a few years ago. The main idea is so simple it hurts, - people shoot fun selfies using a pen, a finger and a napkin, the restaurant incentivizes them by giving the gift coupon to the best entries.

Key takeaways: collaborate with your customers to create a fun and engaging user-generated content.

3. Tim Hortons Black Bus

Tim Hortons, one of Canada's most famous coffee and donuts restaurant chains, got physical for this stunt. Basically, they've brought a custom-designed bus to roam the Toronto streets and picking the passengers on the designated stops. Upon entering the people found themselves in an improvised coffee shop on the wheels where they were offered a sip of Tim Hortons dark roast coffee.

Key takeaways: simple, and down-to-earth approach + a good understanding of your target audience can result in long-lasting benefit.

4. #MiracleTreatDay by Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen has long been a pioneer of social media marketing. Also, the popular American ice cream chain has been continuously supporting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals funding the lifesaving children treatments. #MiracleTreatDay was one of the most successful Twitter charity campaigns. Dairy Queen set up a day when $1 or more from every Blizzard treat purchased was donated to the charity. The hashtag brought millions in impressions and acquired tens of thousands of shares and mentions for the restaurant chain.

Key takeaways: make a restaurant marketing campaign that matters and people will be happy to help you with it by sharing and mentioning your brand.

5. Digital menu boards by Subway

In order to positively transform the customer experience, Subway has brought digital signage to its locations. This was done in a form of digital menus and interactive kiosks. The visitors had the opportunity to order and pay using the kiosks. This move helped the company to enhance customer retention, boost sales and innovate the industry.

Key takeaways: in a highly digitalized world, use the full scope of possibilities that are available on the market for the benefit of your customers.

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