How To Plan a Restaurant Grand Opening

You’ve spent months crafting your restaurant brand, renovating your new space, installing kitchen equipment and dining room fixtures, hiring the perfect staff, and going through the process of getting your permits and licenses. You’ve ordered all of your food and bar supplies, and now, you’re officially ready to open.

But have you figured out how you’re going to open?

In the restaurant world, hosting a traditional grand opening is not just a way to announce to the public that you’re officially in business; it’s an important marketing opportunity that can create momentum from day one and set the tone for success. 

How “grand” should your opening be? Read on…

Restaurant grand opening objectives 

Before you start planning your restaurant grand opening event, think about your objective. What do you ultimately want to accomplish?

 

Some restaurateurs want a grand opening in every sense of the term. Their goal is to start their business off with a bang, which means generating a lot of buzz and fanfare — and getting as many people through the doors as possible. 

And that’s not a bad idea: the launch of a restaurant often is a newsworthy event in and of itself. That means it can be relatively easy to get (free) media coverage, which can be incredibly valuable for any new brand.

 

If your goal is to work out kinks and make sure you’re 100% ready to serve and delight customers, a traditional grand opening may not be for you. Instead, a soft opening allows you to launch quietly and optimize your operations before you start vying for customers’ attention. 

Some restaurants will simply open their doors to the public and give customers time to find their way in. Others may host a “friends and family” type gathering, where you can create a little buzz and a feeling of exclusivity without the pressure of full-fledged celebration. (Bonus: you can also solicit valuable feedback from trusted guests.)

 

All of that to say: before you start planning, know your goals!

Restaurant grand opening ideas and inspiration 

If you’ve determined that a true grand opening is right for you, you’ll need a strategy to attract your first patrons. Sure, you may get some people who drop in out of sheer curiosity, or passersby who are in the right place at the right time. But to get a meaningful crowd, give them a reason to come in. 

Here are a few restaurant grand opening ideas to hook your audience and draw them in: 

 

  • Special pricing: A great way to bring in new customers is to run a promotion. Whether it’s a “buy one, get one free,” “free appetizer or dessert with purchase of meal,” or a discount off the entire bill, the bottom line is that people like free stuff. 

 

  • Bring-a-friend deals: Fill up your tables faster by incentivizing your guests to bring friends and family with them and offering deals based on the size of the party. 

 

  • Make it exclusive: Consider making your grand opening VIP-style. Why? Exclusivity makes people feel important (and it can create some intrigue among people who may not have made the list). Plus: if you’re intentional about your invitees, they can actually do your marketing for you. Members of the local media, influencers, community leaders and well-connected family and friends could all become valuable brand ambassadors, assuming they have an excellent experience in your restaurant. 

 

  • Invite influencers: Even if you don’t do a VIP event, it’s still not a bad idea to invite any local influencers to your opening. That goes beyond reporters or journalists. Depending on where you live, there could be bloggers or social media influencers with large followings who can review your restaurant in exchange for a meal.  

 

  • Swag: Again, everyone likes free stuff. Get your logo stamped on hats, T-shirts, koozies or cups and make sure no customer leaves empty handed. That way, everyone becomes a walking billboard for your brand.

 

  • Live entertainment: There’s nothing like live music to really bring an event to life. If your venue allows it (and depending on the vibe of your restaurant), hire a popular local band, acoustic guitarist or even a DJ to enhance the mood of your restaurant grand opening. And if there’s room, set up a dance floor to make your event feel even more like a celebration. 
  • COVID-friendly ideas: If you’re opening a restaurant in 2020 (or possibly 2021), Covid-19 is likely throwing you a curveball. It’s still possible to successfully celebrate the launch a restaurant, even during a pandemic. Of course, safety is a priority. If at all possible, utilize outdoor space. Encourage social distancing between different parties, and provide masks and sanitation stations. If you’re hoping to draw a big crowd but your space can’t safely support it, consider setting up a temporary take-out area — or even renting a food truck — that will allow you to serve larger numbers of people and expose them to your brand without exposing them to Covid.

 

Restaurant grand opening marketing: ways to get the word out 

So you’ve got a grand opening plan in place, and you’ve got an event that your guests can get excited about. Now, you need to make sure they know it’s happening.

 

If you’re running with a VIP event, then you can approach this like any other private event and send out personal invitations. (This may be worth doing for select guests, e.g. reporters and influencers, even if you’re doing something that’s open to the public.)

 

Your budget may dictate what kind of promotion you can do. Whether or not you can afford a big spend, take advantage of free social media platforms. Create profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, make connections, and start posting. (You can find some marketing best practices in one of our previous blog posts.

 

While Instagram and Twitter are great for cross promotion, Facebook has event-specific tools that you can take advantage of. Create an event page through your restaurant’s Facebook page where you provide all the details, then invite locals. You can keep track of how many people are interested are planning to attend, and you can also sponsor event posts to increase your visibility in people’s Facebook feeds. (Learn how to set up an event page via this Facebook tutorial.)

 

Another low-budget tactic: run a small PR campaign. Create a press release and distribute it to local media. If you’ve never done it before, HubSpot offers a great tutorial on how to write a release. Here’s a basic template:

 

  1. Headline – A short, punchy, attention-grabbing title consisting of no more than 8-10 words describing your event. This is the first thing your readers will see so it’s important that it draws them in so they will want to read more. 
  2. Lead – This is your first paragraph that summarizes what your event will be. Make sure to answer the five W’s – Who, What, Where, When, and Why. 
  3. Body – Here you’ll further elaborate on your event by specifying more about the details such as what kind of food will be served, if there will be any live performances, games or other fun activities. If there are any deals you’re offering that night, include those here as well. Be sure to include background on your restaurant and why you started it, and what your menu will be like. 
  4. Publish date – Include the date you’d like your release to publish.
  5. Boilerplate – This is a short description, usually a paragraph in length, that describes your restaurant, which makes it easier for the reporter to write about it. 
  6. Contact information – Include your name, phone number and email, website address, and your restaurant name so it’s easy for the reporter to contact you for more information. 

(For more tips on writing a press release, and a free downloadable template, FirstSmallBusiness.com has you covered.) Once you have your release written, you’ll need to send it out to local media, including TV stations, newspapers, and radio. 

 

Another free promotional tactic:  create flyers and post them anywhere you can around town. Believe it or not, they can still be highly effective in our continually-evolving digital world. Here’s a little inspiration

 

If you’ve got a marketing budget, consider running sponsored posts and ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google Ads. More traditional channels — like TV, radio, print and billboards — can also be highly effective for restaurants. (The downside is the time and costs required to produce those ads, and unlike digital ads, it’s hard to track and measure effectiveness.)

Keep your eye on the prize

Planning a restaurant grand opening is a lot of hard work. But if it’s well-executed, you’ll see swift ROI in the form of a packed house, plenty of positive publicity, and a lot of happy customers who can’t wait to return again soon. 

You might also be interested in

We know how important same-day payments are for veterans of the service industry who are accustomed to quick cash — and we’re now seeing that same demand expand into other industries as well. 

Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined MasterCard’s InConversation Webinar series to discuss why immediate payment disbursal is key for the restaurant industry and the gig economy as a whole.

Watch the webinar here or read our recap for the highlights: 

People live paycheck-to-paycheck

Not just some people are living paycheck to paycheck. Most people are. 

That’s right: around 64% of U.S. consumers are just getting by. Even more shocking, 51% of consumers who earn over six figures are still living paycheck to paycheck, despite their higher tax bracket. 

It’s a major reason why employees need access to their earnings sooner rather than later. The pressure of watching your bank account slowly drain in the two weeks between payday is putting a lot of pressure on people, leading to a much greater demand for instant payments than ever before. 

Instant payouts are now table stakes

A PYMNTS study found that people of all ages prefer to be paid out immediately, as well as some other interesting statistics:

  • When given the choice, 68% of respondents said they would opt for an instant pay out
  • 40% of gig workers surveyed were willing to pay a fee for an instant disbursement
  • 81% of respondents were willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers instant access to earned wages and tips

It’s safe to say instant payouts are becoming the expectation for today’s modern workforce. But not all instant payouts are created equal.

Consumers are much more likely to engage with an instant payout system if they aren’t required to share their bank account and routing numbers and can access funds with just their debit card credentials. Why? It’s faster, more convenient, and feels more secure. 

Instant payouts and tip management: a perfect use case.

Instant payout innovation has come at the perfect time for the restaurant industry, which is struggling more than ever with the hassles and cost of cash.

If you’re in the restaurant biz, then you know: Most consumers pay with credit cards these days, not cash. That means there’s rarely enough cash on hand to pay out tips at the end of a shift. But employees still want and need instant access to their tip earnings.

Enter: instant payouts. Offering employees the option to receive their tip earnings directly to their bank of choice, the second their shift ends, can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and ensuring their financial security.

But instant payouts are more than a work perk for employees. The operational benefits for employers range from reduced administrative burden and significant time savings to stronger compliance and streamlined reporting.

Modernizing your tip management strategy: 5 best practices 

There are three key components to your tip management strategy: 

  • Tip pool policy: How are you divvying up tips among your staff? 
  • The payout method: How are you distributing those payments?
  • The systems and tech: What are you using to facilitate those payments?

Under the current circumstances, restaurant operators are under immense pressure to bring their tip management into the future. 

5 best practices for tip management 

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators across the country, we’ve found that these five practices are the perfect recipe for building a successful tip management system.  

  1. Determine the right model and method for your restaurant, based on your location and tech stack
  2. Get a written tip policy (and get it legally approved
  3. Solicit employee feedback in a structured way
  4. Leverage technology for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance
  5. Don’t over-complicate (but do over-communicate!)

Tip management solution must-haves

When seeking a new tip management solution, make sure you carefully vet each system to see if it really meets your needs, or if it’ll be just as frustrating as cash. Here are a few suggestions for what should be on your checklist: 

  • Instant payouts
  • Direct to bank of choice
  • Availability of employee funds
  • Payroll option 
  • Integrations 
  • Simple implementation + onboarding process 
  • Around-the-clock customer service 

Big emphasis on strong customer support teams. Restaurants and bars don’t have “typical” business hours, so neither should your tech support.

Bar Louie automates payouts with Kickfin 

In a recent case study, we took a deep dive into our partnership with Bar Louie, a chain with over 60 locations that took advantage of our new integration with Toast. They made the switch from cash payouts to Kickfin’s instant, direct-to-bank payouts and haven’t looked back.  

Two-minute tip-outs

Before Kickfin, managers spent an average of 45 minutes per shift working through Bar Louie’s complex tip out policy and counting cash. The tip pooling rules were important to them — it’s what makes the entire staff feel like they’re getting their fair share. 

Using the Kickfin0Toast integration, Bar Louie was able to automate the tip pool calculation process and send tips straight to employees in under two minutes – a potential annual savings of 15,000 labor hours across all locations.

>> See more customer success stories 

Do you want to see these kinds of cost-saving results at your business? Let’s talk. Get a demo of Kickfin and see why restaurant owners and employees alike trust us to manage their tips.

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

See Kickfin in action!