6 Promotional Tactics for Chefs and Restaurants on Festi You Wish You Knew Earlier

Rita Ting-Hopper
5 min readFeb 17, 2022

#1 Popup Dinners!

We’ve heard of pop-up restaurants but what are pop-up dinners?

As the name implies these are dinners that “pop up” serendipitously. Chef Leonard Holton (aka MrFineWine), executive chef of Magnolia on King in Old Town Alexandria, and celebrity Chef Roberto Donna popularized “pop-up dinners” during the pandemic.

With staff shortage challenges, Chef Leo found an easy way to make extra revenue for his restaurant with last-minute 3-course meals for pickup through Festi, a site for pop-up food. Depending on how much time or ingredients he has at hand, sometimes he only has 2 meals to offer, sometimes 20. The app and website platform make it super easy to post these offers within minutes and close the offer as “sold out” or “full” with one click. As for the convenience, he adds “the platform collects all the payments and once my offer is redeemed, all payments are deposited into my account, which makes it stress-free and very easy.”

#2 Make customers feel special- Let Word of Mouth do all your marketing

Printing out a special menu for your pop-up is a nice personal touch. Cava Mezze’s pop-up family meals are always memorable because there was always a surprise; an extra crazy feta appetizer, or a bottle of wine. Cava Mezze even has its own winery, which is a clever way to promote its own wine.

Throwing in something extra is nothing new, but making customers feel special is the key to getting people excited about following you. The 150 fans following Chef Leo are always eager to see his next pop-up creation. Think outside the box; it doesn’t have to be wine, it could be a surprise dessert or a t-shirt or …. something fun for people to get excited about.

Due to the uniqueness of pop-up dinners, foodies are the typical audience. These are people who enjoy trying new, sometimes unusual, foods. Foodies LOVE the opportunity to be the first to try a new recipe. Chef Vi once posted “pho noodles”, as he was debating whether to add that to his menu. He made just a few extra bowls for $10/ bowl with a request for honest feedback to help him perfect the special soup base.

#3 Redefine “Special Offer” -Special means something Special

People want to experience a unique, creative eating experience. Therefore, your pop-up meal should be original — something you can’t find on your menu. Most pop-up meals are a prix fixe menu for 2 people or for 4 (family meals) with no choices or substitutions.

“Special” can be extravagant and exclusive. Chef Donna celebrated an Italian Christmas tradition with “Seven Fishes of the Seas” at a price point of $120 per person, and customers were happy to experience such a decadent culinary treat. Holidays are the best time for pop-ups because foodies are looking for an excuse to splurge. New Year Eve menu with champagne, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s day, July 4th BBQ feast, … or any ordinary day just because you have extra food.

#4 Turn extra food into something fun and sell it.

The emergence of the pop-up mystery box

Chef Roberto Donna started posting a pop-up “mystery box” which is a same-day, one-time sale. It sells out within the hour every time. If you are fast enough to get it, you feel like a lucky winner.

What’s so special about the mystery box? There is usually only 1 box a week. But not every week. And the truth is, there is no mystery. Chef Roberto Donna tells you what is in the box. We’ve seen chicken parmesan for 10 people or a bag of meatballs, pasta for 4, a slice of key lime pie, 3 servings of tiramisu… and maybe more. It’s always a bit random but always at a great price.

Due to bulk cooking and ordering, chefs are often left with extra food and ingredients. Cooking perishable ingredients before they

spoil is a great way to avoid food waste. Too-Good-To-Go is an app to sell off your food at the end of the night for dollars (usually less than cost). If you have little time and creativity, Festi enables chefs to make money by creating meals from extra food and selling them earlier in the day. 2–4pm is when most kitchens are usually slow, that’s why you’ll often see pop-up dinners to be picked up from 4 to 4:30pm.

#5 Don’t be stuck with old school promotion tactics

Newsletters and Instagram postings do not make customers feel special. Many pop-ups advertise by word of mouth or by invite-only, catering to people who are looking for the best-kept secrets in town. Customers join Festi because they want to be the first to know about special offers which are hard to find and easy to miss. It is also a community with a heart to support local businesses. While Instagram is great for sharing pictures, Festi is great for sharing pop-ups. Joining a pop-up platform opens up a new revenue channel, which in the past have been hard to share with little time to advertise.

Chef Leo clarifies “Festi is great because it does a lot of the marketing for you by notifying my followers whenever I post a new offer.” In addition, MrFineWine embeds his Festi profile in his Instagram Bio link(which takes about 2 minutes to do) so people can see all his pop-up meals from Instagram.

Unlike Tock or Resy which do not allow you to build your own community of followers, customers can follow chefs and restaurants on Festi and they will receive a notification every time you post. As for “pop-ups” immediate notification is critical so that people can book right away for same-day offers.

#6 A new way to create community

It’s not all about the money. Ultimately chefs are artists at heart. Having a community of people who appreciate their culinary skills is rewarding. Creativity can often be stifled by the operational side of running a profitable restaurant. With pop-ups, chefs get to experiment with fans eager to try their creations. After all, that’s part of the lure of pop-ups, exclusive offers not found on the menu. It’s fun for both the customer and the chef. The best part is building community. Festi is “a fun app that allows me to connect with people in a very easy way. I feel like I am a member of a family that loves food!” explains chef Roberto Donna.

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Rita Ting-Hopper

Ex-litigator turned Entrepreneur. Tamed tiger mom. Wanna-be-snow boarder. Founder of Festi Festionline.com