Ingredients for Grand Opening Success

November 15, 2016 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

With all that goes into opening a new restaurant or retail location, the grand opening is the cherry on the sundae. It’s a great time to make a splash in the community while celebrating all the hard work that went into the opening the doors.

Following are ways you can build anticipation among customers even before you officially open.

Generate Buzz
As soon as construction starts, passersby will begin to wonder what’s coming to the neighborhood. Satisfy their curiosity with a “coming soon” banner to let them know your brand is now on their route.

Host a Groundbreaking Event
Get your project off to the right start with a celebration of its own. Even a small event in coordination with the local Chamber of Commerce can raise awareness. Send event photos to your local media who will often run notice of celebrations and new businesses.

Join Community Organizations
Demonstrate your brand as a true member of the community by joining the Chamber of Commerce (a requirement for a ground breaking or ribbon cutting), school booster club, or other organization. Notify the mayor’s office that you’re pleased to join the community. Alerting your local thought leaders can help build buzz.

Get Social
Move forward with setting up a social media account for your location, and introduce your brand with posts about the menu, brand story, open employee positions, and the progress overall. Photos are an important element for helping customers visualize your brand before they can experience it in person.

Build an Email Database
Begin collecting email addresses through your website of those in the community who are interested in the brand and its progress toward opening. You can continue to communicate to those on your list long after you open your doors. Begin a monthly email campaign with offers and promotions about a month before opening.

Host a VIP Night
Once you’re feeling confident about your staff and operations, host a VIP night for friends and family. It will be a trial run for the grand opening among forgiving friends and family. Also invite local leaders, influencers and reporters to attend the private, free event. Share photos of the event on your social media.

Invest in advertising to guarantee that word of your new location reaches the right audience. A variety of options are available to fit your budget from digital to outdoor and maybe even radio and TV depending on the market.

Distribute a Press Release
Alert the media! A grand opening by itself isn’t always news worthy, but if you are planning something special at the event or if this is the first expansion in the city or state, reporters can perk up at the announcement. You could see your brand name in the news, and even if you don’t, the exposure to the media can lead to opportunities later on. Consider a press release one aspect of your strategy for brand awareness.

Celebrate Your Grand Opening
No event is complete without the three major ingredients: food, drinks and entertainment. Entertainment could be a radio remote from a popular station, live music, a DJ, or even a high school marching band. Bonus points if you have a local celebrity or athlete! Post a banner and balloons to give your event a festive feel. Share photos of your event on social and with local media.

Offer Prizes
Games and prizes can help drive traffic to your store opening. Chick Fil A has built excitement around its “First 100” event; the restaurant’s first 100 customers gets one free meal per week for a year. Vacations and product giveaways are also popular.

Consider a Give Back
Do well by doing good. Celebrate your event by making a contribution to a community organization.  It’s an excellent way to make a good first impression in the community whether you’re collecting food or toys or donating a portion of sales. People are loyal to brands who give back.

With a bit of celebration, promotion and advance planning, you’ll have customers in the queue before you even open your doors.

Jacy Cochran is director of public relations at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency. For more information on challenger brands check out some of our recent blog posts:

Activating a Cause Marketing Campaign

Five Mobile Marketing Tips for Challenger Brands







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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.