Why Restaurants Need to Pay Attention to TikTok

Lunchbox Editorial
TikTok is the new social media sensation, and it has hit headlines in the restaurant world because some restaurants have been using it to successfully promote their locations and get thousands of customers through their doors; even with social distancing and lockdowns occurring! How have these locations manage this? What even is TikTok? What is a TikTok challenge? And what can make your TikTok challenge tick?

What is TikTok?

TikTok the newest social media, with a focus on short, generally, comedic, mobile videos, often tagged with unique hashtags and mimicked over and over again by other users. TikTok has only been around since 2016 however it is now the second-largest social media worldwide! It is second only to Facebook (but here we do have to factor in that it is the only social media available in China that is widely used outside of China; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are all blocked in China). Still, to attain those heights in four years is no mean feat.

TikTok?s success has to do with its focus on short, often comedic, videos; which perfectly suit the Generation Z audience, although people from every generation are getting involved. One way in which TikTok differs from other social media is that they’re not really ?influencers?. They?re there but they have less sway than those on other platforms because a users feed is randomly populated.

TikTok: Marketing and ?Challenges?

This new and exciting social media platform has really taken off, and many brands have recently found a way to leverage it as a marketing tool. This is done through ?Challenges? where someone (doesn?t have to be a brand) posts a challenge, usually a dance challenge with a comedic edge and to incentivize people to partake there?s often a prize -or sometimes just kudos- for which is deemed the best version.

TikTok Restaurant Success Stories?


Hashtag: #GuacDance

This is the most famous example that everyone is currently touting as the example of TikTok success. Undertaken for national avocado day, this challenge pairs Dr. Jean?s ?The Guacamole Song? with a caption offering free guac for those that perform, post, and tag the video of them dancing to this song. Chipotle gave away over 800,000 free guacs, their biggest guac day yet!


Hashtag: #SyrupTurnUp

Around Christmas last year Ihop released its TikTok challenge: syrup bottles dancing and singing to Ihop?s ?Not so Silent Night?. Extra silliness (as is the TikTok way) was encouraged in people?s videos. Ihop?s favorite videos were featured on Ihops TikTok channel and the challenge brought scores of people to their restaurants in order to make the videos with Ihop?s syrup bottles.

Holy Moley Donut and Coffee ?

Hashtag: #Holeymoleydancecontest

A local coffee shop in Milwaukee capitalized on a video found on TikTok by their company leader. The video featured a guy singing a line from a rap song with his daughter, which, incidentally, was the name of their coffee shop! Pouncing on this the Holey Moley Donut and Coffee shop produced their own video and challenged their fans to do the same; earning more points if done in the shop or featuring a box of their donuts. The incentive? Whoever was crowned the winner won free Holey Moley donuts for a year!

Burger King

Hashtag: #WhopperDance

Burger King got into the TikTok challenges by producing their own specially made soundtrack and challenging people to do a ?whopper dance? to said soundtrack. Those who recorded, tagged, and posted the video -you also had to then follow Burger King?s TikTok account- received a unique code and got a Whopper burger for $1! They did recruit some TikTok stars to make sure the word was spread.


Hashtag: #haidilao?

Haidiloa is a single unit restaurant In China. Customers were invited to come in and cook their own meals, have it filmed and then edited down to a TikTok size video and then post it on TikTok and tag it. There was no prize, just the novelty of cooking your own food at a restaurant table. Almost 15,000 customers visited these restaurants to try it out and get a video made!

Make Your Own TikTok Challenge Tick

As you can see some challenges are done with prizes or incentives for people to partake in the challenge; others have just been people being creative! The trick is getting it to go viral. It has to be unique enough to make people who watch that challenge want to mimic and then post their version of the video they just watch.

A viral video can start from anything, be it cooking your own food in a restaurant or a baby pulling a funny face. In order for a TikTok challenge to work beneficially for your business it has to be two things:

  • Keep it original. Creating original content keeps your messaging on brand
  • It has to have a good hashtag. Having a hashtag allows you to track across social
  • Make it shareable. TikTok is all about sharing, create content that is made for this

A good campaign can snowball, but a viral video can be anything! There are creativity and marketing involved in this process for sure but some great and successful TikTok challenges have come on the spur of the moment!

TikTok, as a marketing tool, is a very new world and companies are still figuring out how to use it. Most of all, it is obvious that TikTok gives you brand awareness and the great part about it is that it is free! It has already been established, by many of the examples above, that TikTok can be a powerful marketing tool, but getting it right is key. The examples above show that TikTok can be used by both chains and independent restaurants alike, and both create equal amounts of hype relative to their size. If you have the right idea you could see yourself getting your five minutes of national fame! Get it wrong though and you may be the laughing stock of your local community, but probably only for a day or so.


See how Lunchbox can transform your restaurant?s digital ordering
into a powerful omnichannel system

More great articles

What is First-Party Delivery and Why You Need it?

Today, people want an experience. They want to know that you care about them. Can you trust big-brand third-party services…

Read Story

Three Ways to Prepare For COVID Winter

If it were any other holiday season, we’d be putting up our front entrance enclosures and cooking up some comforting…

Read Story

Catering is booming! Are you ready?

The State of the Industry Report shows a growth rate of 3.6% YOY for the restaurant industry, which means in…

Read Story