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Marketing Playbook: Slogans and Ad Campaigns for Restaurants

F​​​​or many, the Super Bowl is all about defensive showdowns, epic plays, and game-on-the-line hail-Marys. For others, it’s all about another competition— the battle of the brands.

Every year, companies spend millions of dollars for just a few seconds of airtime in hopes of getting their customers’ attention. And regardless of which team clutches the Lombardi Trophy, the real winner is the network broadcasting the event, which rakes in the bucks at record number year after year.

Whether you’re an Eagles fan, a Chief supporter, or you couldn’t care less about which team wins, millions of Americans will watch the game for the commercials. And some of the all-time most memorable tv ads have come from the restaurant industry. Known as the most expensive day for spot advertising in all of tv, some of the most memorable ads premiered on Super Bowl Sunday.

Ever wonder how the tv commercial sideshow became as engrossing as the main event? Between the first Super Bowl in 1967 and the early 80s, Super Bowl commercials were generally just replays of spot ads broadcast throughout the year. It wasn’t until Apple aired its iconic “1984” commercial that transformed Super Bowl ads into a cultural phenomenon. During the third quarter of Super Bowl XVII on January 22, 1984, Apple ran an ad that broke all the rules. More like a short film than a 30-second commercial, the ad, which aired during the height of the Cold War, played on people’s fears by likening its rival, IBM, to an Orwellian Big Brother.

Since then, the playbook for a successful Super Bowl ad has changed significantly. To pique audience interest, trailers promoting these commercials have become a part of the lead-up to the game story, with brands running teaser ads in the weeks leading up to kick-off.

With the Super Bowl comes super-sized views, with an estimated 208 million expected to tune in to next Sunday’s game. With so many eyes on the screen, the cost of Super Bowl commercials continues to increase. With 30-second spots going for a record $7 million this year, most smaller restaurants couldn’t even fathom airing a spot in this time slot.

While most restaurants won’t (and shouldn't) run ads during the big event, the Super Bowl is a great time for businesses of all sizes to take a lesson from the big brand playbooks and think about what makes for a great restaurant slogan and marketing campaign.

What’s in a Slogan?

While the first things that spring to the minds of people when they think of brands are the logo and the product, what ties these two elements together is the slogan. A catchy slogan not only draws the attention of customers but also succinctly expresses the essence of a company, tells customers what a business has to offer, and convinces people that they need what you’re selling.

The goal of a catchy restaurant slogan should not just be to be cute, kitschy, or award-winning. A good slogan boosts brand recognition, helps a business stand out from the competition, and creates demand.

Some of the most famous restaurant commercials in tv history began with a great slogan or jingle. Burger King let customers know they could customize their burger with its “Have it Your Way” campaign; Olive Garden promoted its never-ending salads and breadsticks with its “When you’re here, you’re family” campaign; and who could forget that KFC’s chicken is “Finger-lickin’ Good?”

Restaurant slogans serve as first impressions and shape a customer's perception of a restaurant for years to come. While fast food chains promote an in-and-out mentality, their catchphrases are anything but. The more memorable a slogan is, the better chance a restaurant has of staying at the top-of-a-customers’ minds. A restaurant slogan is a phrase you create to describe what makes your restaurant special. Because your slogan will be used throughout various elements of your marketing plan, it's important to make sure it's clear, memorable, and effective.

Below are some of the most famous restaurant slogans of all time.

  • Burger King – Have it your way

  • Dunkin Donuts – America Runs on Dunkin

  • IHOP – Come Hungry, Leave Happy

  • Subway – Eat Fresh

  • Wendy’s – Where’s the beef?

  • Domino's Pizza Delivers

  • Arby’s – We have the meats

  • Burger King – It takes two hands to hold a Whopper

  • Carl’s Jr. – Don’t bother me, I’m eating

  • Hardee's – Feed your happy.

  • In-N-Out Burger – Quality you can taste

  • KFC – Finger-lickin’ good

  • Pizza Hut – No one out pizzas the hut

  • Qdoba – Food for people who love food

  • Sonic – Service at the speed of sound

  • Taco Bell – Live mas

  • Applebees – Eatin’ good in the neighborhood

  • Olive Garden – When you’re here, you’re family

  • Papa John’s – Better ingredients. Better pizza

Tips for Creating a Great Restaurant Slogan

When deciding what your restaurant’s slogan should be, there’s a lot to consider.

  • Who is your target audience?

  • How will your slogan align with your core values and overall brand strategy?

  • How can you get your point across with as few words as possible?

  • What are some popular slogans in your restaurant’s genre?

  • What is your brand voice: funny, elegant, quick, healthy, elegant?

  • What media will you be using to market your restaurant?

Know your Audience

When planning any restaurant marketing strategy, it’s important to be aware of your target audience. Are you aiming your efforts at drawing in more families, or is the Gen Z crowd more your speed? Considering your audience is the first step in creating a great slogan.

Be specific

Saying that your restaurant provides “great service at a reasonable price” doesn’t differentiate you from your competition. Make sure your slogan identifies what makes your restaurant unique. Consider your restaurant’s specific concept, cuisine, and intended message before you choose a slogan.

KISS - Keep it Simple

In advertising, the Keep It Simple, Stupid acronym applies to every aspect of the creative process. When creating a slogan, it’s important to be direct and to the point with your language. This will help make sure your slogan sticks in customers’ minds.

Enlist Your Staff and Customers

If you’re having trouble coming up with a restaurant slogan, consider holding a brainstorming session with your staff (or perhaps even your customers.) Host a contest to see who can come up with the best slogan and offer a reward to encourage participation. You can even host a big reveal party and offer specials and discounts to increase the hype.

Restaurant Slogan and Tagline Examples

  • Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

  • The Belly Knows Best

  • Grab Life By the Fork

  • Eat Outside the Box

  • Burgers - Not Salad

  • Meat Your Friends

  • Your Hunger’s at Steak

  • Like Mom’s Only Faster

  • All the Dinner, None of the Dishes

  • Foodies Welcome

  • Good Mood Food

  • Pinch of Passion

  • Bet You Can’t Eat Here Just Once

  • Quick Food Not Fast Food

  • Give Pizza a Chance

  • Sushi for Meat Lovers

  • Veggie Good Eats

  • On a Roll

  • It’s a Wrap

  • Soy in Love with Sushi

  • Soy to the World

  • Rice to Meet You

  • Meat Me at (Joe’s)

Though the most successful tv ad campaigns and slogans of all time have come from big restaurant chains with huge marketing budgets, restaurants of all sizes can draw inspo from these unforgettable ad campaigns.

To get you geared up ahead of the big game, we’ve compiled some of the greatest and most successful restaurant tv ad campaigns of all time.

You Deserve a Break Today -McDonald’s

You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who can’t sing along with the line, “You deserve a break today, so hurry up and get away.”

The top-rated advertising jingle of all time, according to AdAge, this McDonald’s commercial first aired in the 1970s as part of the company's first national TV campaign. A campaign that would last for decades, McDonald’s held onto that phrase for 43 years before finally giving up the rights to the trademark in 2017.

Carry-Out Insurance - Domino’s Pizza

Who hasn’t forgotten a coffee cup or two on the roof of their car and driven away? Playing off of this truth in a funny way, this ad struck home for many consumers. Concise and to the point, this ad poked fun at a silly thing that most people have experienced. Offering carry-out insurance to the customer who could relate, this tongue-and-cheek ad was a huge success.

Where’s the Beef? - Wendy’s

The question used in this infamous tv spot, “Where’s the beef?” was intended to be a slam to Mcdonald's and Burger King for their lack of beefy burgers, letting potential customers know in a silly and memorable way that Wendy’s offered a larger beef patty in their hamburger.

In one of the most popular commercials with the slogan, actress Clara Peller is offered a hamburger with a disproportionately larger bun and a small patty, which elicits her angry yell, “Where’s the Beef?”

Representing a shift in the fast food industry away from frozen beef, the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” campaign launched a major turning point in fast food.

Subsequent spots featuring this little old woman driving ferociously in her car from one restaurant to another to find fresh beef would become a major icon in restaurant advertising history.

Back to the Start - Chipotle

In an emotional, well-animated spot, Chipotle’s “Back to the start” campaign, represents something much larger than the Chipotle brand.

Chipotle Mexican Grill’s animated short film, “Back to the Start, ” depicts a farmer’s journey to sustainable farming. Appearing on movie theater screens in advance of feature films, the spot was intended to educate consumers about Chipotle’s favored farming methods, and demonstrate the differences between industrial farming and more sustainable methods.

After first airing at the 2012 Grammys, the commercial did so well that it ended up winning the first branded content Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival and eventually landed on AdAge’s Top 15 Advertisements of the 21st Century

Have it Your Way - Burger King

“Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce; special orders don’t upset us” was a jingle that just about anyone that heard it, remembered it. But this jingle wasn’t just catchy, it was effective. Burger King’s goal in creating this jungle was to let its customers know that they could customize their Whopper, a benefit most other fast food chains didn’t offer.

The Noid – Domino’s Pizza

The Noid is a character created in the 1980s for Domino’s Pizza when the chain offered free delivery if your pizza wasn’t delivered in 30 minutes. College students all over the nation would wait at their dorms hoping that the Domino Pizza guy would show up just after the 30-minute mark.

The Noid cartoon manifested all the difficulties a delivery driver could face when attempting to deliver a pizza within thirty minutes of a customer placing an order. The character, reminiscent of a comic book villain, would attempt to thwart delivery attempts, but never succeed. This was Domino's way of not only promoting the 30-minute rule, but it let customers know that most times, the order would be delivered on time.

KFC - Finger-Lickin' Good

Colonel Sanders, representing the enduring spirit of hospitality of the chain, was a real person who appeared in advertisements for KFC from 1966 until his death. The KFC campaign has been one of fast food’s most memorable and successful campaigns of all time, with the logo on all KFC products still featuring the iconic character that started it all.

Jared’s Weight Loss - Subway

Subway had great success stemming from its 15-year advertising campaign that featured a man named Jared Fogle who actually lost 245 pounds eating Subway sandwiches. From 2000 to 2015, Fogle was featured in over 300 commercials.

Subway used this campaign to let customers know that seven of the chain’s sandwiches contained only seven grams of fat or less, insinuating that if you eat at Subway, you can lose weight and be healthy like Jared.

Love That Chicken - Popeye's Louisiana Chicken

Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen opened its doors in 1972 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s long-running television and radio ad campaign, featuring the trademark “Love That Chicken” jingle, proved to be just what the chain needed to grow, with the chain opening 3,705 restaurants across the country as of 2021, and the jingle still playing in ads to this day.

First Commercial – Pizza Hut

The very first Pizza Hut commercial is an iconic ad that aired on November 19, 1966. The ad's first showing, which ran during halftime of the Michigan State vs. Notre Dame game, helped set the tone for Super Bowl commercials to come.

The The “Putt-Putt to the Pizza Hut” spot, which featured a man entering a small car and causing all sorts of mayhem on his way to pick up a pie from Pizza Hut, ran continuously for eight years.

“The Showdown” Bird vs. Jordan – McDonald’s

Named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential Super Bowl commercials of all time, the iconic commercial features sports legend Michael Jordan batting against fellow celeb, Larry Bird.

The 1993 McDonald’s spot, “The Showdown,” begins when Michael Jordan brings a Big Mac and French fries to the basketball court and Bird challenges him to an epic shooting competition. This one-on-one duel led to the phrase “Nothing but Net,” which became one of the most recognizable phrases in sports history.

Pac-Man – Arbys

In the 19080s, Arbys demonstrated how combining cool swag with an ad campaign can boost sales. Arby’s collaboration with Pac-Man, one of the most successful fast-food commercials in tv history, is one of the best examples of how adding a tangible prize to an advertising campaign can help draw in potential consumers.

By Eileen Strauss


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