Outrageous Restaurant Marketing Stunts Through History

Staff Writer
A look at extravagant hype campaigns built to bring buzz to restaurants through the years
Burger King
Wikimedia Commons/Jarvin

Burger King

Hear the one about the pink donkey? Last month in Los Angeles, a restaurant called Pink Taco used a pink-painted donkey as part of a Cinco de Mayo promotion. The stunt caused quite an uproar and generated a ton of publicity for Pink Taco. It was a huge success in terms of creating buzz, just maybe not the kind that the restaurant was looking for. It all backfired when animal activists started knocking on their door, and 3,000 people jumped on a Facebook boycott of the restaurant.

In light of the Pink Taco debacle, we dug around to find other restaurant publicity stunts that have been tried over the years. Turns out, the owner of Pink Taco was hardly the first genius to try do something stupid or over the top to focus the spotlight on a restaurant. Restaurants have been pulling tactics like these since at the least the early 1900s, when Nathan’s hired actors to stand on the street eating hot dogs... while wearing lab coats — all in the name of trying to create a healthier image.

In the time since, many other restaurants have tried their own brand of Barnum & Bailey. Taco Bell claimed it bought the Liberty Bell. One Seattle restaurant unveiled underwater billboards said to have been anchored in the 1950s to catch the eye of passing submarine-drivers. Some campaigns, like the one where a German restaurant was supposedly encouraging diners to donate body parts to be cooked, turned out to be complete scams not even involving a real restaurant in the first place.

There’s no doubt that pulling stunts like this will get a lot of attention. But with the restaurant business as difficult as it already is, you've really got to wonder about short-sighted owners who would rather have the hype around their restaurants be so fleeting and gimmicky. But you be the judge. How outrageous and successful do you consider these stunts? And be sure to comment if you remember any great stunts that didn't make the list.

Outrageous Restaurant Marketing Stunts Through History Slideshow.