Restaurant Marketing With Memes (What’s a Meme?)

Restaurant Marketing With Memes (What’s a Meme?)

An Internet Meme is an image, video, or other digital content that is passed from one internet user to another, typically as a joke. Memes have a “viral” element to them, gaining views and shares from users beyond the original poster’s own contacts and can spread brand awareness farther than traditional advertising means. Restaurant marketing with memes is the newest way for restaurants to reach a new audience.


Viva Nannerpuss!

Denny’s googly-eyed octopus shot to meme fame after territorially guarding a stack of pancakes in a Super Bowl XLIII commercial. The ad spiked the diner chain’s web traffic by an unbelievable 1,679% and eventually won them Ad Nauseous’ Ad of the Year award in 2009. A smart, integrated digital strategy enabled the viral spread of Nannerpuss and user-generated spinoffs like the one seen here.

Nannerpuss seated on a stack of pancakes in the style of Barack Obama’s HOPE poster


Sarcastic Recipe Reviews

Even the world’s most iconic chefs sometimes hit a creative wall. Unfortunately, some still feel obliged to post recipes online when this happens. Rachel Ray became the butt of comment trolls’ jokes after posting how-to’s for self-explanatory recipes like “Late Night Bacon” and “Pineapple Wedges” on Food Network’s site. Users tried to top each other with sarcasm and wit in comment sections, resulting in a spike in sign-ups for the mega brand. Guess the Food Network had the last laugh.

Screenshot of Rachel Ray’s flubbed recipe


Fun With Stock Photos

Shining a light on the occasionally random subject matter found on stock photo sites, bloggers began compiling themes like  “Women laughing alone with salads” and “Men laughing alone with fruit salad” in 2012. Chicago graphic designer Mark Hauge gets credit for starting this meme with his Awkward Stock Photos Tumblr blog.


The Mustard Man

The mess. The priceless look of shock and befuddlement. The up-to-the-elbow mustard glob. What strange twist of events transpired to make this happen to Mike Nahrgang. We know, but won’t spoil the mystery. Instead, enjoy a gallery of brilliant Photoshopped images of Mustard Man appearing in strange places.

Restaurant worker covered in mustard


Godfather of Pizza Memes

After proposing public policy that was clearly influenced by his roots in the quick service restaurant market segment, 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain inspired a whole slew of pizza-related memes. Personally, we’re found of the 5-5-5’s proposer going mano-a-crusto against an enormous slice of Hawaiian.

Herman Cain debating a slice of Hawaiian Pizza



In the wake of planking, all the e-haute teenagers followed a new meme in 2011: cone-ing. Nolan Harris from Seattle gets credit for posting the first derivative of the original prank, created by Australian comedian Alki Stevens. Much to the amusement of fast food workers everywhere, nearly 12,000 unique videos of customers grabbing ice cream cones in strange ways have been posted online.

A driver holds two ice cream cones to his chest


King of Creepy

Cracking our top 5 is a meme centered around the psychologically damaging ad icon created by Burger King in 2004. Several internet fads subsequently featured the King. A series titled  “Where is Your God Now?” had the largest spread after this image was created. Urban Dictionary went on to define the saying as: “A common phrase tagged onto an image or web page so terrifyingly weird it makes you question if god exists.”

Burger King mascot in bed with a frightened man


Sweetest Brand Advocate Ever

How could you bash Marilyn Hagerty, the nicest, kindest, sweetest restaurant reviewer ever? Unfortunately, some evil people have no sense of decorum. After posting an unbelievably earnest review of Olive Garden, she shot to internet fame and inspired a whole slew of sarcastic user reviews on websites like Yelp.

Screenshot of Marilyn Hagerty’s review of Olive Garden


Hipster Barista

Who doesn’t like poking a little fun at the uber-seriousness of the modern day hipster? For that, Hipster Barista is our number one restaurant meme. First uploaded in 2011, the image of Octane Coffee barista, Dustin Mattson, overlaid with ironic text spread like wildfire.

Four photos of a hipster with ironic text overlaid

Aaron Allen & Associates is an international restaurant consultancy, offering branding, marketing, and design strategy for restaurateurs. Contact us today to start improving your business.

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