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Event Planning & Management
12 February 2020 

12 Imaginative Events and Activations from Bon Appetit

Jacob Thomas
12 Imaginative Events and Activations from Bon Appetit

Learn all about Bon Appetit’s unique approach to event marketing and how you can adopt their philosophies to improve your own conferences, seminars, and expos.

Bon Appetit, a popular magazine that shares tasty recipes, entertaining ideas, and wine reviews, was first published in 1956. The brand changed hands a few times over the next 30+ years until Conde Nast purchased it in 1993. Since that time, Bon Appetit has expanded its reach by creating a consistent stream of online content to accompany its print offering.

Bon Appetit has also begun investing in live events and creative marketing activations to help promote its brand. In this article, we’ll take a look at 12 of these imaginative gatherings and pinpoint their event marketing strategies that have made them so successful.

Sound good? Then let’s get started!

1. Bon Appetit’s Best Weekend Ever

Bon Appetit's Best Weekend Ever - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Bon Appetit’s Best Weekend Ever

Bon Appetit’s Best Weekend Ever is “four days of eating, drinking, and hanging out with the Test Kitchen team, Bon Appetit Editors, and the hottest new restaurants in America.” In other words, it’s a paradise for food lovers, hence the name of the event. Attendees get to taste incredible meals prepared by some of their favorite celebrity chefs, learn a few cooking tips to take back to their own kitchens, and party like it’s 1999 at the event’s Hot 10 Party. What’s not to love?

Key Takeaway: People attend events for a myriad of different reasons — to learn, to network, to get out of the sleepy towns they live in. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter how educational your conference is or how many networking opportunities you provide attendees. If no one has a good time, nobody will want to come back next year. Enter the afterparty, a B2C and B2B event marketing trick that both gets people in the door and helps them have a good time once they arrive. Why? Because afterparties are fun. Consider hosting an afterparty after your next event and watch attendee experience and the number of repeat ticket buyers increase.

2. Vegas Uncork’d

Vegas Uncork'd - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Review Journal

Vegas Uncork’d is one of Bon Appetit’s most popular annual gatherings. Just like the name suggests, this Las Vegas event is all about wine and the food that goes with it. Every year, more than 80 top chefs come together to demonstrate their abilities and mingle with adoring fans. The gathering also features dozens of special events such as poolside wine tastings, after-hours blackjack tournaments, and cooking classes. All in all, it’s a fantastic event that’s loved by thousands of attendees all over the world.

Key Takeaway: Bon Appetit doesn’t hold back when it hosts Vegas Uncork’d. From the venue to the celebrity chefs to the content schedule, everything about this conference is over the top — as any good Vegas event should be. If you have the means, treat your attendees to an out of this world experience when they attend your next event. They’ll appreciate it and reward you with great reviews, word of mouth marketing, and future ticket purchases.

3. Counter Culture

Counter Culture is an event that Bon Appetit hosted in conjunction with Brizo Kitchen and Bath Company. It brought together various thought leaders from both the culinary and interior design industries for many entertaining conversations. For example, chefs talked about how the layout of their kitchen has improved their cooking skills. Or how to make even the smallest of kitchens more functional with specific design techniques.

Key Takeaway: Proper corporate event management will include a number of partnership events. Why? Because these gatherings take less effort to put on and give companies the opportunity to reach new audiences. By splitting the hosting duties with another like-minded brand, you’ll lighten the burden for your own events team and be able to tap into your partners’ built-in audience. Win!

4. Celebrity Chefs

Celebrity Chefs - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Bon Appetit

Celebrity Chefs was a video series that ran from 2012 to 2013. In each of the show’s 32 episodes, Bon Appetit brought in a top chef and had them demonstrate how they make their culinary creations come to life. It was an excellent event series that allowed folks to consume Bon Appetit content from the comfort of their own homes, offices, or wherever else they happened to be. If you’re interested, episodes of their Celebrity Chefs series can still be viewed online.

Key Takeaway: Securing great speakers for your events is absolutely crucial. Do you think Celebrity Chefs would have been successful if Bon Appetit had just brought in random cooks? Probably not. People tuned in because they wanted to see their favorite chefs dishing up spectacular culinary treats. The same is true for your events. Book speakers that your audience knows about and will be excited to listen to.

5. Grub Crawl

Grub Crawl - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Bon Appetit

You’ve heard of a pub crawl, right? Well, Bon Appetit’s Grub Crawl event was basically the same thing, except attendees trolled various cities for the best food instead of drinks. In the past, Grub Crawls have been hosted in New York City, San Francisco, Nashville, and other top foodie towns. And after each event, Bon Appetit catalogs each restaurant and tasty treat on its blog.

Key Takeaway: Like Bon Appetit’s Grub Crawl, the best events are more than a collection of keynote speeches, hands-on workshops, and fun activities. They’re immersive experiences that attendees will remember forever. Always try to think of new ways to engage your audience, make them laugh, surprise them, or treat them to one-of-a-kind opportunities.

6. “Bite Me” Marketing Activation

"Bite Me" Marketing Activation - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Eater

What should every marketing campaign do? Grab attention. Sometimes the best way to do that is to use a cheeky — irreverent, even — catchphrase or slogan. That’s what Bon Appetit did back in 2011 for its “Bite Me” promotion. The food publisher spent half a million dollars on print, digital, and billboard ads as well as a big sweepstake. The goal of the marketing activation was to reach a younger, affluent demographic that wasn’t previously interested in Bon Appetit.

Key Takeaway: There are a million different ways to market your events. No matter which ones you choose to use, always stay true to your brand — even if that means acting a bit irreverent at times (or all the time) like Bon Appetit did in 2011.

7. On Location

On Location - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Bon Appetit

On Location was another video series produced by Bon Appetit. This show ran from 2012 to 2014 and produced 29 episodes that took viewers behind the scenes “with celebrities, designers, and other friends of Bon Appetit.” For example, celebrity chef Bobby Flay was featured in a couple of episodes, as was movie star Elizabeth Olsen.

Key Takeaway: People love behind the scenes content. So why not use it to market your events to your core audience? Fire up your smartphone and shoot a video of your team working on its next conference or expo. Then post it on your company’s blog and social channels. Your target market will appreciate the content and probably feel more connected to your company, which will almost always lead to more ticket sales.

8. Feast Portland

Feast Portland - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Feast Portland

Portland, OR is a beautifully eclectic city with a wonderfully diverse local food scene. Bon Appetit’s Feast Portland event aims to celebrate this fact and invites attendees to sample local delicacies, learn about how they’re made, and discover how Portland’s food and drink creations impact the world. The event features tastings, hands-on classes, and inspirational panels.

Key Takeaway: If you’re looking for new corporate event ideas, try creating a conference that targets a specific demographic. You could, for example, host a business gathering for women, a music concert for religious music or a food festival for residents of a specific town like Feast Portland has done. While these kinds of events will exclude some people, you’ll be able to forge better connections with the folks who do attend.

9. Supper Club and Cafe

Supper Club and Cafe - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Rockwell Group

Let’s hop in a time machine and go back to the 2000s. Remember that decade? Bon Appetit sure made the most of it by hosting the Supper Club and Cafe, a pop-up restaurant that featured celebrity chef-prepared dishes for cheap prices. To help get the word out about the Supper Club and Cafe, Bon Appetit deployed a creative experiential marketing campaign. In a nutshell, branded Buick Enclaves and pedicabs were hired in the New York City area to pass out menus and give free rides to and from the pop-up restaurant.

Key Takeaway: During the day, the Supper Club and Cafe served tasty food for modest prices, as we mentioned earlier. But at night, the pop-up restaurant transformed into an enchanted urban forest that only a select few were able to experience. Have you ever considered hosting an invite-only event? Maybe you should. It will allow you to hand-select your attendees, which could lead to higher event ROI.

10. Chicago Gourmet

Chicago Gourmet - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Chicago Gourmet

Chicago Gourmet is another event that Bon Appetit hosts in conjunction with a partner brand. At this food festival, attendees are able to sample great culinary creations, sip elite wines from around the world, and learn about the best up and coming chefs in Chicago.

Key Takeaway: There are a lot of different ticket options at Chicago Gourmet. Potential attendees are allowed to purchase day passes, weekend passes, multiple event passes, and more. We suggest using this strategy for your events too. Give your audience multiple ways to experience your event and you’ll sell more tickets, generate more revenue, and create happier attendees, guaranteed.

11. Basically by Bon Appetit

Source: Twitter

“Basically” isn’t an event per se, it’s a second brand that the folks behind Bon Appetit started to target a new audience with its food-based content. The site shares cooking advice and tasty recipes for the complete kitchen newbie on its blog and YouTube channel.

Key Takeaway: Why did we include Basically, which isn’t technically an event, in this events list? Because it represents a valuable lesson for all events professionals: always look for ways to expand your event brand. How can you grow in new or different ways? Maybe the answer is to host your event in multiple locations this year. Or perhaps you create a few smaller events that target specific demographics. Dig deep and find ways to reach new people with your events.

12. Bon Appetit Content

Bon Appetit Content - Bon Appetit Event MarketingSource: Bon Appetit

Finally, we have Bon Appetit content which consists of a print magazine, blog articles, an email newsletter, a podcast, and multiple YouTube series. The release of each piece of content could be considered a mini-event. But we want to focus on something else…

Key Takeaway: Each of the pieces of content that Bon Appetit releases helps to promote its brand, which, in turn, better engages its audience and makes them more receptive to any event that it decides to host. It’s important to remember that you need to consistently engage your audience too. Craft content throughout the year (not just 6 weeks before an event) to keep your attendee’s attention and experience more success with your events.

Main Takeaways: Host a Delicious Event Like Bon Appetit

The Bon Appetit events team is top-notch and there’s a lot to be learned from the 12 stellar events and marketing activations listed above. But to keep things simple, here are the 3 main takeaways you can use to improve your own event strategy:

  1. Know Your Audience: You can’t host a successful event without a deep understanding of your attendees. Because Bon Appetit knows its target market well, it can ensure its event branding and content are always on point.
  2. Get Creative: Not all events and marketing activations are created equal. Bon Appetit does a great job of hosting different event types and making sure each one succeeds in its own way, for the specific people it wants to reach.
  3. Embrace Partnerships: One of the reasons that Bon Appetit is able to produce such varied and amazing events for its audience is because it doesn’t try to do everything on its own. Bon Appetit often partners with other, like-minded brands, which is a great idea.

Now it’s your turn. Take what you’ve learned in this article and apply it to your next gathering. Then invest in event software and host the best conference, seminar, or expo that you possibly can. Good luck!

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