This guest post was contributed by Gather.
Seeing faces of excitement when a dish comes out. Getting a detailed, glowing review. Having happy employees who feel valued. These are just some of the rewards that come with managing a restaurant. But, of course, we know it’s not easy: margins can be narrow, crowds can be unpredictable, and dining trends can change at the drop of a hat.
That’s why more and more restaurants are dipping their proverbial toes into the realm of private events. Implementing an events program can be a highly effective method for increasing revenue in a way that’s predictable, manageable, and effective.
What’s better, the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Below, we’re highlighting five steps you can take to turn your restaurant into an event space, whether you want to offer a full-buyout, an intimate semi-private space, or something in between.
1. Determine the space
If your restaurant boasts a rooftop, patio, or banquet room, then you’ve already got an ideal event space built in. From there, you can prime the area for events with things like:
- A/V equipment, as long as it’s safe from inclement weather
- simple decor (string lights are always a win)
- easy access to exits, bathrooms, and the bar
Think events aren’t in the cards at your restaurant because you don’t have a private area like the above? Not so! Semi-private space can be suitable for almost all event types, from corporate dinners to social gatherings and more. You can add a curtain or standing divider for a more intimate feel. If you’re worried about noise carrying over, make the hours available for events during slow dining times or when you’re normally closed, if your normal operating hours are limited.
2. Figure out staffing
When launching an events program at your restaurant, the last thing you want is to serve up a less-than-stellar customer experience because you’re understaffed or the service is sloppy. Make sure all of your event team members are fully trained, understand punctuality, and have familiarized themselves with the type of event and the run of show.
You also don’t want regular dining service to suffer because of your events program. Make sure you’ve budgeted enough employees to cover both, if you’ll be open to the public when the party takes place. You may also want to consider having the event staff wear a separate color from the dining room team members so a patron doesn’t try to flag down the wrong person.
3. Leverage technology
Trying to run a restaurant and an events program simultaneously may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Leveraging technology can not only save you time and keep you organized, but it can keep details from slipping through the cracks, allowing you to grow your business in a way that’s manageable. And who doesn’t want that?
Event management software (ideally one with a corresponding mobile app) can make the process much more seamless through features like e-signature documents, secure payment processing, an auto-syncing calendar and more. Pair it with your POS system, inventory tracker, and team scheduling tool, and you’re set up for success.
4. Nail down the details
Once you’ve decided to start your events program, it’s time to sort out the logistics. We know, we know, not the most fun task — but it’s necessary! A few aspects you’ll want to think about:
- the hours you want to be available to host events
- what your sitting and standing guest maximums are
- your event menus (along with pricing)
- the add-ons you want to offer
- the event types you want to market your space for
Once you get an idea of how you want the specifics set up (with the understanding that things may change or need tweaks after the actual launch), you can move forward with creating the events packet, adding an events section to your website, and spreading the word. Which brings us to…
5. Start promoting
Having a strategy for how you plan to spread the word about your new offering is a crucial building block for creating a program that’ll succeed. The good news: If you already do any sort of restaurant marketing, you probably won’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Post about your new program (along with links where people can find more info) on your social media pages. Bonus points if the posts include a high-quality photo of how a party would be set up in your space — this gives prospects a good visual idea of how things are laid out. This is also a great opportunity to send out a restaurant newsletter blast, or even tap a PR firm to help you get the word out, if that’s in your budget.
Predictable foot traffic and steady profits are hard to find in the restaurant industry. Why not let an events program add predictability while bringing new guests through your doors? By following the above steps, you’ll be well on your way to a booked calendar in no time.
About the Author
Caroline Cox is the content marketing manager for Gather, the leading event management software platform. She spends her time crafting blogs, thought leadership pieces, case studies, social media content and more, helping empower restaurants and other event venues to streamline their planning process and grow their events programs with success. Learn more about Gather and request a live tour at gatherhere.com.