When it comes to managing a restaurant, it’s not always easy. With narrow margins, unpredictable crowds, and new trends such as delivery services, it is critical to provide customers a variety of dining opportunities, like hosting events. Since most people want food at their event, it really is a win-win situation. The types of events could range from family reunions, birthday parties, holiday get-togethers, charity functions, and other family or business events.
Offering your restaurant as a venue gives potential customers a reason to dine with you and experience your hospitality. Wow them with your food and customer service, and you’ve gained a repeat customer. Events also have the potential to boost your social media influence as users can check-in, Tweet, Snapchat, post and Instagram their event.
Start analyzing who your customers are, and the types of people that work or live in your area. You want to identify their needs, desires, and even the trends that they follow. For instance, if you’re in a tourist-centric area, focus on bachelorette or birthday parties. If you’re located in a scenic or romantic area, target wedding parties, engagement, and anniversaries. If you’re surrounded by businesses, bring them in for brunch or lunch meetings, or company happy hours.
The Basics of Hosting
Hosting events can be a highly effective method for increasing revenue in a way that’s predictable and manageable. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be cumbersome or overwhelming. Below are the steps necessary to begin hosting events in your space, no matter how big or small. Just be sure to take the time necessary to ensure your options are feasible and meaningful to customers. At a minimum, this should include:
If you have a separate area in your restaurant that can be closed off, use it as a private event room. It can be used for rehearsal dinners, bridal and baby showers, family reunions and business meetings. Such parties are the easiest to plan and can provide tremendous sales without disrupting normal business. For the best event capacity, be sure to evaluate proper space and fire safety protocol.
Does your restaurant boast a rooftop, patio, or banquet room? Then you’ve already got an ideal event space built in for private events. From there, you can prime the area for events with things like:
- A/V equipment, if it’s safe from inclement weather.
- Simple decor (string twinkle lights or a single flower in a 7-inch-tall vase on each table).
- Easy access to exits, bathrooms, and the bar – if applicable.
If you don’t have a private area like described above, consider a semi-private space. Suitable for almost all event types, a curtain or standing divider can provide a more intimate and less ‘public’ atmosphere.
While most restaurants do not limit their event hours, you may choose to make the hours available for events. These special event hours could be during slow dining times, before or after regular business hours, or specific 3-hour periods. This can assist you and your staff in managing the event customers and regular customers while continuing to provide excellent customer service.
Food & Beverages
Private party patrons tend to eat and drink more than the typical diner, so consider a pre-set menu that requires fewer servers to satisfy a large group setting together rather than many complicated dishes. Prepping for events, like developing seasonal dishes and planning promotions for your venue takes time, so start early. Great food and drink will stick in guests’ minds for potential future visits.
Whether it’s canapés, a sit-down meal, or a drinks reception, ensure you have something available for a broad range of tastes. Be sure to remember that not everyone will be drinking alcohol, so provide non-alcoholic alternatives, and remember to offer vegetarian alternatives to meat dishes, as well as catering for those with food allergies, as required.
When selecting options, it is crucial to be a cost-conscious organizer. Offer several options to patrons that hope to host their event in your spot. Keep the venue cost down by offering flexibility on dates events may be held. Certain days of the week tend to cost less than prime restaurant hours, so be sure to account for this when setting prices for both food and location.
The last thing you want is to serve up a less-than-stellar customer experience because you’re understaffed, have sloppy, slow service. Make sure your staff are fully trained, understand the importance and urgency of excellent customer service. A good way to ‘practice’ is to host events for family members of staff for a discount.
Once you get bookings for private parties, you and your team need to shine on every occasion. Every event is a huge marketing opportunity by word-of-mouth and social media presence. You can’t be sure who will be in attendance, so fine tune all elements of the event down to the very last detail. It’s not just how well you perform; it’s how well you exceed expectations. Do this and your restaurant will earn a reputation for being reliable and ‘the place’ for an event.
During events, it is important that your regular dining service experiences the customer service as good as usual. If regulars suffer because of your events they will avoid your restaurant whenever it looks like an event is occurring. Make sure you’ve budgeted enough employees to cover both. You may also want to consider having the event staff wear something slightly different than the dining room team members, so a patron doesn’t try to flag down the wrong person.
With all the details of potentially hosting, it is critical to create documents that make sense, from specific party menus with pricing, to a way to track the customer’s event needs and plans. If your POS cannot handle this, then be sure to have an organized way of keeping things easy to find. Additionally, have a master calendar with planned events clearly marked.
Other things to take care of before the event is to set an understanding of what is being paid for by whom and be sure staff know as well.
Marketing Your Restaurant as a Venue
Having a strategy for your ability to host events is a crucial building block for creating a successful program. The good news is that if you already have marketing in place, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Post information on your website and social media platforms, including photos of the event space(s), and the options available. Be sure to include a special email address (firstname.lastname@example.org or restaurantname_Events@yoursite.com) and phone number that are used exclusively for private events. Assign one of your managers to check the inbox and voicemail of both daily.
Alternatives for Profitable Events
While the items above are the basics to starting an event hosting line of business, there are additional things to consider in the world of event hosting:
An excellent way to get involved with the community, providing a venue for a fundraiser is a win-win. Not only can you help raise money for the community, but you are building your business. Fundraisers can range from accepting small-scale donations from each customer order, to offering your venue for black-tie silent auctions, school supply drives, and charity dinners.
Open Mic, Karaoke, Quiz Night
If you have an obviously slow night on a regular basis, be it every Thursday, or the second Wednesday of the month, hosting an event is a perfect option. Reach out to local clubs and seek hosts for an open mic, karaoke, or quiz night.
Every day can be a holiday; however, you can specifically cater to holidays for themed menus easy to manage. This includes holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Halloween. Encourage guests to dress up for the occasion, whether it be in a costume, sports jersey, or festive color. Create special drinks for the party, and work with customers and other outlets to promote the event.
Beefing Up Your Tech
Trying to run a restaurant and an events program simultaneously may sound daunting. Leveraging technology can not only save you time and keep you organized, but it can keep details from slipping through the cracks. Event management software (ideally one with a corresponding mobile app) creates a seamless process with features like e-signature documents, secure payment processing, an auto-syncing calendar and more. When matched with a robust POS system, inventory tracker, and team scheduling tool, it will create the means for success.
These are the critical and alternative options to consider when hosting events at your restaurant. Make sure your customers know you are available for parties and list your business online for an instant way to connect with event planners in your area. In no time, you will boost the revenue of your restaurant by attracting private parties and other events. Market your restaurant event hosting properly, train your staff, and develop a strong infrastructure to pull off one great event after another.