Restaurants, with their famously slim margins, are always looking for additional ways to generate revenue.
Parties and special events aren’t limited to the holiday season; corporate events, weddings, and large celebrations occur every month of the year. If you’re not already promoting your venue as a prime spot for hosting a special event, it may be worth considering.
Diversifying your restaurant’s offerings to include special events and private parties is an excellent strategy for staying busy and optimizing your restaurant operations for profits.
For the time being, parties are back, spending is up, and people are going out again. But events don’t need to be in-person to be fun and memorable. Events that are virtual or hybrid are probably here to stay — something to keep in mind as you map out your strategy.
In this post, we share why your restaurant should be hosting events, some ideas for how to make those events memorable, and finally, tips for their success.
Benefits of Hosting Restaurant Special Events
Because events are celebratory by nature, customers tend to splurge on high-margin items, such as desserts or alcohol. Splashy displays — like a chocolate fountain — can make a dazzling impression on guests while bringing in higher profits.
Another benefit of private or special events is the ability for restaurateurs to recognize event revenue more quickly than regular meal sales. A restaurant can’t get away with charging a party of four for their dinner until the plates are cleared and the check is on the table, but it’s standard practice to take 50% of a party reservation 30 days in advance. This can make a big difference to your cash flow.
Another reason to expand into private or special events is that it’s a good way to reach an entirely new customer segment. Whether it’s people who work in your restaurant’s location (rather than live in the neighborhood), or it’s clientele from a different age bracket, many of the customers who attend your events may be experiencing your restaurant for the first time.
Each new person that you bring in the door increases the word-of-mouth about your space, your food, or whatever it is that makes your restaurant stand out.
Expansion of your brand
A third reason to focus on hosting events at your restaurant is that it allows you to expand your brand — what your restaurant is known for in the community. If you run a Spanish restaurant where everyone orders paella, your events menu can be an opportune place to introduce your tapas, or other dishes people might not associate with you.
Restaurant Marketing Event Ideas
To gain a reputation for successful events at your restaurant, it helps to be creative in coming up with themes that are out-of-the-ordinary — and to make use of the unique space you have available.
If you have a light-filled courtyard, it may lend itself to a flower-filled wedding celebration, for example. Or if you have a sound-proof room with cool lighting behind your bar, that may be an ideal place to host a karaoke sing-a-long or an awards gala evening.
The emphasis is on creating a unique and memorable experience — known as experiential marketing for restaurants — to create buzz.
Some ideas for memorable events include:
Wine or hors d’oeuvres tasting
Karaoke or lip-sync contests
Academy Awards or Grammy Awards nights
Also, keep in mind that off-premise events can be an important part of your restaurant’s offering as well; all of the above events can be hosted online for the community to join.
4 Tips for Success with Restaurant Events
1. Create custom menus
Everyone appreciates special treatment, and your event customers will enjoy the ability to customize food and drinks to their own tastes to suit the occasion. This can include printing out custom menus or signage for special items such as signature cocktails.
One advantage to feeding a crowd is that it allows you to go beyond the single dish model for meal service. Much of the food can be passed around by your wait staff, allowing people to eat while chatting with friends or co-workers and moving about the room. And of course, you can also choose to have a seated portion of the meal.
2. Designate staff for events
Dedicate at least one team member to oversee every detail of special events for your restaurant. This will be the go-to person for any concern that the host may have — whether it’s parking, or decorations, or music, or first aid. They will coordinate all activities with the rest of the restaurant staff, ensuring that regular operations are minimally disrupted.
This person should possess strong organizational skills, strong communication skills, and be quick on their feet to respond to any question or demand from guests. This personalized attention to detail is where you can surpass expectations and make a strong impression on your host.
3. Follow local ordinances & regulations
Depending on your local regulations and ordinances, your restaurant may need to apply for licenses or permits for entertainment, music, parking, and the like. In the era of COVID-19, there are some additional health-related logistics to consider, such as whether you should require proof of vaccination.
Because guidance can change, be sure to check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) latest guidelines for event planning.
4. Promote your events
If you’re serious about building up your events business, you’ll also need to promote them as part of your wider local marketing strategy. You can add a note at the bottom of your restaurant’s menu or similar signage, and you can create a special events page on your website with an intake form for potential customers to fill out.
Be sure to include any photos or descriptions about your events in your social media posts as well.
Ready to embrace restaurant events?
Today’s economy demands flexibility and creativity from its restaurateurs. As consumers and businesses look ahead to plan the future of gathering and celebrating life’s milestones, restaurateurs can respond by positioning themselves as experts in creating memorable special and private events — no matter the season or occasion.
At the end of the day, growing your restaurant business is all about building relationships and establishing a foothold within a community. To learn more, download our guide, Creating a Restaurant Community.