You have the square footage, you have the approved capacity, and you have the kitchen. These are the three key ingredients required to host an exclusive or intimate type event at any venue. Whether you have the capacity for 20 or 200 guests, there is an opportunity to generate awareness, revenue, and repeat customers by becoming known within your community for being the ‘best host in town’.
Hosting events are a great way to fill a restaurant on any chosen day or night. From hosting business networking events and office meetings to fundraising events, menu tastings, media launch parties, and ‘paint’ or ‘trivia’ type nights – restaurants have the ability to plan out the most “perfect event."
Restaurateurs must start to realize that hosting events are a great secondary source of revenue. By strategically planning your own events well ahead of time will position your restaurant to obtain pre-event cash-flow and allow you the opportunity to maximize on labour management, inventory management, and revenue per available seat on what may be a typically slower day.
Here are some strategies to craft a memorable and profitable restaurant event while becoming the talk-of-the-town through the use of social media!
Create a Strategy Plan
As always when developing any strategy or marketing related plan, know your target market in terms of socio-demographics. This will help in determining the type of event that your guests will resonate with. A strategy plan will also create objectives, milestones, and layout personnel related responsibilities in addition to outlining costs and potential return on investment. Planning ahead, approximately two to three months, will further allow you and your team the time to create professional marketing material and properly prepare for each event, creating the perception that you are well organized.
Type of Event
To make event management work for your restaurant, it must create a unique and memorable guest experience, which is no different than traditional dining strategies. Restaurants that provide food and beverage tasting events, DIY paint nights, community fundraisers, dinner and comedy shows, and of course live music are currently leading the way in generating brand awareness and revenue opportunities. Meet with your front-of-house and back-of-house teams, think outside the box, and come up with creative events.
That said— the most ideal self-hosted event for a restaurant is a food and beverage tasting event. Holding one or two per month is an excellent way to showcase your kitchen and bar while offering a limited time only experience. Consider hosting a four-course wine-maker’s dinner or a beer and cheese pairing night or a ‘one night only’ seasonally plated dinner event where you collaborate with local farmers and artisans. The ideas are truly endless.
Within your strategy plan, you want to outline pre-event, day-of event, and post-event management strategies. With pre-event management, you want to give your event the appropriate lead time required to generate buzz and awareness.
This is your opportunity to:
Create an engaging social media strategy. According to KissMetrics, 77 percent of event managers rely on social media as a primary engagement strategy before events.
Create ways to collaborate with local partners, vendors, and community influencers to amplify the events awareness and to generate value-based add-ons for the event itself.
Create a cash-flow opportunity by requiring a reservation through pre-payment. By knowing your target market, completing an event cost analysis, and pending the style of event, ticket prices can often vary from $50 to $150 per person.
When the day of the event arrives you must be prepared. A completed strategy plan will outline responsibilities, food and beverage preparation, staff requirements, and sequence of service.
To maximize on the opportunity, it is also critical to:
Have a social media strategy in place for the day-of by promoting opportunities within the four walls of the restaurant for guests to check-in, use hash-tags, and encourage photo and video usage.
Have a repeat customer strategy in place by offering a measurable incentive to return for all of the events guests. There is a chance that it’s the first visit to the restaurant by some of the guests, therefore it’s critical to maximize on the moment and ensure they return for another meal within the next 30 to 60 days.
Have an appointed ‘guest experience’ manager walk the floor, take photos to create additional content, and interact with guests to ensure they’re having a good time.
This is where many restaurant events fail. When the event is over, the effort must not end. There must be a plan in place to continue the momentum that’s been created. Restaurants should further look to:
Review the guest generated content online (photos, videos, hash-tags, reviews, etc...) and look for ways to share and engage with that content over the next couple of weeks.
With the measurable incentive program in place, how many of those event guests returned for a traditional (non-event) meal within the next 30 to 60 days?
Review the overall success of the event. Did it meet the objectives in terms of revenue, costs, and return on investment? Were there any pre-event or day-of event processes that could have been better? Could this event become a monthly, quarterly, or annual type event?
By becoming known within the community for hosting events, you provide guests with new experiences each time they visit and they then look forward to the next event while sharing their experiences with their friends, family, and co-workers. Outside of that, they may look to host their own event (birthday party, retirement dinner, etc...) at your venue providing you, as an owner or operator, with the opportunity to piggyback on their own marketing efforts. As you can see, hosting events should not be overlooked; they are a great way to also amplify your brand messaging and create long-term brand ambassadors.
By Doug Radkey, Industry Expert