If your restaurant has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, you are probably looking for new and effective ways of increasing restaurant sales. In addition to regular service, focusing on private events and corporate clients will allow you to boost your revenue with minimal investment.
This post will discuss everything you need to know in order to maximize your revenue from private events. I will cover why private events are a great way at increasing restaurant sales, how to avoid common mistakes, and how to promote your private events.
Before discussing the logistics and organization of private events, we will focus on why they are worth your time. According to Gather, private dining has three advantages over regular service.
Customers tend to spend more on private events than during a regular restaurant visit. The average party size for a full-service restaurant is 3.7 guests. Depending on your average ticket, you could be making between $50 to $200 per table, sometimes more depending on the type of restaurant. While there is a lot of variation, the average large group or private event spends around $2,500, which is 10 to 20 times the amount of revenue your average table will bring in.
Increasing restaurant sales through private events is also possible due to the celebratory nature of those events that often include birthdays, anniversaries, or business celebrations. This leads to a higher spend on alcohol, appetizers, and desserts. You can also upsell your private event clients by offering a better wine selection, a special dessert option, or an open bar.
Private events are booked in advance, usually 30-60 days prior, which allows you to predict your revenue up to two months before the event. As a result, you can optimize your budget planning; for instance, you can calculate and allocate the future budget available for marketing. Furthermore, it is standard practice to deposit between 10% and 50% before the event, which improves the restaurant’s cash flow.
You also have control over the day and time of private event bookings. Consequently, you can schedule the events so that they fill up the slower time slots. This allows you to further increase your sales without impairing the regular service.
Additionally, private events generate higher revenue margins than regular tables. While a typical table’s margins vary between 3% to 8%, groups and events render margins of 15% to 25%. This is due to a higher liquor spend and more predictable costs.
As a restaurant owner or manager, you might worry that private events will be more problematic than profitable. However, that is unlikely to happen if you take the necessary steps in the planning and execution stage.
If you want the planning of any event to go smoothly, it is imperative to know everything about the space available for private parties. That includes the square footage, how many tables and/or people it can fit, possible layout options, etc.
It is best to have photos of the space ready to be shown to prospective clients. Not only does it streamline the decision process, but it also makes you look more professional.
Once you know your space and its capabilities, it is time to research your competition. You can visit your known competitors’ websites to see if they offer private events. Moreover, do a Google search and check out Yelp to find out who else you will be competing against and what they provide.
Knowing your competition will inform you if there is a niche that you can service, for instance, corporate events or baby showers. If you dig deep enough, you will also find out how much your competitors are charging and what they offer when it comes to food, drinks, and the space. With this information, you will be able to create competitive event packages.
The best way to prepare for every event is to have a universal process implemented for all parties. This way, you are less likely to make a mistake or forget about something important. What is more, your servers, bartenders, and the kitchen staff will know exactly what to expect and what to do before each event.
There are a couple of tools that will prove very useful while organizing private events at your restaurant. First, an event calendar will help you stay organized and avoid double-booking the venue. Second, you should have formalized contract paperwork that includes the number of guests, the cost per person, and fees due at each stage of the process. Using the contract templates will help streamline your work and allow for more time for the customized parts of the event.
Using event packages has advantages both for your restaurant and for the customer. When you present the customers with unlimited options, they may get overwhelmed with too many choices. Most people don’t know a lot about creating event menus, so it is best to provide them assistance by building basic packages that they can customize to their preferences.
Additionally, event packages and special menus will help maintain your target profit margins. You can also showcase the dishes, cocktails, and wines that you do not serve at your restaurant on a daily basis in order to create even more excitement. You could even work with the client to design a one-of-a-kind menu that complements the concept for the party.
Your customers may have a lot of detailed questions about the party before and after the booking, especially if they host an important event such as a wedding reception. The person in charge of the event should be prepared to answer all the questions without hesitation. Some of the questions may include:
Your restaurant surely provides unique experiences to its patrons, such as the food, ambiance, wine list, etc. Remember to convey this value in your private events as well.
During private parties, you can provide even more unique experiences for the guests. For instance, live music or a wine tasting can be an amazing addition to a birthday party or a corporate holiday event. In order to provide the best experience for your clients, discuss their needs and preferences and suggest some ideas to make the event more memorable. Just remember about the necessary permits if you want to do something beyond the scope of your usual business. For example, hosting a poker tournament would require your employees to get proper certifications.
Plans change and very rarely do private events go according to expectations. There might be fewer or more guests showing up without notice, you might be surprised by three vegans that nobody mentioned before the event, and so on. Flexibility is a great asset when working with private events. After all, your goal is to make the guests happy since they spend a lot of money on the event and may come back to your restaurant many times in the future.
However, your flexibility should not go beyond reason. Private events should be increasing restaurant sales, so the bottom line is to make every party profitable for your restaurant.
Your website is the main source of information about your restaurant. Therefore, you can use it to highlight the private events that you offer.
In order to provide as much information as possible, I would recommend creating a separate web page for private events. That will allow you to showcase your unique value, discuss the event packages, include photos of the space or shots from previous events.
Alternatively, you could add a section on the homepage to provide contact information to the person in charge of events.
Email marketing can be an extremely helpful tool to increase restaurant sales. If you have an email newsletter, use it to promote your private events. Your email list consists of people who know and like you, which makes them more likely to book an event at your restaurant.
You do not need to send weekly emails promoting your private parties, but it is a good practice to highlight seasonal events such as holiday parties or the wedding season.
If you do not have an email list or are not 100% satisfied with your email marketing, consider taking my Email Success For Restauranteurs course. It covers everything you need to know to nurture loyal customers and boost revenue through email.
Another obvious but powerful way to promote your private events is through social media. It will work particularly well if you have a significant following on Instagram or another social media platform. I would recommend posting about private events regularly but not too often. For example, every seventh post could highlight your private events.
Social media also gives you an opportunity to post highlights from your previous events (after obtaining the patrons’ permission) either in Stories or in regular posts.
If you want to reach more people than your followers, you can also run social media advertising campaigns. This way, you can target specifically couples who recently got engaged, people whose birthdays are coming up, and more. You can find the first post of my series about Facebook Ads here.
Local Search Engine Optimization is crucial for your restaurant’s visibility online and, as a result, for increasing restaurant sales. The first step to SEO is making sure that your website is optimized for the necessary keywords such as “private events”, “baby shower venues”, or “small wedding reception venues”. If you would like to learn more about the basics of SEO, read this article.
Advertising on search engines such as Google allows you to reach users who are already looking for private event venues, which means that they have a need that you can satisfy. Your job is to convince them that your offer is the best option for them. In order to do that, it is best to create a few ads that all target different niches.
Your employees can save you a lot of time when they know how to answer customers’ questions regarding private events. Furthermore, they can save you from losing interested leads.
You could give your staff some basic information to share with prospective clients. As an alternative, you ask the servers and bartenders to take contact information from the interested customers if they would like to talk to the person in charge.
People who have hosted an event at your restaurant are most likely to book an event in the future. You should make sure that your relationship with them is maintained long after the party.
To do so, make sure that you keep the organizer’s email address. After the event, send a follow-up email to thank them for their patronage and ask for feedback. Later, reach out to them in the following weeks and months with special offers or seasonal opportunities.
To sum up, private events can serve a huge role in increasing restaurant revenue thanks to their three advantages: higher spending, predictable revenue, and higher margins.
There are some rules to follow if you want to make the private events as smooth and profitable as possible.
Once you have the logistics figured out, it is time to promote your private event offering. You will achieve the best results by combining most or all of the strategies listed below.
I hope that now your are ready and excited to use private events as a way of increasing restaurant sales!