Turning your restaurant into an event venue for a night can seem daunting. But there are huge benefits to snagging regular large parties and full-venue buyouts.
First, the food will all be pre-ordered for the evening, so you can plan ahead to minimize waste. Second, you’ll have the chance to pack the house on what could otherwise be a slow day. A big party on a Tuesday night? Yes, please!
And finally, there are those beautiful rental fees. Event professionals understand that to reserve all or part of your venue for their party, they’ll have to pay a rental fee. It’s the price they have to pay for disrupting your normal flow of business. And that’s all profit.
But it can be hard to get your restaurant’s name out there as a great option for an event. If you’re not being proactive, it’s unlikely that events business will just fall in your lap.
So here are the steps you should be taking to market your restaurant’s space for events.
Design a professional event deck
The first thing you’ll need is an event deck. An event deck is simply a brochure that explains the features and benefits of your space.
These days, they can be either digital or printed. It can be nice to have a glossy, physical brochure to hand out to event coordinators. But digital can also be a good option so you can save on printing costs and make easy changes. In a perfect world, you’d have both digital and printed versions.
For starters, you’ll need great pictures. Splurge for a photographer here. A professional photographer will be able to make your space shine. When they come, you want the space to look event-ready — table and chairs set just how they would be for a nice event. And the space should be empty of customers. The event planners and their clients need to be able to imagine their party in the room. That’s harder to do when there are people and dirty plates in the picture.
You’re trying to paint the most complete picture possible. So include images of the dining room, bar, any lounge areas, decks or patios — all of the customer-facing spaces.
Next, you need to put together your content. This is where you’ll give all the important specs of the space. These should include:
- Square footage
- Max capacity seated
- Max capacity standing
- Any audio/visual equipment you have
- Furniture details. How many tables and chairs do you have in-house? Do you have any satellite bars or buffet tables? This will help the event planners to figure out what they’ll need to rent.
- Service styles. Do you have limits for how many guests can get a seated, plated dinner vs. family-style or buffet service? Do you offer passed appetizers?
- Include a list of preferred vendors, if you have one. This could be DJs, florists, rental companies, and tent-providers (for outdoor spaces).
Once you have your photos back and your specs compiled, it’s time to put your deck together. If you or someone on staff are skilled with a program like Adobe InDesign, you may be able to do it yourself. But you may get a better result if you hire a graphic designer. Remember, if you spend $500 between a photographer and graphic designer, you could make it all back with one event rental fee.
Reach out to local event companies
The next step is to reach out to the local event companies to make sure they’re aware of your restaurant.
The event companies are the gatekeepers to all the local event business. If there’s a conference, trade show, seminar, or festival coming to town, the organizers will reach out to an event company to plan welcome parties or VIP dinners.
So it’s vital to have these folks on your side. Invite them to tour the space. Make sure the owner, general manager, or onsite event coordinator is the one doing the tour. You want to be able to answer their questions in real-time, instead of asking someone else.
After the tour, treat them like VIPs. Provide samples of some of the best appetizers and snacks that you would provide for events, and make sure to give them a glass of wine or a cocktail. If you get on the event planner’s good side, your job is halfway done.
Skip the middle man
Not all events will go through event planning companies. Some will come directly from the end client. So it’s always a good idea to do a little outreach on your end as well.
To start, establish your max capacity for an event. There’s no point in reaching out to companies of 400 people if you can only fit 150. So use your capacity to weed out companies that are too large.
Then, start looking for lists of “best small companies” in your areas. The companies that are on “best places to work” lists are often generous with their celebrations. Start calling these companies, and try to reach the person who handles events. Many small companies won’t have a designated “event coordinator”, so the job will fall to someone in HR or a competent administrator.
You’re not trying to be pushy. Just let them know that you have a great space not far from their office and you think it might be a good fit for their next company party. Invite them out for a tour and some snacks.
This is an especially good method around September/October. The holiday party is looming, but the planner may not have thought much about it yet. How fortuitous if the perfect venue just happens to reach out at the perfect time?
Peerspace is an online event rental marketplace. Like Airbnb, venues can create a listing for their space, which users can book for available days.
Now, Peerspace is not restaurant-specific, so it doesn’t account for menus or drinks. The rental is strictly for the space. But if you have a side room that sits vacant often, getting it up on Peerspace may be a great way to get occasional rentals. It could be used for seminars, lectures, or meetings instead of sitting empty.
You knew it was coming, right?
These days, every marketing plan has to include social media. There are three big areas to focus on for promoting events on social media.
Every now and then, make sure to do a post on your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter about the fact that your space is available for private parties. Post one of those beautiful event deck photos, and include the email address that they should reach out to with questions.
Or, you could take followers on a virtual tour of the space in your Instagram or Facebook stories. Regular reminders that your space is available for events will help to position your restaurant as an event venue in the minds of your followers.
2. Events in progress
When you have an event-in-progress, make sure to share it! Photos and short videos of your events as they happen will show your followers how fun your space can be!
Make sure to use event-focused hashtags, like:
The idea is to get your pictures in front of other event professionals around town.
3. Facebook ads
Facebook ads let you get very specific with your targeting. You can narrow down your ad audience by age, location, gender, income level, family size, interests, and job titles.
For event-focused Facebook ads, try targeting executive assistants, HR professionals, administrators, and event planners in your area. Use one of those professional photos and make sure your ad links directly to your online event deck.
This kind of focused targeting will get your ad in front of the event decision-makers that you need to reach in order to book their parties.
If you spend a little time focusing on each one of these steps, you’ll be sure to see an increase in event rentals. Once the events are booked, make sure all hands are on deck to throw the best event possible. There’s no business like repeat business! You want your event clients to get on next year’s calendar before this year’s party has even ended!