According to The National Restaurant Association, the number one trend for 2023 is experiences centered around local culture and community.¹ Offering the full package — by way of a dining experience — ensures your establishment will be memorable for more than just good food and service.
Dine and Dish
The dinner table has always been a communal place to chat and catch up. Many restaurants now create events that center as much on the discussion as the food. Host a "Dinner and Discussion" series once a month with a rotating guest: a book reading and Q&A with a local author; a lesson on starting a business from a respected local entrepreneur, for example.
Another event that's become popular is adding a storytelling element to your dinners. Well in advance, advertise a theme like "travel" or "first dates." Host weekly Story Sundays where diners can take their turn at the mic — after all, everyone has a story. It's a great way to boost a convivial sense of community that people are gravitating towards and boost sales on slower days of the week. Offer pre-paid tickets for these events with a prix fixe menu (related to the theme, if possible!) and even a discount for newcomers. To encourage more folks to share their stories, consider offering a coupon or a free drink.
Themed events are great because not only can you attract new customers at each turn, you'll have attendees on the edge of their seats waiting to see what the next theme is. You can also stir up more engagement by offering incentives to folks who show up dressed for the occasion. Show classic cartoons and serve pancake boards with all the toppings or feature a build-your-own omelet station. Hold Movie Mondays and show old favorites with corresponding food and beverages, like a special menu of desserts or cocktails.
Themes can also center around a specific culinary region. For even more guest interaction, allow diners to vote for the next region they'd like to have a taste of. Tie in related decor, history, and a pronunciation guide for a full experience that'll keep them coming back to travel the world with you.
Themed trivia nights are more popular than ever, but also consider other games to brighten the atmosphere and get guests interacting with each other. Try bar Olympics with giant block games, pinball, pool, and darts. Or host an old school board game night with classic favorites set up at different stations.
Promote Private Spaces
Providing an exclusive, private event space caters to those looking for a more intimate gathering area for celebrating milestones or impressing big clients. If you don't have a separate room or the capacity to build, see if you can create a natural barrier with bookcases or partition walls. Try to center the space around a cozy fireplace or a breathtaking view.
You'll be able to rent out the space for bigger bucks by not only offering privacy but also an exclusive experience. Accommodate the group's specific requests like music and decor; screen private movies or sporting events; customize place settings with the names of all the guests. Offer a complementary surprise amuse bouche from the chef. Give guests an experience, and you'll have a new source of revenue that will be booked for months out.
Partnering with area businesses, other restaurants, or curating limited-time experiences can generate serious buzz for your business and draw in new customers. Think of special collaborations, like your chef pairing up with another for a once-in-a-lifetime menu that can't be replicated anywhere else. Team up with a local vintage shop for a flea market brunch where ticket holders get exclusive access to shopping alongside their mimosas. Or have a musical dinner on Record Store Day complete with a DJ spinning the classics and crates of exclusive albums for sale. Add-ons like early shopping access or limited-edition merch for VIP ticketholders can boost revenue as well.
¹National Restaurant Association What’s Hot Culinary Trends Report 2023