Private events and buyouts can present a profitable opportunity for your restaurant if they’re managed properly. But lack of planning will be apparent quickly to both staff and guests, so it’s important to visualize what you want to accomplish by offering these options to the public and then creating a plan that your entire staff understands.
Put on Your Party (Planning) Hat
Imagine yourself in the party planner role. What questions come to mind first? Answering those easy questions on your website will make it easier for potential customers to determine if your restaurant is a fit before wasting their or your time. They will likely want to know:
- How many guests can the space accommodate seated or standing
- What staff is provided, and are there additional costs for staffing
- Any extra services that may be available, such as DJs
- Can guests bring X
- And of course, costs
It’s not necessary or even beneficial to get into the weeds of pricing on your website, but providing a starting point or a ballpark for buyouts and private events can help people make the right choice for their needs.
Know Your Costs and Your Take
Before advertising that your restaurant offers buyouts and private event spaces, run the numbers to determine what your costs are and what you need to make in order for these events to be worthwhile. Also consider the impact that closing your restaurant for an evening can have on other potential guests (make sure to let people know if you’re going to be closed for a private event well in advance and on the day-of via social media).
Take a look at what your costs will be for food and staffing, including setting up, breaking down and cleaning up from the event; and then charge accordingly to make sure you are profitable. One way to accomplish this is by creating different packages for different scenarios -- cocktail hours with passed hors d'oeuvres, seated dinner, open or closed bar, etc.
Details Paint the Picture
After you’ve addressed the basics, get specific to your restaurant. Consider why an event planner would want to choose your restaurant instead of a similar competitor. Is your service exceptional, is the venue fun and exciting? What makes your private space different from the rest? Share the details to paint a picture that your guests can see themselves in.
Spread the Word
Your private event space should be featured on your website somewhere that makes sense for potential customers--perhaps with your catering menu or even on its own page. The imagery you use here is important: The guest should be able to imagine having a great time in your space. Provide multiple images of the space with people in it. If necessary, stage a ‘party’ with your friends, family and staff, and then hire a professional photographer to capture the images for web and marketing pieces. You can also use this as an opportunity to train staff on how to handle these events. Consider inviting a few local tastemakers--bloggers, Instagrammers, press or other influencers who can help spread the word about your restaurant’s private dining capabilities.
In addition to creating content about your private event space on your website, make sure to note it on any restaurant review sites that have a listing for your restaurant. Share information about the space on social media and in your newsletter, and send a note to local press to remind them that you have a private event space available to large groups.
Reach out to the local businesses in your network to remind them that your restaurant offers a private event space and catering, and consider incentivizing event planners to commit early with some sort of early bird discount through September.
Assemble Your Team
On every FOH team, there are employees who are great at handling larger parties and employees who do better in the more intimate settings. Identify who your party people are, and consider them your go-to team for special events. Train your special event staff specifically to be able to handle the unique requirements of these events. Guests at a private event have the expectation that they will have dedicated staff to meet their needs. Don’t try to split staff with responsibilities on the floor and in the private dining room because their attention will be divided. Rather, have dedicated staff present for the duration of your private events, and your guests will appreciate the special attention.