Every restaurant and bar has slow times, but special events can fill gaps in business and increase revenue. Sports fans enjoy congregating to celebrate team victories, and customers and event planners are always looking for unique settings for special events, a memorable party celebration or a polished dinner meeting.
Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach nearly $800 billion this year, but owners and operators are experiencing ever-narrowing margins, a tight market for labor and ambivalent consumer response. The pressure is on to increase revenue from new sources. Many owners are turning to events for greater visibility and additional income from higher-margin sales of liquor, specialty food items and venue rentals.
Some of the approaches restaurant owners are using to create a thriving special-event business include:
- Market the restaurant’s best attributes. Many restaurants have features and decor that provide unique settings for special events. Patios, spacious grounds, party rooms and bars can be promoted for weddings, anniversary and engagement parties, business meetings and team-building events. Visit local businesses with business cards, menus and samples from your kitchen to drum up catering and party reservations.
- Join the fun surrounding a big event. Sports team playoffs, festivals, concerts and civic celebrations can drive additional business and position a restaurant as a fun locale and community supporter of events. Restaurants and bars can offer discounts to event ticket holders and offer special meal or drink deals after the occasion.
- Support a charitable cause. Creating an event, such as hosting a celebrity bartender, and donating a portion of the proceeds to charity is an effective way to draw people to your location and support a good cause. You’ll earn goodwill for civic service and generate awareness of your venue.
- Host a live music event. Support local musicians and help them build a following in the community. Fans will enjoy drinks and food as they listen to their favorite musicians. Check in advance if a music license or other permits are needed, and test the acoustics and electrical systems prior to a live performance.
- Build your own holiday celebration. Choose a favorite holiday or make up one that aligns with your locale or community interests. Provide special menu items, live music or entertainment, and offer prizes for costumes. Promote the event and related photos on social media with hashtags.
- Do a pop-up event. Even your parking lot can help build traffic by becoming a site for a farmers market or craft show. Participate in local events by offering a pop-up kitchen or food truck at venues such as flea markets, food markets, carnivals and county fairs.
 “2017 Restaurant Industry Outlook from the National Restaurant Association,” pdf available for download at: https://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/News-Research/2017_Restaurant_outlook_summary-FINAL.pdf
 “10 Restaurant Promotion Ideas You Wish You Had Thought of Earlier,” by Robert Hale, Toast blog, Jan. 27, 2017. Available at: https://pos.toasttab.com/blog/restaurant-promotion-ideas. And “11 ways to survive the slow season,” by Liz Barrett, Restaurant Hospitality blog, June 23, 2017. Available at: http://www.restaurant-hospitality.com/marketing/11-ways-survive-slow-season
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