Hosting private events can be a great way to get the most out of your restaurant space during slow nights or slow months. And if you have or can create a private event space within your restaurant, you can book wedding receptions, office parties, birthdays, and all sorts of celebrations all year round. But succeeding in the event-planning world takes more than just a special table in the back—to really maximize your event potential, you’ll need a tailored marketing campaign and some strategic thinking.
Here are 5 tips for marketing your restaurant space for special events:
Couples planning weddings will book their reception venues nine months to a year in advance. Office holiday parties often book about six months in advance, and a family celebrating a graduation or christening might want to lock in a reservation three months ahead. Think about the kinds of parties your space would work for. If you’re looking to book some office parties, for example, you should start putting out your holiday-themed marketing as early as May or June. If your menu changes seasonally, put together some sample winter menus you can show potential customers or share online.
Design your marketing materials with a specific type of customer in mind. Pictures of people enjoying your space will work better than shots of an empty room. Make it easy for the customer to imagine what their celebration will look and feel like. Grab some friends and stage a photoshoot if you need to. Tailor the images to the type of event you’re looking to book—create soft, romantic lighting to appeal to brides and grooms, or display some hors d’oeuvres to show what a corporate event might look like.
Make sure you’re offering potential customers more than just the facts about square footage and seating capacity. Do you have space for musicians? Can you wow guests with an open kitchen that puts them right in the middle of the action? Can you make a custom menu that suits an event’s theme? Will your chef mingle with the crowd and talk about her unique dishes? Think about what will set you apart from other spaces an event planner might be considering.
Ask the party planners in advance if you can use a few photos from their event in your marketing materials or post them on social media. If it’s appropriate for the event, a photobooth or a special Instagrammable display like a cupcake tower can be a great way to encourage guests to post about the party on social media. Again, you’ll want to consult with the party planners, but for some events, you could encourage guests to use a specific hashtag or tag your restaurant’s page in photos.
Always put the event planner on your VIP email list. You’ll want to reach out to corporate event planners again when it’s time to plan next year’s party. But folks who held personal celebrations should also be considered VIPs—they (hopefully) have fond memories of celebrating in your space, and can be converted into loyal customers. Consider offering party guests coupons for future visits, or telling newlyweds that drinks are on you next time they come in. Of course, the best way to win repeat business is to make the event as easy as possible for the organizer. Planning a big event is stressful, and the more you can do to make it a seamless experience for the guests, the more likely they’ll be to come back again and again.