Attracting customers during times that are traditionally slow can be a challenge for any restaurant owner. One way to combat these times when sales take a dip is by focusing on hosting private events.
The process of prepping (or constructing) private rooms, developing special dishes, and planning promotions takes time. This is why it’s important to start the process well before you anticipate a spike in demand for event spaces. However, timely planning isn’t the only thing that will positively affect your revenue. Building out your own private event spaces can boost your bottom line significantly, especially with the right cash infusion to get the party started.
The Profitability of Parties
Where do you think guests would prefer to hold their holiday celebrations, bridal showers, corporate events, and civic meetings: A large table surrounded by other guests, clanking silverware, and rushing servers; or a quiet area with dedicated servers, décor, and dishes?
At first glance, it may seem easier — and more cost-effective — to simply put large parties at their own table tucked away from the action. But by building out a special space, you’re doing much more than accommodating groups of eight or 10 — you’re creating an entirely new, and very lucrative, facet to your business.
Not only do these private party patrons tend to eat and drink more than the typical diner, they pay for what they consume, as well as the space they use. Large groups can also require fewer resources to accommodate. A pre-set menu and guest count allows you to purchase precise amounts of each ingredient, limiting waste. And it typically requires fewer servers to satisfy a large group sitting together than an equal number of people, separated into several tables.
Location, Location, Location
By far the costliest — but most critical — part of preparing yourself to host parties is building out a private party room.
To start, gather trusted partners and key staff members to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your business. Is your restaurant an upscale and spacious Italian ristorante that offers only the finest in food and drink? Then your strengths may be size, your chef’s culinary knowledge, and your beautiful décor. Or, are you a more down-to-earth delicatessen? In that case, your strengths may be reasonable prices and a more family-oriented setting.
With this in mind, examine the types of parties your restaurant is most likely to attract, and determine the number of guests commonly included in these groups. A restaurant that will attract wedding rehearsal dinners and formal events may have to accommodate upwards of 100 guests, while a casual party is likely to include far fewer people. Consider the space you have available. Is there an upstairs storage area that could be turned into an event space? Or could you add retractable walls to a large patio to make it a four-seasons party room that your guests will love? No matter what, though, limiting your public dining space is rarely the answer when deciding where to place event spaces.
Even if it isn’t as large as you’d like, having an intimate private party room is better than having none. Just be sure not to make your party room too cramped in the quest to add more tables. Always provide enough space for each guest to have at least 18 inches from the edge of the table to the back of their chair, and allow at least six to eight inches between each seat.
All in the Details
Once you have a trusted contractor started on building or renovating your event space, it’s time to get started on the small details necessary for ensuring your private party rooms are always in business.
Making the menu
Although smaller parties can typically order from your everyday menu, you will want to consider special, limited-service menus for any large groups. Meet with your chef and determine which dishes would not only present well to these groups, but can also be prepared and served in a large scale without over-taxing your kitchen — an especially important consideration if you intend to have normal service hours in your public dining room during the party.
If you and your kitchen staff are comfortable with experimenting, you can even develop multiple menus to offer party organizers, based on the type of event they’re hosting. For larger gatherings, you may want to consider a buffet-style meal, putting less strain on every member of your staff and allowing your guests to help themselves — and even go back for seconds.
Deciding on décor
Most restaurateurs decide to decorate their private party areas in a style similar to the rest of the dining spaces — ensuring the space feels like a part of your brand — but your typical tables, chairs, and fixtures may not work for this special area.
If you have a small room, but want to offer your party guests as many options as possible, you may want to consider using square tables that can easily be combined into long tables, small groupings, or other configurations. Lighter — simple, yet comfortable — chairs can help minimize clutter.
If, however, you have a spacious private dining room that will host large gatherings, you may want to furnish it with round, high-capacity seating. In these instances, consider installing more ornate fixtures, lush window treatments in a color palette similar to that featured in the rest of your restaurant, or install a fireplace (or other special focal point) to add to the elegance of the space.
Regardless of whether you are going all-out glam or small and simple, the investment in a private party space can put a strain on your cash flow. With the immediate capital you receive from a merchant cash advance, however, you can build, buy, and broadcast your new offerings without impacting your budget.
Booking the room
Although they may see your private party spaces, it may not occur to your guests that your restaurant would be the prime spot for their event. That’s why you have to get the word out — and the best way to do so is to go straight to the source.
Contact party planners, wedding dress boutiques, and other event vendors in your area to ask them to help promote your services. Visit local sports teams or organizations and encourage them to hold meetings, celebrations, or award ceremonies with you. You can even contact hotels and tour companies in the area to get the word out that large groups are welcome in your event spaces. And, as more and more people plan parties through Facebook and share their photos on Instagram, don’t forget to broadcast your message on social media.