No matter how popular your bar or restaurant is, there are plenty of ways to maximize income (and avoid the “good enough” trap.) One of the best ways to bring in more revenue and patrons? Host private events. Restaurant event planning isn’t as simple as closing your establishment for the night and carrying on with business as usual. We’ll arm you with five key event planning tips for bar and restaurant owners so you can start hosting memorable events right away.

Why should I host private events at my restaurant or bar?

Private events are extremely profitable. According to Gather, the average party size of full-service restaurants is 3.7 guests, which returns $50 to a couple hundred dollars per party. Gather notes that the average large group or private event spends around $2,500—five to 20 times the average revenue per table. And since many of these event contracts require upfront payment or a deposit in the form of a percentage of the total cost, it’s guaranteed revenue for your restaurant business.

Five restaurant event planning tips

The biggest mistake restaurateurs can make is jumping into restaurant event planning without a clear strategy or process. There are five things to keep in mind as you start planning your events strategy for your bar or restaurant:

  1. Create a standard event process
  2. Build a standard event menu
  3. Consider offering unique experiences
  4. Acquire necessary permits and licenses
  5. Partner with local organizations

1. Create a standard event process

From the servers, to the kitchen staff, to the front of house, your entire team needs to be prepared for every event. The best way to do this is to create a standard event planning process for each team.

Keep a detailed calendar of all events, so you don’t overbook your venue. Formalize the contract paperwork so that, going in, everyone knows what to expect; the number of guests, the cost per person, and fees due at each stage of the process. If you standardize the parts of the event that are the same every single time—such as scheduling or client contracts—you can focus on the individualized, customized parts of the event and make them shine.

2. Build a standard event menu

Does your chef have a favorite dish that’s not on the main menu? Do your bartenders have a specialty cocktail they don’t get to craft as often as they would like? Event menus are a great place to show off your creativity and make the patrons feel like they’re being treated to something special. Some restaurants even work with their clients to design a one-of-a-kind menu that fits a concept or theme for the party.

But, before you start getting wild with menu engineering, make sure you create a menu that’s both crowd-pleasing and profitable. Standardized menus makes it easier for you to price costs and maintain a specific profit margin.

3. Consider offering unique experiences

While some services might be too niche, expensive, or time consuming to run on an everyday basis, a private event with a guaranteed (or even prepaid) headcount allows you to widen your offerings. Just because you aren’t a karaoke bar doesn’t mean you can’t offer karaoke. Make the night truly unique and something your patrons will talk about and recommend to friends. Hold a live concert. Host a poker tournament or an escape room. Teach the delicate art of knife throwing.

4. Acquire necessary permits and licenses

Speaking of knife throwing—depending on the type of event you’re hosting, you may need special permits, licenses, or insurance to legally cover them. Take the time to research statutes and regulations in your area. Failure to adhere to these regulations is a quick path to large fines, which cuts into your event revenue. For instance, hosting live musicians need a special kind of license. Hosting a poker or casino night? Your staff can’t just deal cards without becoming certified by an official board. Make sure you include any liability language in your final contracts. Failing to follow through and obtain the proper documentation could potentially be disastrous to your bottom line and business.

5. Partner with local organizations

To host private events, you need large groups. Partner with local facilities—like hotels, convention centers, or local businesses looking for retreats or team-building events—that can provide a steady stream of customers. Becoming an official partner with these businesses can also lower your marketing budget and can attract new, regular customers as well.

A private event is a fun and different night, for both your clientele and your staff. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require specialized work. The best thing you can do is standardize as much of the work as possible, protect yourself against damages, and throw yourself into the work. This is a night to display something different, something truly unique. It’s a night to display passion and grow your business. Have fun!

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