Special events, whether they’re on-site at your restaurant or off-site, can be a great way to drive traffic and revenue to your restaurant.
These events can help you reach a new audience and tell your story to potential guests. Before you begin to pursue events, consider what your goals and capabilities are. Talk with your management team about what’s realistic and create clear objectives for what you hope to accomplish.
Look strategically at your calendar and determine when it makes the most sense to host on-site events. You may want to consider times that are typically slower as a way to increase revenue, or you may want to capitalize on busier times to really make a big impact with an event to draw in even more traffic.
Once you’ve decided on the date, it’s time to decide what type of event will work best for your restaurant. It could be a ticketed dinner with a guest chef to celebrate the bounty of the fall, or it could be a dine-around event with multiple chefs benefitting a local non-profit. Think about what will best represent your restaurant and help you meet your goals and build the event with that in mind.
It’s important to make sure you have the staff and equipment to pull off your event, and you’ll want to check local event calendars to make sure you’re not competing with other activities that may take your audience. Give guests an incentive to return during normal business hours and encourage them to sign up for your newsletter and follow you on social media so that you are able to grow your reach through the event.
Fall Menu Drop
One smart idea for a fall event is a seasonal menu drop. Just like recording artists have events to celebrate the release of a new album, you can have an event to share and celebrate your new menu.
Leading up to the unveiling, encourage guests to come in to get their favorite seasonal dishes before they’re gone, and then let guests know when you’ll be premiering the new, LTO menu items. Share photos and descriptions of the menu items online to build interest and cultivate a guest list of folks who can help you spread the word about your menu after the event is over. This can include local press and influencers as well as regular customers and other business owners in the community.
With Halloween right around the corner, it makes sense to host Halloween-related events, and now is the time to start promoting them. It could be an over-21 costume contest with prizes and special cocktails or a family-friendly trick-or-treat style dine around, depending on your concept. Halloween falls on a Monday this year, giving you the entire weekend to capitalize.
While Thanksgiving is typically not a busy day for restaurants, Friendsgiving, the informal pre-Thanksgiving celebration among friends, presents an opportunity to host an event that could have huge appeal for your guests. According to research, the popularity of Friendsgiving has grown exponentially in recent years. With the pandemic stress easing, this may be a banner year for Friendsgiving celebrations, and it’s smart to get in on the action by hosting your own.
Fill the menu with your chef’s take on Thanksgiving, whether it’s faithful send-ups of classic recipes or new twists on old favorites. You could have a prix fixe menu or a buffet, whichever makes more sense for your restaurant. You may want to make this a ticketed event, as you will probably need to prepare food that’s not typically part of your menu. Encourage guests to buy out an entire table at a time so they can enjoy a stress-free Friendsgiving together.
As we kick off football season, game days are another great opportunity to draw a crowd if you are set up to show live games. Lean in to the home-team spirit or host screenings of popular games with food and drink specials to get your guests spending.
Fall also presents several opportunities for off-site events. Now is the time to connect with event organizers to see where your restaurant can fit in. Just keep your own goals in mind as you pursue these opportunities. You want the event to lead to more guests coming to your restaurant, so if you participate in an off-site event, show the guests what makes your restaurant special, offer incentives to dine with you, and make sure you add those special menu items to your menu (for a limited time, of course) to get folks in the door.
Off-site events come with their own challenges. It’s important to ensure you have the equipment and staff to pull these off without taking away from your regular operation. Work with your off-site team to create checklists and establish roles in advance so that things will go smoothly on the day of your event.
Here are a few examples of off-site events and places where you may want to set up this fall:
- Pumpkin Patches
- Music or art festivals
- School/university events