Starting an event space inside your restaurant is a great way to reach new clientele, diversify your revenue streams, and give guests something to talk about. Ultimately, events will help you sell more meals and drinks.
In this guide for how to start an event venue inside your restaurant or bar, you’ll learn:
- The benefits of opening an event space inside your venue, and
- 8 tips for doing so
The benefits of opening an event space inside your venue
Opening an event space inside your restaurant can help you expand your revenue streams, differentiate your restaurant from the competition, and attract new clientele.
1. Diversifying your revenue streams
Restaurants with event space have opportunities to generate revenue beyond serving dine-in guests and fulfilling takeout orders. By selling tickets to events or by booking event space rentals and catering opportunities in your venue, you’ll have new ways to make more money.
Los Angeles hotspot Otium experienced a 223% increase in guests’ per-cover spend after introducing a robust events strategy and implementing SevenRooms to streamline event sales and operations.
2. Differentiating your business from others
When your restaurant becomes a venue for live music, trivia night, networking events, and other occasions, it can easily differentiate itself from other restaurants and bars that focus solely on foodservice.
Sure, there may be a restaurant near yours that offers a similar menu, but unless it also offers its guests entertainment, it will have trouble competing with your establishment.
3. Attracting new clientele
Having events at your restaurant can help you attract new guests.
If you make your space available for private events, then people who attend events at your restaurant but who haven’t heard of it before will now know about it, and may even become loyal guests.
And with networking events, live music, and dancing – or whatever kinds of events you choose to produce – available at your restaurant, you make your venue attractive to guests who may not be looking for a meal initially, but rather entertainment and drinks.
With the right upselling offers, however, your staff can convince those guests to spend more and purchase food, profitable beverages, and even upgraded experiences.
How to start an event venue at your restaurant or bar
If you’re ready to start an event venue at your space, follow these eight tips to set your venture up for success.
1. Be flexible…
Don’t limit your space to one type of event. “Events” can mean a wide range of gatherings, like musical entertainment, movie and game screenings, networking events, private space rentals, and much more.
You can rent out your space to host other people’s events, like corporate meetings, wedding receptions, banquets, private dining or conferences, or produce your own events, such as cooking classes, wine tastings or trivia nights. Research restaurants with event space in your area or on your travels for inspiration.
If you already have room in your venue, it doesn’t take much to get events going. Hosting events can be as simple as renting out your spare dining room out for private dining, or setting up an intimate stage on the floor and inviting local talent to perform.
2. … But know your limits
While you should be flexible with your definition of events, you also need to be aware of legal limitations.
Make sure that your restaurant has the proper zoning and permits to host gatherings, play loud music, and serve alcohol. Look for resources from your city, municipality, or local organizations to ensure your business doesn’t get shut down for a violation.
While it only pertains to the City of Brotherly Love’s laws, this Philadelphia Venue Starter Playbook can be a helpful reference and primer for venue operators elsewhere.
3. Protect yourself with contracts
An important step in hosting private events is protecting your business with legally binding contracts. These contracts, also known as banquet event orders (BEOs) should outline the services that you provide, what you will be paid for them, what kind of a deposit (if any) you require for booking the space, and your cancellation and refund policy.
Save time and money by customizing a BEO template, and then reviewing it with a lawyer.
4. Make catering mandatory for private events
Don’t let your private event clients bring outside food into your venue. If clients want food at their events, add an in-house catering agreement to your space rental contract.
Holding the exclusive rights to serve food in your event space ensures that you generate more revenue from events and that attendees experience your food, which could entice them to come back to dine in or order takeout.
5. Host a grand opening for your event space
If your restaurant has been around for a while, but you’re starting an event space for the first time, you need to let guests know about your event capabilities with a bang. Host a grand opening for your event venue to show it off, take photos for social media and marketing materials, and get people interested in hosting and attending events there.
Invite friends, family, staff, media, influencers, and other VIPs. Provide food and partner with local musicians and entertainers to create a party people won’t forget. Whether you offer free admission or charge for entry, make the event ticketed so that you can collect information about your attendees that you can use to market to them later.
6. Create a signature event
Beyond using your restaurant’s event space to host other people’s events, you should also use it to host buzz-worthy, sell-out events of your own that people don’t want to miss. Create signature events that happen on a regular basis so that guests can look forward to them.
For example, you could host trivia nights, game watch parties, pasta-making classes, or open mic nights on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Fine dining establishments could even host upscale gatherings like galas or auctions. Signature events can make your restaurant the local gathering spot.
7. Keep track of all of your guests
When you manage a multipurpose venue, it can be natural to want to silo the restaurant aspect of your business from the events aspect of your business. However, when you approach your business holistically, you can better serve your guests.
Let’s say that Mike is a guest who frequents your restaurant’s ticketed concerts. He only orders vegetarian appetizers from your condensed concert menu. When you use an integrated CRM that creates profiles for all of your guests, Mike’s dietary preferences will appear on his profile. So when Mike comes in for a meal in your main dining room, your servers can point out the vegetarian options without being asked.
A CRM like SevenRooms also has auto tags, which automatically save critical details about guests, like if they’re big spenders or regulars. Reservation notes and ticket information is automatically pulled to guest profiles on SevenRooms. Servers can also add notes from their interactions with guests.
8. Promote your events with ease
Event marketing is an artform in itself, but your team may not have the bandwidth to pull out all the stops. Fortunately, technology can simplify, and even automate, a lot of the work for you.
Events software like SevenRooms makes it easy to create landing pages for your events. SevenRooms can also automate marketing for you by sending targeted emails and offers to both your restaurant and event guests. All that’s left to do is share a direct link to your event’s landing page on social media and Google My Business profile, and watch the RSVPs accumulate.
Wrapping up: How to start an event venue at your restaurant
Restaurants with event space have diversified revenue streams, can differentiate themselves from other restaurants, and easily attract new customers. In order to execute a multipurpose venue successfully, you’ll need to think outside the box while following local laws, protect your business with contracts and mandatory catering, kick off with a grand opening event, host signature events guests can look forward to, and leverage technology to keep track of and market to your guests with ease.
“name”: “How do you promote a grand opening on social media?”,
“text”: “The best way to promote a grand opening through social media is through images, promotions, paid and organic social postings and hashtags. Creating timely and relevant content with high-quality images is a great way to captivate your audience. Using three hashtags per post is a best practice to follow while posting about your event.”
“name”: “How can I get my restaurant more involved in the community?”,
“text”: “There are three ways to get your restaurant involved in your community. The first is checking your city-wide calendar for events where you can set up a booth and share samples of your most popular dishes. The second is hosting or sponsoring an event to benefit a local charity. Finally, an extremely creative way to get more involved in the community is to designate a special drink or menu item on your menu and give the majority of profits from that item to a charity that you feel suits your restaurant’s brand or mission.”
SevenRooms is an all-in-one restaurant guest experience platform that can simplify starting and managing an event venue in your restaurant. Request a demo today.