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Blog / July 10, 2023

What You Need to Know Before Opening a Restaurant Event Space

Deciding to open an event space inside your restaurant is the easy part. The benefits outweigh the risks: opportunities for more revenue, a space to host unique events and capitalizing on guest word-of-mouth. It’s easy to see why event venues are a wise addition to any marketing plan, but it’s creating an event venue business plan part that hangs up most business owners. 

When designing a high-quality space, you’ll need a checklist to follow to ensure your new venue pads your bottom line as you hope it will.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

The Benefits of Opening an Event Space Inside Your Restaurant

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. Diversifies Your Revenue Streams

Restaurants with event spaces can generate revenue beyond serving dine-in guests and fulfilling takeout orders. Marketing your venue as a rental potential customers can use to host corporate events or birthday parties can unlock catering opportunities and unique prix fixe menu ads that bring in additional income.

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Pro Tip: Unleash the power of venue rentals. Los Angeles hotspot Otium experienced a 223% increase in guests’ per-cover spending after introducing a robust events strategy and implementing SevenRooms to streamline event sales and operations.

2. Differentiates Your Business From Others

When your restaurant becomes a venue for live music, trivia night, networking events, and other special occasions, it can easily differentiate itself from other restaurants and bars that focus solely on food service.

3. Attracts New Clientele

Offering your venue as a space for private events can serve as its own grassroots marketing play: word of mouth. New people who attend events at your restaurant for the first time will tell their friends — they may even become loyal customers.

Plus, by producing unique opportunities for engagement, you make your venue attractive to a new demographic of potential clients who are craving entertainment. 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 event planning and design tips to set your venture up for success.

1. Decide the Type of Events You Want to Host 

Don’t limit your space to one type of event. When designing the space, make sure you have enough room to host all types of events, such as musical entertainment, movie and game screenings, networking events, private space rentals and much more. You could use your spare dining room to host smaller, more intimate gatherings.

If your venue can accommodate larger groups, or you have it in the budget to create a bigger space, you’ll unlock revenue streams and client types searching for places to host corporate meetings, wedding receptions, banquet halls, private dining or conferences.

You could also produce your own events, such as cooking classes, wine tastings or trivia nights. 

2. Identify and Follow Your Local Legal Requirements

While you should be flexible with your definition of events, you also need to be aware of legal limitations. Ensure your restaurant has the proper zoning, permits and liquor licenses to host gatherings, play loud music, and serve alcohol. Look for resources from your city or municipality to confirm your business complies with the laws pertaining to events and venues.

For example, this Philadelphia Venue Starter Playbook can be a helpful reference for venues in the City of Brotherly Love and a 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 you provide, your payment and pricing guidelines, deposits and reservation requirements 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. Price Your Space Competitively

When determining the venue’s price point, research your local market to land on a competitive number. You may have to lower your profit margins in the startup phase to attract more reservations, but word-of-mouth can help you generate more revenue later on. Consider offering a special introductory rate if clients book your venue early or promise to leave a detailed review to help boost your reputation.

6. Hire Enough Staff

It’s important to ensure you budget for proper staffing. Depending on the size and type of venue, you might need to hire a dedicated “special events” team or a few more full-time servers to serve guests appropriately. 

Creating a Marketing Plan to Advertise Your New Space 

If your restaurant has been around for a while, but you’re starting an event space business for the first time, you must let guests know about your new capabilities. Here are a few ways to generate awareness. 

1. Take Professional Photos for Social Media

Potential clients should be able to see your venue online before they book it for in-person events. Splurge for high-quality photos of the interior and exterior that give people an idea of its size, hosting capabilities and setup. The more photos, the better customers can envision their own party in your space. You can even get permission from guests to take a few snaps of events in action to share on social media.

2. Host a Grand Opening

Show off your new space by inviting 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.

3. 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 recurring signature events guests can look forward to.

For example, you could host trivia nights, 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. 

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FYI: As word gets out that your venue is “the place to be,” you’ll need a streamlined method for direct booking reservations until your space is sold out. Here are a few tips for managing direct reservations and a tool you can use to automate the requests.

4. Display Important Details Online

A detailed event space landing page can help people visiting your website rent your space in one visit. When designing your landing page, include important event space amenities and details including the floor plan/square feet, bar and catering setup and A/V equipment your space can support. Then, throw in a couple of fun details about what makes your venue better than others in your area and other unique offerings. At a minimum, you must provide these details:

  • Location 
  • Square footage
  • Capacity
  • Availability
  • Pricing 
  • Reservation requirements (deposits, advance booking requirements, etc.)
  • Photos
  • Parking information
  • Menus

After creating your landing page, add the link to your social media profiles and Google My Business profile and watch the RSVPs accumulate. 

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Pro Tip: 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. 

5. Keep Track of all Your Guests

When you manage a multipurpose venue, it can be natural to want to silo the restaurant and events aspects of your business. However, you can better serve your guests with a more holistic approach. 

It’s likely that your restaurant regulars will use your event space at some point (they trust you and your staff to deliver consistently delightful experiences after all). Therefore using an integrated hospitality CRM that creates profiles for all of your guests will help ensure your event staff has access to important guest preferences your dining staff knows already, such as dietary restrictions, spending habits, and personal details you can use to connect with guests more authentically.

Specifically, SevenRooms’ auto tags feature automatically saves critical details about guests, but you can also add reservation notes and ticket information to their profile, which is helpful as you build your events business.

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Elevate Your Event Space Potential with an Event Management System

To execute a multipurpose venue successfully, you’ll need to leverage technology to keep track of and market to your guests with ease.

Event marketing is an art form 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. SevenRooms is an all-in-one guest experience platform that can simplify starting and managing an event venue in your restaurant with our easy-to-use event management system. Request a demo today.

Opening an Event Space FAQs

How Do You Promote a Grand Opening on Social Media?

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.

How Do You Fill an Event Space?

Filling your new event space requires generating awareness and implementing a consistent, targeted marketing strategy. We recommend launching a grand opening celebration for your event space along with sending out an email announcement to all of your existing customers. You should create a dedicated website landing page with detailed information, captivating images and an easy way for customers to request more information or book directly. You can use this landing page to promote on social media and other advertising channels.

How Can I Get My Restaurant More Involved in the Community?

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.

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