Private events are a great way for restaurants to add additional revenue while creating memorable experiences for diners. During the summer months, private event bookings tend to slow down — meaning that managers and operators should seize the opportunity to revamp their marketing efforts and attract new private party guests.
If you’re planning on marketing your space closer to the holiday season that may be too late. “It may seem early, but people start thinking about their holiday spending and planning private events around May or June,” says Marc Liu, co-founder and digital marketing expert at Gourmet Marketing, a NYC-based firm specializing in hospitality marketing. The summer may seem like it’s too early to start marketing private event spaces but it might be the perfect time, he says. “Bigger corporate events and weddings are being planned right now, so you want to make sure that you’re marketing your space to get these events.”
The space is a key factor, but capturing private event sales is about more than that. “It’s important for owners to remember that you’re not promoting your space — you’re promoting the potential for an event.” Guests have to be able to see themselves in your space and that will make them want to book it. “A lot of owners think that if they have a great, beautiful space then it will just draw customers to it and they don’t have to do anything,” Liu says. “Unfortunately that’s not the case.” Below, Marc shares ways that owners and managers can craft excellent private event space marketing that keeps them top of mind for private event planners.
Use Your Existing Channels
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to reaching people who are planning on booking a private event. “The way that we approach marketing is that we tell our customers to use the existing channels that they already have,” says Liu. “Use your social media pages, your website, and your email list. You can use all of these things to let your followers know what you offer for private events.”
Create Eye-Catching Content
One of the biggest mistakes that Liu sees from restaurant owners is that they’ll post a picture of their beautiful private event space while it’s empty. “You want to make it as easy as possible for people to see themselves in that space,” he says. “Even if the space is beautiful, you want to post a picture that has people in it, enjoying themselves with food and drinks.” It can be a picture from a previous event or you can even stage a photograph, so people get an idea of what their private event will look like in the space. The goal is to make a guest go, ‘Oh, this space would be perfect for my event.’ “Always make the content as specific to your audience as possible,” Liu says.
Convey Why You’re Special
Saying that you have a certain number of chairs or square footage is good, but conveying what really makes your restaurant special is what’s going to make you stand out. “Put yourself in the position of a party planner and think about what it is that your restaurant offers that will make an event special,” Liu says. That could be a special dish, music, or anything that makes your restaurant stand out from other private event spaces. “Craft a message around that and use wording like you’re talking directly to that person about why they want to have their event with you.”
Reach Out to Past Private Events Guests
“The most likely people to book an event are people who have booked an event before,” says Liu. Guests that have had a private event at your restaurant before are the perfect people to reach out to, and now is the time to do it since they’re likely thinking about where to have an event when the holiday season rolls around. “Once someone has had an event, there’s no reason why your relationship should end there. If you keep that relationship going, they’re going to become ambassadors for you and your restaurant.” Anytime you host a private event make sure that you capture the contact info of the planners so you can add them to your email list or email them when it comes time to book a private event.
One of the biggest mistakes that Liu sees restaurants make is that they don’t measure their progress or track any figures related to private dining. “You always need to be measuring your progress and referring to it to see what works and what doesn’t,” he says. After implementing a new marketing strategy, track the number of private event leads or bookings that happen as a result. You can also look at private event numbers from the previous year and set goals for this holiday season. “It’s a learning process but you won’t know what to tweak if you don’t have those numbers, “ Liu warns.
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