Jeffery Summers of Restaurant Coaching Solutions recently wrote on his business blog a great piece on how a small restaurant was able to capture and profit from on property private dining. The full article is below, but the highlights are that a small restaurant with a capacity for parties of 50 or less was able to generate incredible additional revenue by marketing themselves towards weddings, corporate, and holidays.
Desperately Seeking Private Party Space
To create a private dining room within the restaurant’s existing space – this business re-configured its layout.
In need of a year-round private dining room and unable to build an addition because the restaurant is located in a landmark building, they were left with only one choice: re-configuring existing space. The downstairs bakery was the ideal spot for a private room because it had a private entrance and adequate space for 50 people. Handsome brick-lined walls and a fireplace were added during remodeling.
The bakery then was relocated to a former wine cellar and the wines were distributed to racks throughout the restaurant. When the private room is not in use for parties, it is open for general seating by reservation only.
Annual sales for the new private room are conservatively estimated at $250,000.
Truly Personalized Private Dining
To handle corporate parties in a restaurant with no private room, this business markets the option for clients to Own Your Own Restaurant for a Night.
Because this is a small restaurant (72 seats) with no private room, private parties are accommodated by taking over the entire restaurant on nights when the restaurant is closed, during off-peak times, or upon request. These nights, which are marketed as “Own Your Own Restaurant for a Night,” are sold via meeting planners, the local convention bureau, and to local businesses. They are popular with corporate clients who enjoy having the restaurant to themselves and the special attention that goes along with it. The chef-owner is on premise as chef, overseer, and greeter, mingling with her client’s guests. She willingly researches recipes and develops any menu the client requests, from Caribbean fare to Japanese Bento boxes.
10% of total sales comes from clients who take over the entire restaurant for the night.
Tying the Knot With Brides
To stimulate wedding business, this Restaurant gives prospective brides the opportunity to personally experience the restaurant.
The Restaurant invites prospective brides to a complimentary private tasting and tour of the restaurant, held every other month. Invitations are mailed to lists of brides-to-be, acquired free of charge from wedding publications in which the restaurant advertises. The restaurant also takes a booth at local bridal shows. It uses a soft-sell approach during the tastings, letting the food and ambiance do the selling. No follow-up calls are made. The restaurant offers full-service catering, handling all aspects of a weddings and/or reception, from flowers to music, and will even arrange lodging for wedding guests from out-of-town.
Weddings account for 25%-35% of total restaurant sales; 98% of private tasting attendees book wedding receptions at the restaurant.
Meetings are Big Business
To compete with traditional venues such as hotels for a share of corporate meeting business, this Restaurant provides both great space and great taste.
We attract corporate meeting planners with the two things they most desire: a variety of space/setup options and the restaurant’s high quality food and service. It offers a choice of three private rooms created to handle the sizes of parties most frequently booked at this restaurant in the last 10 years (120, 50, and 24 guests). Private rooms can be set up to accommodate auditorium-style seating as well as small board meetings. Each room is fitted with electrical outlets on three sides, offering multiple options for audiovisual connections.
Corporate meeting sales are expected to increase from 5% to 25% of total sales due to the addition of the three rooms mentioned above; 80% of meeting business has been repeat.
Planning for the Holidays in July
To encourage early bookings of holiday parties, two of the owners’ restaurants get customers in the holiday spirit in the middle of the summer.
To get a jump on the holidays and to encourage customers to book their holiday parties early, two of these owners’ concepts, mail out attention-grabbing postcards in July, featuring snowflakes and Santas. The giant postcards, printed in two colors, describe the size of private rooms, feature recent accolades the restaurants have received, and are mailed first class to each restaurant’s customer lists of 5,500+.
The mailing results in $50,000+ sales annually at each location. Holiday party business increased 84% the first year, with the restaurants almost fully booked by September. The mailings have resulted in so much repeat business, at a rate of 90%+, that the restaurants occasionally skip a year with the mailing.