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Table decorations for an event at a restaurant

Event Ideas for Restaurants and How Technology Comes into Play

Events and occasions are some of the main reasons we visit hospitality venues, along with casual catch ups and the idea of not wanting to wash up pots at home.  

When we talk about event ideas at restaurants, it could be anything from a birthday and anniversaries to corporate get-togethers and seasonal occasions.   

Last year, 44% of customers across Australia, UK, US and Canada spent on events, merchandise and more outside of standard meals at venues. With customers open to paying for experiences, we put together these ideas to help your restaurant get slow nights going and increase revenue with all kinds of events. 

We’ve broken down the different types of events you can organise throughout the year and how technology can aid your venue’s growth in this area. Most importantly, we’ve included top tips to give your guests a reason to book a table (or a ticket!). 

Let’s break it down. 

Special Occasions Event Ideas

There’s nowhere like a restaurant, pub or winery for a venue when it comes to celebrations, from birthdays to anniversaries. Your customers know this, and you should too! Set your venue apart with a unique hook for these events, such as: 

  • Put up a photo wall or backdrop-worthy decorations 
  • Feature signature dishes for occasions, like a tomahawk steak for sharing or a celebratory cocktail 
  • Offer celebrating diners a free cocktail or drink, a birthday song or a small gift  

Ensuring you have restaurant reservation software in place to tag these customer events is key as many diners book ahead for special occasions. This can be done by adding a checkbox for events within the booking form or adding a tag to the reservation platform. These tags can also help you build lists for email marketing in the future — providing special offers for return visits, or even just a simple happy birthday message so you’re top of mind for the customer. 

Top tip: People like to be celebrated and will share positive experiences on social media — never miss an opportunity for customers to tag your venue. Ask if they want some pictures taken whilst dining.  

Seasonal Event Ideas

When we talk about seasonal events, these could look a little different depending on the theme. Here are some ideas for your calendar:  

  • New Year’s Eve
  • Valentine’s Day  
  • Australia Day
  • Mother’s Day 
  • Father’s Day 
  • Halloween parties 
  • Mardi Gras parties 
  • Melbourne Cup celebration 
  • Christmas dinners 

This territory also comes with more requirements — we’re talking new menus, larger groups, surcharges, the need for deposits and a varied floor plan. With an online booking platform, you can add experiences and events that can be associated with a different floor plan.  

In addition, the best online booking systems give you the option to take a deposit, create waitlists and boost those upsells. Guests are more likely to splash out for big occasions so adding upsell options like fresh oysters for an entree, champagne on arrival, and bottles for the table are all great to boost spending.  

If your reservations platform is synced with your point-of-sale through a POS integration, it gets even easier. You can close out tables, split bills and more from one device. Also, linking the two management systems lets you keep a record of total spend by table, total spend for the day by service and what items were purchased. This information is crucial when it comes to reporting and creating customer lists – use it to guide your plans for the next event!  

If you had customers who dined with you on the event day, a POS integration lets you know they ordered steak, red wine, or champagne. These can be tagged through your reservations platform, and you can send them emails at a later date when a similar occasion pops up. Say you are holding a champagne evening, that’s your cue to send everyone who has previously ordered champagne to come and dine with you again.

Top tip: We know by now that customers are willing to pay for experiences, and gift cards are a great choice for those who are tricky to buy for. Offering gift cards is a great way to boost event revenue and get cash in the register early. Stats even show that only at least 20% of gift cards go unredeemed.  

Pouring wine for a customer at an alfresco table.

Venue-Specific Event Ideas

The last event option we’ll explore is local, venue-specific events – think karaoke nights, steak nights and live music weekends. There are a million ways to be creative here, so take the opportunity to showcase your venue’s flair with ideas like: 

  • Chef’s table 
  • Guest chef or bartender nights 
  • Wine, beer or cocktail tastings 
  • Charity events 
  • Trivia nights  
  • Networking events 
  • Viewing parties 
  • Food and drink workshops 
  • Afterparty for events in the city 

How does technology play a role here? With venue-specific events, you may have regulars who already know to make a booking ahead of time. But all that buzz might also garner you some foot traffic that you wouldn’t want to turn away. By incorporating a booking platform, you are also able to add walk-ins and seat them on your floor plan. 

Social media updates are important for promoting your event, along with direct links to your booking page. The idea is to reduce the number of clicks it takes for a guest to complete a booking. Add your booking links directly to your Google Business profile, Facebook, Instagram, and if you send emails to customers, include them! For offline efforts, create QR codes that you can place around your venue or community. 

Marketing-compatible systems like Now Book It allow you to capture information and send the right emails or SMS to the right contacts. If you have a group that always books a table for Pub Trivia, send them a reminder and mention that spots are filling up fast. If you have history on what they usually order from the system, tag on the upsell feature here and suggest a bottle of wine or jug of beer for the table. 

Top tip: In today’s unpredictable feed, it only takes one post to go viral. Score the social currency by putting thought into an Insta-worthy dish, creating a visually delicious experience or inviting a popular guest. If you want to go that extra mile, add a Polaroid camera to the table to encourage those snaps and let guests bring home a small memento!  

The Future of Events in Venue Reservations Platforms

By removing disconnected systems and over-the-phone pen and paper entries for bookings, you can speed up the process of managing events at your venue. This also increases efficiency in planning supplier orders and staff rosters based on the expected volume of bookings on the day. 

Now Book It is an all-in-one reservation platform with POS integrations and marketing solutions to reduce the digital headache of planning events. Book a demo to learn more today. 

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