The festive season is fast approaching and that means more private events.
Private events come in many forms: rehearsal dinner, corporate function, birthday parties and more; all requiring a solid foundation of consistent marketing and a team that’s ready to provide the best hospitality possible. OpenTable’s Private Dining functionality allows restaurants to display their private event spaces, menus and capacity for guests looking to book private parties, who can contact the restaurant right away and book a space. Restaurants can also implement a few key strategies to help run a thriving private events business.
One of OpenTable’s Private Dining customers, The Chancery, is a modern European restaurant located in central London that contains four total private event spaces including the dining room. “The way it’s laid out is quite perfect for hosting multiple private events,” says Zac Jones, owner of the restaurant. Below, he shares how he and the team at The Chancery prepare and sell their private event spaces.
Use your existing channels to reach your existing guests
When thinking about how to let guests know about their private event space, Jones says it’s important to think about how best to communicate with your guests. “We used our social media to let people know that this is something we offer,” he says. “We also printed a message at the bottom of our bills about private dining.”
Hopefully, the guests that are following your social media accounts and dining in your restaurant are already fans of your brand and can potentially come in for a private event. Jones says that one method of selling a private event space that most restaurant owners don’t think of is to actually give potential guests a tour of the space. “If we have a group in for lunch in the restaurant during our normal lunch service we’ll actually walk them through the private space,” he says. Giving them a tour ensures that when it comes time to plan an event they think of your restaurant space.
Make it easy for people to find you
When done correctly, marketing and selling a private event space can also attract new clients, Jones says. Two things that help accomplish that goal are pretty obvious: signage and website copy. “It may sound silly to do all of these things but it’s big,” he says. When The Chancery added discreet signage to the outside of their private event space, the number of requests from new clients increased, Jones says.Also, adding a bit about the offerings on the website helped attract new clients as well. “The majority of our private event business comes through our website,” he says.
Help guests looking for private event space find you by making sure that it’s prominent on your site and third party sites, such as OpenTable, and that menus, pictures as well as contact information are easily available for guests looking for venues.
Planning an event
Once a private event has been booked, it’s time for Jones and chef Monsieur Yuma to begin crafting an event and menu that will delight their guests. “We always start with a brief of what the guest wants and we work from that,” Jones says. “Whether it’s canapés, or a sit-down dinner or a whole, roasted suckling pig, we really try to make sure it goes smoothly and we accommodate what they need.” That means if there are multiple private events on the same night, they try to take that into consideration when planning.
“Timing is the crucial thing with any event,” Jones says. “If we’re going for four events in one night we’ll try to keep the menu similar for all four so we can fire through different courses and it’s not as tough on the kitchen.” This keeps the flow and timing of the event on pace for the guests and the staff.
Make sure everyone’s on the same page
Speaking of staff, it’s important to communicate to them exactly what the plan is for the evening, Jones says. “No matter who is working with us, we’ll sit the entire team down and have a briefing before service just so we’re all on the same page.” That includes musicians and any entertainment that might be part of the event. Occasionally The Chancery will hire additional servers to work a larger event and that’s when it becomes imperative that everyone be briefed.
“I think it’s always best to make sure that everyone looks comfortable and like they’ve been part of your team since day one.” Jones and his management will even brief new servers on the history of the restaurant and some of the signature cocktails or items that might be available that night. “This way they’re able to make recommendations and interact with the event guests.” he says.
Jones and his team also try to think of ways to exceed guests expectations after they’ve dined at a private event. One of the best ways to do so is to create connection to the food or the wine, he says. “Guests really love it when chef comes out of the kitchen to explain a course or our sommelier talks about the wine that’s being paired with a dish.” This little extra touch makes the night special and it’s something that guests will remember and will make them want to come back. “We’ll also do something like chocolate truffles at the end of the meal just as something extra,” he says.
The most important thing to remember is that some things are out of your control, even if you plan every minute of an event. “No matter how much you plan it, something will happen,” he says. Ultimately, it’s about rising above those challenges so that it doesn’t impact your guests. “It’s all about the guests,” Jones says.
Photos courtesy of Zak Jones, The Chancery