The Value of Special Events

A growing trend in the restaurant business is the staging of special events such as wine dinners, Ladies Nights and Singlesí Nights. Special events bring excitement and attention to a restaurant. They often incorporate limited seating, special invitations, discounts, giveaways and other promotions. The primary benefit of one of these events is to create the sense that your restaurant can be a venue for special occasions.

Many restaurant operators struggle to find the answer to the question regarding how to separate his or her restaurant from the competition. There are a variety of ways to do this, and hopefully operators know to pursue this answer from a variety of angles. Special events are an opportunity that most operators never consider. They imply to your guests the sense that your restaurant is a special placeóone where guests can get dressed up, try different cuisine and wine, or meet different vendors from the area. They give your guests a chance to incorporate something different into their dining experience, and in that way you can help them to redefine what going out to dinner can mean. At your restaurant, it can mean more than merely sitting down and eating dinner. It can entail a complete night of entertainment.

Without a doubt, most special events that donít involve saving money are (generally speaking) targeted toward attracting women to your restaurant. Ladiesí Nights are a perfect occasion to motivate women to get together, perhaps get dressed up, and have a cocktail and dinner. Women are much more likely (again, generally speaking) to be socially inclined when it comes to dinner. Ladiesí Nights in most restaurants typically involve drink specials on cocktails (i.e. cosmopolitans, margaritas, apple-tinis, etc.), light cuisine and promotions or giveaways that incorporate vendors who market to female clientele (day spas, tanning salons, etc.).

The idea of a good Ladiesí Night is not to be sexist, and I hope this sentiment does not sound this way. But a well-orchestrated Ladiesí Night can fill up a dining room and a bar in a hurry. By inviting local vendors to your establishment, you are spreading the attraction across multiple businesses (you might be surprised how many business operators want to be part of a well-run Ladiesí Night). Ultimately, when you have an event such as Ladiesí Night, you are delineating your business space as a networking destination for business operators and your clientele. But more importantly, you are telling your clientele that your restaurant is a special occasion hot spot.

The emphasis of a Ladiesí Night is not to break the bank in one night, and the same could be said for a wine dinner. Wine dinners require a lot of extrasóextra menu preparation, ordering, consultation with a wine rep and some good wine. Wine dinners are hard to cost out and hard to put together, and therefore they are not about making money on a single night. They require special ingredients and special wine, and those things cost money.
However, wine dinners give you another chance to cultivate your restaurant as a special occasion destination. Wine dinners give you the opportunity to celebrate your restaurantís strengths. They also allow you to invite special guests, repay regular clientele, or close off part of your dining room. Entrance can be exclusive, and your guests can feel appreciated or privileged to be part of the experience. A good wine dinner is run by a good wine rep or sommelier. They can be a great learning experience for guests (and staff), and they allow your kitchen to show off. At the very minimum, they should be fun. However, the minimum also dictates that you, as a restaurant operator, arenít merely opening your doors every day and crossing your fingers.

For some restaurants, another occasion makes more sense. Some restaurants that have bars could incorporate Singlesí Night. Restaurants on a body of water could have Fishing Night or those on a golf course could have Birdie Night. Whatever. What are you doing to separate your business from the crowd and when is it happening? These questions need to be answered in most cases, and planning a special occasion is a great start.