When you think about promoting your restaurant, you may focus more on marketing or offering specials to customers. Many restaurateurs overlook a potential gold mine for getting more people in the door and creating loyalty: special events. Hosting a special event can introduce your restaurant to new patrons and may even boost your bottom line.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to having a special event at your restaurant. The event(s) that you choose should be based on your customer profile (or the type of customers that you want to attract) and relevance to guests. It should also fit squarely within your budget.
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Choosing the Right Restaurant Event Idea
There are lots of great ideas out there for restaurant special events. That doesn’t mean that any of these suggestions would be right for your restaurant. The key to hosting a successful special event at your restaurant is to make sure that it’s something that your customers would actually enjoy – and that won’t blow your budget.
The first thing that you should consider is the type of person who typically patronizes your establishment. If you cater to an older crowd, they probably won’t appreciate a Stranger Things theme night. If you have a lot of families with young kids at your restaurant, then they might be more into something like a back-to-school event.
The next consideration should be the relevance of your event. For example, it may not make a lot of sense to host a Stanley Cup party if your local team has already been eliminated from the playoffs. When you are planning your event, make sure that it is something that your patrons would actually want to attend – and that it is an appropriate time to host the event.
Finally, you should think about the cost of pulling off the type of event that you have in mind. It is possible to host a special event that doesn’t cost a lot of money. For example, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some restaurants created special menus that featured Ukrainian food and donated the proceeds to related charitable causes. These events likely did not cost much money, but brought goodwill and publicity (plus did good for people in need!).
Other types of special events may cost a lot more money, particularly if you plan to hire entertainment, offer pricey food or drinks, or go all out with decorations. You should run some financial reports to figure out how much you can spend on a special event and either break even or make a profit. That way, you won’t be in the red if the event doesn’t bring the expected returns.
25 Restaurant Special Event Ideas
Once you have spent some time thinking about the kind of events that might work for your customers and your budget, it is time to start brainstorming. Below, we have created a list of 25 unique special event ideas to inspire you.
Beer or Wine Tasting
If there is a local winery or brewery, a tasting event is a great way to take advantage of the powers of cross-promotion. You can ask your chef to create a special menu that goes with the beer or wine that you plan to feature. Be sure to work with the owner of the brewery or winery to advertise the event – and you have the potential to pull in customers from both your business and theirs!
Cooking classes are a great way to generate interest in your restaurant – and even turn a profit. During a cooking class event, you can serve drinks while your chef teaches the class how to make a signature dish or two. Having hand-outs with the recipes and notes on ingredients can truly make your customers feel like the class was worth it. Try to schedule these types of events for days that you may otherwise be closed or slow so that it doesn’t interfere with regular business.
Judging by the number of cooking and baking competition reality shows, people really enjoy watching chefs go head-to-head to see who is best. Hosting a cooking, baking, or even a drink competition between bartenders is a great way to generate interest. You can make it a battle of the chefs, invite local celebrities, or have an old-fashioned chili cookoff. One of the benefits of this type of event is that the participants often recruit their family and friends to attend, which can cut down on your own marketing costs.
A Prix Fixe Night
Fixed price menus are common in the world of fine dining – but there is no reason why you can’t host your own prix fixe night, regardless of the type of restaurant you are running. You can do this type of menu during restaurant week, on Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, or even for a pre-theater dinner. Prix fixe dinners are often profitable for restaurants because you only need to have ingredients for the specific menu that you are offering on hand.
Many of us look back fondly on certain decades – so why not take advantage of the nostalgia with a decade theme night? You can choose any decade you’d like – like the 60s, 70s, 80s, or even the 90s. Choose decor from the era, play music that was popular during that time, and ask guests to dress for the decade. If that decade was known for a certain type of food, you could even offer a special menu for the event.
Paint and Sip
People love to have an activity, and will often schedule a night out with loved ones to participate in one. Paint and sip parties are incredibly popular – and are fairly easy to host if you have a separate event room. You can hire a local artist as the instructor, buy the necessary materials, and offer a special drink and/or food menu for participants.
Murder Mystery Party
One of the more fun recent trends is the murder mystery dinner party. While these are often hosted at someone’s home, you can host one at your restaurant (with a limit on the number of guests who can participate). This idea may not work for all restaurants, but it can be a great way to bring in patrons who might not otherwise visit your restaurant.
Game or Trivia Night
Many restaurants offer weekly trivia nights, which can be a big draw for friend groups. Hosting your own trivia night – or focusing instead on board games – can be an easy way to get a crowd of regulars to patronize your restaurant. It is also fairly inexpensive to pull off, especially if you already have cards or board games on hand.
Book Club Night
Another great way to get regular visitors is to offer special events for book clubs. This can be as simple as reaching out to a local library to see if any clubs would like to use a private room. You can also host special events that are focused on books or literary characters, like a “Books and Brunch” day, where guests sip mimosas while chatting about their favorite reads.
Most restaurants don’t offer family-style service. Yet eating family-style – with big dishes of certain menu items shared among the table – can be a lot of fun. While you may not want to offer family-style all of the time, it can be offered as a special event. It may be particularly popular if you do a family-style night when your chef makes a labor-intensive dish that is meant to serve a crowd, like paella.
Tap Takeover Event
Similar to a beer or wine tasting, you can host a tap takeover event with your local brewery. Instead of your own bartenders offering up drinks, the brewery can bring in their own beer and staff to serve it. You can then create a menu that works with the beer offerings – and work with the brewery to promote the event.
There are certain events throughout the year that are a natural fit for a special event. Oktoberfest is one such event – especially if your restaurant serves German food or offers beer on tap. You can offer a limited menu with items like bratwurst, pretzels and spaetzle, decorate for the event, and serve an arrange of German-style beers to wash it all down.
Harry Potter Event
Just like Star Wars, fans of the Harry Potter series are incredibly devoted to the books and movies. You can take advantage of this fanbase (which tend to skew slightly younger than Star Wars fans) by hosting a theme night. Serve butterbeer, treacle tart, polyjuice potion, and other menu items based on foods and items from the books. With a little imagination, you can even turn your restaurant into the dining hall from Hogwarts – which could be a boon for business when guests want to visit to get pictures in your transformed space.
March 14 is 3/14, which is otherwise known as Pi Day. Even if you aren’t a math nerd, you can attract customers by offering all types of sweet and savory pies during a special Pi Day event.
Resolution Buster Event
Each January, millions of Americans make a New Year’s resolution – which often involves losing weight or working out more. Once January has ended and some of that passion has faded, you could host a resolution buster event where you encourage guests to eat and drink away their resolutions.
Most people have at least one cause that is near and dear to their hearts, whether it is the Special Olympics, a local animal shelter, or Big Brothers Big Sisters. You can support a favorite charity by hosting a special event for them, which often has the added bonus of bringing in new customers and generating goodwill. You can do a charity event in a number of different ways, from a special prix fixe menu for the event or simply donating a portion of proceeds from a week or a night to the charity.
If you have a favorite local sports team, hosting a night to watch a big game is a no-brainer. Even if you don’t have a professional sports team nearby, you could host special nights for high school or rec teams in your area. This will almost guarantee the attendance of coaches, players, parents, and fans. You can create a special menu that reflects the sport in question – like homemade Cracker Jack for a baseball night.
Love Is In the Air
Valentine’s Day is just one day a year – but that doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself to just one love-themed night annually. You can host all types of romantic events, like speed dating or special candlelit dinners for couples one Friday a month.
While not every restaurant has the space for it, if you can host a band, it can be a great special event (or a recurring event!). You will have to pay the band – but that expense will probably be offset by the additional customers who come to your restaurant to listen to them.
Entertainment doesn’t have to just be a band or a singer. You can also ask a local comedian to perform while your guests enjoy food and drinks. This type of event can work even if you don’t have a ton of extra space. Depending on their style of comedy, you may want to limit attendance to adults or host the comedian later at night.
If you track your customers’ habits through a POS system, you probably have a good idea who your most loyal patrons are. Why not reward them with a VIP event? You can offer new menu items for your customers to try, have special drinks, and have a DJ or live music. These types of events make your customers even more loyal – and may inspire other patrons to become more frequent visitors.
Special Family Days
There are a number of days throughout the year that celebrate family – like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Special events for those days are fairly common, and a good way to get customers in the door. You could also host events for Kids’ Day (with ice cream sundaes for the main course!) or even Grandparents’ Day.
If you have the space, hosting a dance night could be a great way to promote your restaurant and bring in customers. This event can take many forms, such as a line dancing night, ballroom dancing lessons, or simply hiring a DJ and making space for a dance party.
Hosting a guest chef can give your own chef a break – and bring in new patrons. You could have a special menu dreamed up by the guest chef. If the chef in question is a local celebrity, even better!
Star Wars Day
Star Wars has one of the biggest fan bases of any movie series in U.S. history – and these fans are devoted. Statistics show that millennial and Gen Xers are the biggest Star Wars fans – a fact that you can take advantage of with a themed event on May 4 (aka Star Wars Day).
There are lots of different ways to host a Star Wars event. You can offer special menu items, offer discounts for customers in costume, have your staff dress up, and even play the movies on TVs around the restaurant.
How to Make Sure That Your Special Event Is a Success
Once you choose a special event, your work isn’t done. You have to make sure that people actually come to your event – and that you achieve your desired goals, such as increased publicity or new customers.
First, you should advertise and promote the event to make sure that it is well-attended. You can put up signs or add something to your menus so that guests know about the event. You can also advertise it on your website, social media pages, and through your mailing and email lists. Spread the word in whatever way you can to boost your chances of a great turnout.
Second, if you are worried about your budget, consider selling tickets ahead of time. This serves a few purposes. Not only does it give you an idea of how many people will be coming, but it also lets you know how much you can spend and still turn a profit. It can also serve to create excitement if a limited number of spots are available.
Third, make sure that your event is appropriately staffed. This can be hard if you don’t have exact numbers of people attending, but you need to make sure that you have enough employees working so that there aren’t any issues with service.
Fourth, be sure to engage with your guests after the event. You can send an email thanking them for attending, post pictures on social media, or solicit feedback about the event on your website. This can help to entice people to return to your restaurant in the future.
Contact Budget Branders for Custom Disposable Products for Your Restaurant
Throwing a special event is a great way to bring in new business or keep current customers happy. It can also be a good way to generate positive press or social media mentions – which is a great way to promote your restaurant without spending a lot of money. With a little creativity and smart planning, you can host a unique special event that boosts your bottom line.
At Budget Branders, we know that it takes a lot of creativity and hard work to run a business. We aim to make one aspect of owning a restaurant a lot easier. With our custom disposable products, you can increase your marketing efforts for little added cost.
Want to learn more? Press the live chat button or fill out our online contact form to request a quote for custom branded disposable products. You can also hit the chat button to speak to someone about a quote for your business.