Despite a lagging economy, the limits of the business expense account, and perception that entertaining is a waste of a company dollars, restaurants have embraced and jumped at the private dining or group dining strategy. Through renovations or new builds, most restaurants have added a private dining room or rooms as a way to attract business meetings, dinners, and events along with leisure ones. So what is the deal?
Within the “new normal” we are living, restaurants have found that private dining is an opportunity to grow revenue, fill empty seats, and invite people into your restaurant who are unfamiliar with it. It takes effort, strategic thinking and planning, and consistency to succeed, but private dining can be a great asset.
Like anything, a group or a host of a private dining event can spend serious money to put on this kind of special-occasion get-together, but the really good and really smart restaurants will understand how to create an experience that exceeds expectations without exceeding your wallet. The first step begins with the restaurant developing a private dining strategy (menu, staffing, layout, etc.) that co-exists with the brand and normal operations and appeals to the target market.
Then a restaurant can and should market to the right people. Businesses are still holding meetings, events, and dinners so target those key decision makers. If you are a restaurant, consider starting a promotion where administrative staff earns rewards like free lunches, happy hours, or gift certificates. Drop off desserts and private dining information and menus to offices. Marketing to those with decision-making power is a key part to attracting private party or catering business.
Once you get a business to hold their event at your restaurant, then you have to execute. A mantra of Morrissey Hospitality has and will be to under promise and over deliver. Consistent success and a positive reputation in the catering and private party space often rests on one simple idea: Do what you say you will. It’s a primitive concept rooted in customer service ethos.
Work hard to accommodate requests that can be achieved. If the corporate group wants a long, communal table, reconfigure the room to make it happen. If the guest wants red roses on each table, call the florist. Restaurants can factor such specific requests into the price, but guests will appreciate the responsiveness and extra effort.
Last but not least, invest in the physical attributes of the private dining areas. A business will want productivity out of their event. Private dining spaces should include Wi-Fi, an LCD projector, high-definition screens, and first-rate audio. The high-tech elements invite corporate business.
Investing in key people, infrastructure and systems is critical in the private party arena. A restaurant committed to private dining will have a dedicated sales and marketing manager charged with servicing the private group. If you’re not investing in the staff, the training, and the infrastructure, then any restaurant will be hard pressed to reach its goals because when you go all in for private dining, you want to win.
Guest Blogger: Arthur Morrissey, Corporate Director of Marketing, Morrissey Hospitality