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Late to the party: Why restaurants should consider rethinking their events business

Quite understandably, the UK restaurant industry tends to focus on à la carte dining and packing out dining rooms at peak times. Things are a little different across the pond. While conventional restaurant dining still accounts for the bulk of most restaurant’s sales, a greater emphasis is placed on events, especially in large cities.

“As a US-based business one of our key observations is that UK restaurants have been a little slow off the mark in realising the potential of events,” says Tripleseat Chief Marketing Officer Latha Youngren. “They are a great way of sweating your assets at non-peak times like early in the week and before lunch. People here are worried about displacing existing business with events, but it does not have to be that way.”

Youngren thinks that many operators are leaving vital cash on the table by not having a clear events strategy. “It’s understandable. People are busy, especially in smaller businesses,” she continues. “But I would suggest operators follow the lead of larger, well-organised businesses and think creatively about how they can use events to maximise their revenue.” 


The power of pre-booked sales

An often under-appreciated point about events is that they are typically considerable more profitable than regular restaurant bookings because it is standard industry practice to round up prices and focus on high-margin dishes. On top of this, staff costs both front of house and in the kitchen tend to be lower per cover due to the predictable nature of events. Events allow venue operators to tap into the sweet spot that is pre-booked sales, when guests pay a deposit there's certainty and a level of guarantee the event will take place.

“There are also minimum spends, which further pushes up the potential to generate decent revenue,” Youngren says. “And if you are willing to hire out your restaurant at a peak time such as a Friday or Saturday night you can pretty much charge double what you would normally take. I would not recommend doing this all the time, but it’s certainly something to think about, especially during tough times. Another top tip is to arrange your dining space so that spaces designated for events can be used as restaurant overflow at peak times.” 

Both corporate and social events have bounced back strongly in the US following the pandemic, with many major cities having been quicker to pull back on working from home than their UK counterparts. 

“It started with social but now corporate is back too. Events revenues are pretty much at where they were pre-pandemic and minimum spends have shot up in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles. That’s partly due to rising costs including staffing and ingredients, but also because customers are willing to pay.” 

Interestingly, Youngren believes that Covid will have a long-term net benefit to the restaurant events space. “People had to be intentional about how they booked their experiences: Who they brought with them. What they ordered. Where they were in the space. How long they stayed. It was a more controlled environment. I believe aspects of that behaviour have stuck, and that’s great news for operators that are good at events.”

The UK now looks to be following the lead of the US with a number of major employers now striving to reduce the number of days their teams work from home.


Getting the right processes 

Having the right processes in place is critical to having a strong events offering, and this is where Tripleseat comes in. Used by some of the biggest names in the US restaurant industry and a growing number of quality operators on these shores, Tripleseat is a complete events management platform for hospitality venues. 

It is designed to remove much of the administrative burden associated with running events in restaurants, seamlessly automating leads, contracts, taking deposits, calendars and the critical in-house comms around events to sync-up key departments. It also comes with powerful analytic features that allow operators to increase events revenues through data-driven decisions. 

Tripleseat also offers a product called Tripleseat Direct. Part of the main Tripleseat engine, the solution is pitched at time-poor operators that want to enable their customers to book events quickly and easily. The innovative system is designed to remove much of the back-and-forth that often comes with booking events, allowing the person making the booking to design their event via an online portal hosted on the restaurant’s website. 

“Customers can book 24/7 in just a few clicks. Restaurants set the parameters, including event size and menus,” Youngren says. “It’s as frictionless as booking a holiday online. Customers make their requests and the restaurant simply green lights it.” 

Getting the word out

With the correct processes now in place, it’s time to start marketing your events. “Make sure events are well sign-posted on your website. Nobody wants to download a PDF to see your full capability,” Youngren says. “Virtual walk throughs are good. Make sure all your menus are online and easy to find. And don’t forget about IRL marketing opportunities, like tapping into local business networks and food festivals to get your name out there.”  

But most importantly of all restaurants need to find a USP that will make them stand out. “Try and find one or two unique things that you can capitalise on, for example a beautiful interior, a great cocktail programme or a terrific chef.” 

Corrigan Quote

Tripleseat Case Study: Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill

Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill uses Tripleseat to capture event enquires, convert leads and execute events at its iconic Mayfair location and across four other Corrigan Collection sites in London and Ireland. Bentley’s primary event and private dining customer is the corporate booker with Head of Sales Kathryn Williams receiving lead enquires from event planners and assistants which require quick responses. With Tripleseat her and team can respond promptly and professionally. 

The cloud-based platform allows Williams and her team to communicate seamlessly with FOH and BOH to keep everyone up-to-date on the details of the events – from function sheets, to taking payments via Stripe. The team across the Corrigan Collection have a focus on customer retention, tapping into Tripleseat’s CRM functionality to ensure they know their customers, nurture the relationship and to foster repeat bookings.

Williams users the full of array of Tripleseat features, with her favourite being diary management and colour coding. Using a calendar view across the venues allows her and team to have a clear view based on the status of each event – from enquiry, tentative to booked. Allowing the entire team from FOH to BOH to plan and execute flawlessly. The team at Corrigan Collection handle on average up to 50 events per month across the portfolio and, thanks to Tripleseat, this number keeps on growing. 

Book a free 15 minute demo with Tripleseat’s UK based team today

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