It doesn’t seem long since we were planning last year’s festive season, does it? But at a time when unpredictability has defined the restaurant sector, one thing is sure: party bookings are here again, and it is time to get planning.
Party and group bookings are certainly the holy grail for restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafes because they give a big hit of revenue which has become an essential element of the business’s overall annual income. A good party season is always to be celebrated, but the trouble is – for restaurant owners and staff, it is also the part of the year they dread the most.
Why? Because the very nature of party bookings means that customers have grand expectations and consequently tend to take up a lot of the restaurant’s time on the run-up to the big day or night. Couple that with the need to ascertain menu choices, seating plans, timings, dietary preferences, and a host of other things critical to a good event and you have a melting pot of stress, tension, errors, paperwork, phone calls, inter-team bickering and financial woes which leave many restaurateurs wondering why they offer party bookings at all.
The festive party booking season is always going to be busy and stress levels will run high but using our tips restaurant owners will be able to promote their services effectively, pull in the bookings seamlessly, manage them better and banish the usual Christmas and New Year nightmares.
There’s never been a better technological climate for promotion, given the abundance of “channels” available, from social media to websites, emails, and SMS. That gives restaurants something of a problem, however, because the public is already suffering from a case of “promotion bombardment” which means messaging must be absolutely clear.
Before jumping onto the laptop to write up your adverts, be sure what it is you’re offering. There’s nothing worse than receiving an email or seeing a Facebook post which is vaguely about something but we’re not entirely sure exactly what that something is. Consider the following:
- What? What is it you are offering?
- When? Include dates, deadlines etc.;
- Why? Explain what is special about your offer and why customers should buy it;
- Who? Make sure to give a human element. Who is behind the offer, and who is it designed for?
- Where? Make clear where your business is and include directions or a map.
Once you have a clear outline of your offer, decide which channels to use for promoting it. These include:
Make it concise, professional, in keeping with your brand, and don’t over-do the creative elements. Big photos use a lot of data and may cause your email to be blocked by spam filters; likewise, ensure you have a database of opted-in recipients and use a dedicated email marketing tool rather than an email client such as Outlook or Gmail.
The same basic rules apply to sending text messages, although they will need to be much more concise. Think about using SMS as a follow-up or reminder to your main email campaign messages.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great ways to promote your event services. Ideally, make a dedicated page for this following the rules set out above. Use a nice header image which sums up what you’re trying to project and keep the text concise (but write it in a style to suit your brand). Don’t forget to include a call to action (“CTA”) though, so your readers are in no doubt about what they need to do if they’re interested. If possible, always make your primary CTA about buying, and your secondary about discussing. For example, your primary CTA might be a link direct to the online booking page, with a secondary line giving your preferred contact details.
Ideally you’ll have a photo gallery on your page with some high-quality images of your dining area, the food and above all examples of people having a wonderful time at one of your previous events.
Follow your overall theme, style, diction, imagery, tone, and CTAs through to any posts you make, so they are consistent and instantly recognisable as having come from you. Don’t bombard people though – a couple of posts a week should be about right.
Despite the prominence and popularity of social media “home” pages, many customers still like to have a good look around a restaurant’s website before getting deciding to book. It is obvious, then, that a restaurant’s website should be very compelling.
Keep the overall look & feel consistent with your other marketing output, but don’t forget to make it clear that you are now taking party bookings for the 2022 season. A header on the home page or a banner/pop-up will usually grab readers’ attention and it is vital to link it to a dedicated sub-page all about your fantastic party and group events abilities. Use excellent quality images and most importantly add a book-now or reservation calendar widget so diners are encouraged to make that booking.
It is essential to set up and maintain some form of review platform, so customers can leave highly visible feedback. Why? Because a collection of feedback, coupled with well-thought responses by the restaurant, is a hugely powerful and free advertising medium.
According to Restaurant Clicks, TripAdvisor, Google My Business and Facebook are the most popular free sites where customers can leave reviews. The nice thing about utilising these platforms is that doing so is something of a double-edged sword, in that they really are all or nothing. There’s usually no way for the business to moderate or filter out published reviews, so being present does give the business an extra impetus to strive for excellence in all it does.
The key thing to remember with reviews is that harnessing them is not a vanity project, although we’d all like to receive 100% positive reviews all the time. Opening a business for reviews online is a marketing activity, where each review is a potential advertisement to influence other readers. The magic comes into play when dealing with negative reviews, and let’s be clear, you’re going to get them occasionally. This is where the savvy restaurant owner will use the opportunity to respond as a marketing opportunity, too – gently and politely leaving a great response which turns the tables and makes readers even more likely to book. Here’s an article we wrote some time ago about dealing with negative reviews.
The 2022 party booking season is upon us and while most restaurants will be looking forward to the extra revenue that brings, they probably won’t feel the same about the work which has to go in. Group bookings are notoriously complex and time consuming to manage but using these marketing tips you’ll be able to get your ducks in a row well beforehand.
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