The holiday season can be a gift to bars and restaurants, thanks to additional business brought in by corporate and private parties.
But hosting large holiday events isn’t as simple as preparing for a busy night. You have to allocate enough space, plan the food and drink menus, and price and staff the event accordingly.
What are the secrets to holding successful holiday parties in your space? Here are some tips from the pros.
Offer Weeknight Incentives
The best time to rent out your venue for private holiday events is naturally during your slow periods. So you want to offer price breaks on those nights vs. busier times.
Luce Ristorante E Enoteca, a 200-seat Italian restaurant in San Antonio, has hosted holiday parties for a decade. It expects to hold about 40 in December alone.
During the week, the restaurant is more amendable to renting out much or all of its space for a party, says general manager Michael Moore. But on the weekends it will try to keep parties to the main room, and seat other customers in another, smaller room.
Café and Bar Lurcat in Minneapolis, which seats 600, is booked out by parties months ahead of time. Seven groups had already booked the whole venue for a holiday party by mid October; corporate clients have included General Mills and Oracle, says general manager Michelle Jensen.
Some parties buy out the entire restaurant, but many events are scheduled in Lurcat’s private dining room, which can seat up to 55 for a three-course meal, or 70 for a reception-style gathering. There is also a lofted space over the bar that can hold 30 people in an intimate setting, Jensen says.
The restaurant raises booking prices on the weekends in part to account for the challenge of taking care of its regular crowd. The weekend minimum for the dining room is $6,000 (excluding tax), up from $1,500 during the week. The lofted space is priced from $500 to $1,000.
“There are limitations on the bookings that you can do,” Jensen says. “You don’t want to overdo it on the weekend.”