How Restaurants Can Take On the Wedding IndustryThe reception is just one of dozens of events you can host for brides and grooms.
Special events can mean big business for restaurants. You might already market your restaurant as a great spot for corporate gatherings, private parties and other occasions. But have you considered getting into weddings?
The wedding industry is valued at almost $60 billion per year. And while big banquet halls, religious centers and other traditional wedding venues are still the dominant spots for the big day, many couples have started looking for unconventional spaces for their matrimony.
“Restaurants should definitely position themselves as potential venues for wedding activities. Couples want friends and family coming in from out of town to experience a slice of their lives, which often includes their favorite restaurants,” said Vishal Joshi, CEO of wedding planning app Joy.
Restaurants offer just the sort of charm and local connection some couples want when they say “I do.” Here’s what can help your space develop a reputation as the ideal restaurant for weddings in your area.
Create a package deal
Getting married is notoriously expensive. Between renting a space, booking catering, hiring a photographer and paying for many other essential services, couples face an average cost of $33,000 for their wedding. Restaurants that bundle a variety of wedding-related costs into a package deal can help couples stick to their budgets and take some stress off their plates, said Joshi.
“The basic package starts with the space and the cost of food per head. Then, offer different options to help them build a package. You can offer different alcohol add-ons, such as just wine and beer, and go all the way up to top-shelf liquor,” said Joshi. “The top tier might be the bartender creating special cocktails dedicated to the couple.”
Catering companies tend to charge couples for everything they need to feed guests, right down to the plates and silverware. Offering those essentials as part of the wedding package will make your restaurant a more appealing spot for a wedding reception.
“Whatever you can do to make it seem like you’re including a lot of extras for one set price will appeal to couples,” he said.
If you have a great relationship with a local florist, photographer or band, you could partner up and work their services into the wedding package at your restaurant, as well.
Invest in technology
A gorgeous space, great food and attentive staff aren’t the only things you need to get your restaurant ready for weddings. You also need a solid technology setup, said Joshi.
“Couples often want to do a live slideshow and venues can charge a few hundred dollars for technology packages for photos. But all you really need is a computer hooked up to a projector,” he said.
Don’t overcomplicate it — since you’re not in the business of technology services, you want to make sure the setup is easy for someone on staff to run it during the event. The biggest thing couples want is the ability to share photos, said Joshi.
“It seems like a small thing, but it shows couples you care about making the event special if you have specific setups for weddings.”
Think outside the reception
Getting married used to be a one-day event with a ceremony and reception. But in recent years, weddings have turned into weekend-long affairs, giving your restaurant a lot of opportunities to get involved.
“With close friends and family traveling in from out of town, there are more occasions where people want to eat and hang out. Restaurants can do really well with events like big family dinners, pre-wedding feasts, post-wedding brunches and other gatherings,” said Joshi.
Leading up to the big day, there’s also engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners and other celebrations you can offer to host at your restaurant.
“One wedding can give you seven or eight opportunities for events at your restaurant,” said Joshi. “If you come up with special things for these events, people will want to celebrate at your restaurant.”
With limitations on space and kitchen capacity, your restaurant might not be able to accommodate a big wedding. But it could be just the fun, intimate space couples want for their pre-wedding celebrations.
Woo wedding planners
While technology has made planning the celebration easier than ever, many couples still rely on traditional wedding planners for recommendations and arrangements. Win over wedding planners and they’ll get clients to host events at your restaurant, said Meghan Ely, owner of OFD Consulting, a public relations and marketing firm for the wedding industry.
“Wedding planners are in a considerable position to bring a great deal of business to any given restaurant,” she said.
Find wedding planners in your area by checking the directories of national industry organizations, such as the Wedding International Professionals Association, suggested Ely.
“Aim for those who focus on full-service planning, as they have far more influence over the process than someone who exclusively books day-of planning packages,” she said.
Then, invite wedding planners to your restaurant to help them become familiar with your offerings and increase their awareness of your brand.
“Create an intimate gathering and really show off your capabilities. Having a dedicated evening to wining and dining area wedding professionals has always resulted in a strong return in my experience.”
Strategize marketing for weddings
Most people don’t immediately think of their favorite local restaurant when considering wedding venues. To earn business from people planning their marriages, you need to start promoting your restaurant as a beautiful place for their special day, said Joshi.
“Couples rely on Instagram for finding unique offerings for their weddings. Do a photoshoot of your space set up for a wedding event, with the right lighting and rearranged tables, then post the photos on Instagram with wedding hashtags, like #weddingvenues and your city, so they can find you,” he said.
Pinterest is another place to share photos, as many people plan their weddings using boards on the image-driven social media platform. You may also consider setting up a separate page on your website showcasing photos of your restaurant set up for events and your wedding package options.
The easier you can make it for couples to visualize and book your restaurant for their wedding events, they more likely it is that they’ll say “I do” to celebrating their big day with you.