How to Increase Summer Traffic in Your Restaurant or Bar

patio

Days get longer, the sun gets stronger, and everyone is taking vacation days. After Memorial Day Weekend comes and goes, summer is here in full force. This can mean more traffic, different clientele, and new struggles for your business. But no need to stress, there is more opportunity to summer than what meets the eye.
This transition to a new season is an easy way for you as a restaurant or bar owner to include fun activities into the calendar. Summer is a great time to differentiate your business and show off your niche!
Here are some tips to start sprinkling a little summer sunshine (and beat your competitors to the punch).

1) Know Your Audience
Market to your audience smarter, not harder. It is essential to know who you are trying to draw in. Is it all out-of-towners that flock to you during this time or is it your regular crowd shuffling in? By doing a little research, you will have a better idea of interests that attracts this group. If summer also means tourist season where you are, be ready for traffic increases. Train the staff on this shift as well, explain the importance of making sure each guest has a memorable experience (in a good way). Understand what you have to offer and who you will be offering it to.

OutdoorSpace

2) Spatial Awareness
If you are the type of establishment lucky enough to have an outdoor area, it’s time to break out the patio furniture. The end of May is a great benchmark to start having outside seating available to guests, but it all depends on your climate. Not only does it allow guests to enjoy a nice breeze, it helps with overflow seating as well! Just make sure your furniture is up to par before you stick it outside in the inevitable summer storms.

3) A Dash of Summer
Got a fierce strawberry spinach salad you’ve been dying to put on the menu? What about a frozen drink that your bartender came up with by just throwing a mix together? Take advantage of what’s now in-season to put on your menu and come up with summer specials. This is a great way to show off food or drinks that are too expensive to routinely feature. Highlighting these items will present more of an opportunity to be noticed by your patrons, and therefore, ordered. Take it one step farther and get some feedback from these specials. Finding what works may lead to a new staple for your regular menu!

Music

4) Turn It Up Some
While you’re taking the advice of tip #2, use your outdoor area to host live music. Whether it’s a singer-songwriter, DJ, or local band, find an entertainer that fits your genre. Bringing an artist in is a great way to publicize all the extras your establishment has to offer and it might even turn into a tradition. This type of event may also bring people to your restaurant or bar that wouldn’t typically visit. You may be introducing them to their new favorite haunt!

5) Fiesta Like There’s No Manana
There are quite a few holidays that fall within the summer months; so why not celebrate them? Between Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, or just the fact that it is summer, you’ll be able to find a celebration that you can throw a party for in your restaurant or bar. Decorate, have themed entrees or drinks, sponsor a contest- the opportunities are endless! If your budget only allows for one of these types of celebration, no worries, just make it work for your restaurant or bar! Go all out without abandoning the main focus of your establishment or bankrupting your business.

Now that you have some tips to expand your summer plans, the key takeaway is to entertain your clients. Take this chance to have old customers remember why they consistently pick your establishment and invite new ones into an exciting environment to make memories. Variety is the spice of life; the same goes for your summer business when the seasons change.
Does your restaurant or bar have any summer traditions or any advice for starting them? Let us know in the comments below, we love to hear feedback from our readers! Check us out on Pinterest for more inspiration.

Save

Banquet Seating & Decor: How to Set Up for Holiday Parties

The Thanksgiving and holiday seasons are popular for parties, large family style get-togethers, and end-of-year banquets.  If your restaurant, social hall, or club is taking reservations for private parties, you might be wondering how best to optimize your space and makeover your banquet room to create a festive but efficient party atmosphere this holiday season.   You’ll also need to make menu, staffing, and decoration decisions.  So let’s get started!

REDEFINE YOUR ROOM’S LAYOUT

Depending on your room dimensions and size of tables, you will have to adjust your space planning to accordingly fit your establishment.  Regardless, there are many ways to transform ordinary folding tables into welcoming places to gather, or rearrange your existing restaurant tables to create a new, more social space, that if done well can be breath taking.  Or, you may prefer to keep your restaurant seating the way it is, especially for less social gatherings or your corporate clients.  Take a look at some of our table layout suggestions, and see which room design will work for the specific parties you’re hosting this season.

The Classic Banquet Set-Up

Using rectangle tables, you can form long rows by butting the tables against each other.  With 8′ tables, you typically can fit 4 seats on each side.  At the joint where the tables adjoin, you may be able to add another seat (shown in red) if you’re short on space or need to fit more bodies in the room.  This should only be done if the extra seating capacity is needed and after you consider each person’s placement.  For example, if every person is going to have a soup bowl, entree dish, water glass, cocktail glass, silverware, name card, and favor, it might be a tight squeeze to add that extra person at the joint.  But if the setting is less formal and offers more room, they should be comfortable with that extra seat added.

Take note that 6-foot tables typically only seat 3 per side, or you can add the extra person where the tables adjoin.

If you need a head table, buffet table, or speaker’s podium, add it at perpendicularly to the other tables for easy viewing.

Setting Up with Banquet Rounds

Round tables offer a more formal look to your banquet space.  Tables that are 5-foot in diameter can seat 8 people, and they are the most commonly used size.  However, you could mix it up and use 4-foot tables, which seat 4 people, or 6-foot tables, which seat 10.

We recommend staggering the rows to maximize the space, verse setting up linear rows of rounds.  It creates a more visually appealing room, as well.

Creating One Large Round Banquet Table

To fit more people at a round table, consider adding four serpentine tables to the outside.  If you use a 60″ table in the middle, you can add four serpentines, each with a 5-foot inner radius, to create a table for at least 16 people.  Don’t need that many seats?  A 48″ round folding table paired with four 8-foot serpentines (4-foot inner radius) creates seating for 14.  As a bonus, the extra distance across the larger table offers an opportunity for a more significant centerpiece.

This set-up might be preferable for a large family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together.

Creating One Large Rectangular Table

Likewise, you can create a larger rectangular table, too, with just a little ingenuity!  Four 8-foot tables combine to make seating for 20-22 people (depending on if you add a seat where the tables join along the sides).  This arrangement of tables may also be conducive for a large family meal, a conference or meeting, or to maximize space for seating up to 22.

Different U-Shape Configurations


Whether you do seating on both the interior and exterior, or keep guests on the outside only, U-shape configurations can be popular choice for different types of meetings or parties.  You can use serpentine tables to create rounded edges, or you can experiment with different lengths of rectangular tables.

Banquets Can Be Square Sometimes

Here, you can keep everyone along the perimeter.  The inside of the square is empty or hollow, so it’s not always the best way to optimize your space if you need room for a buffet, dance floor, or other party must-haves.  Again, you can round the corners with serpentine shaped tables if preferred.

Using Cocktail Tables for Non-Dinners

If you’re hosting a party that is not a formal sit-down dinner, you may want to offer seating for only half of the guests and provide tall cocktail tables for guests to stand and mingle around while enjoying light hors d’oeurves and their drinks.  This works well for networking events, as well as open house style parties, where not everyone is in the room at the same time.  Using cocktail tables creates a more social environment and allows guests to flow throughout the room or event without being tied to one seat.

Decide how your banquet room can be set up and how many people it can hold.  Offer as many options for your customers, and be willing to rearrange your tables based on their unique needs or type of meeting.  As you’re planning the space, be sure to take into consideration any other furniture you’ll need to set up, such as a buffet, dance floor, podium, A/V equipment, or gift table.

PLANNING THE PARTY MENU

A party of 30? 50? 200? No problem.  There are many options when it comes to your private party menus.  Here are just a few worth considering:

  1. Stick to your regular menu, and staff your restaurant with enough staff to take 30 unique meal orders and push them out of the kitchen simultaneously.
  2. Offer party guests a special, limited menu with only a few meal choices to select from.
  3. Plan the complete menu choices in advance with the person organizing the meal.  They can select three dinner choices from the menu and offer their guests they opportunity to pre-order from those selections.  With a little mark on each person’s name card, serving the right dishes to the right people becomes a cinch.
  4. Prepare the same meal for each guest, as determined by the person organizing the party.
  5. Consider family style dinners, where guests share larger portions amongst each other.
  6. Set up a buffet instead of serving the meal. Or, you can use a buffet to house the appetizers instead of butlering them before you serve dinner, or you can use a dessert buffet after you serve the dinner, so your staff aren’t serving every course.

Worried you’re not sure how much food to serve?  Be sure to check out our helpful resources pin board to find the answers!  We’ll show you how much cake you’ll need, how to stock your bar, and even how to set the table.

Talk about bar options before the party with the event organizer.  Is it an open bar? A cash bar?  Is it fully stocked?  Is it beer and wine only?  Alcohol is one of the most expensive items on your menu, so make sure both you and the organizer are in agreement over what type of bar you’re having the night of the party.

Depending on the number of guests, the type of menu and meal options you decide on, and whether your restaurant is open for normal business during the time of the party, you’ll have to consider the amount of staff you need to have on hand.

DECORATE & ENTERTAIN

It’s time for the finishing touches!  Be astonishing and add those details that really make your guests “ooh” and “ahh” when they walk in that front door!  Whether it’s a traditional cornucopia or a contemporary dash of glitter and glam, you want the party-goers to feel special. Take the extra steps to add some decorations, centerpieces, or holiday charm to the room. You’ll also want to consider if you’re using linens on the tables, chair covers, or if you need to secure stack chairs, folding chairs or Chiavari chairs for the special event. Maybe you need to find a holiday station on the music platform you subscribe to for entertainment, or book a live band for your guests’ enjoyment. And don’t forget to train your staff to be courteous and cheerful, so the party is a hit for everyone in attendance!

It’s the extra steps you’ll take that will set you apart from your competition and get a repeat booking for next year’s celebration!

On behalf of everyone at East Coast Chair & Barstool, we wish you a very happy, joyful, and peaceful Thanksgiving. May you have many blessings to count and a successful holiday season!

Is your bar or restaurant hosting holiday parties?

This is a busy time for families and friends to meet up at a local bar or restaurant to reconnect over the holiday season and at the turn of the new year. If you are a newer bar or restaurant or have experienced a lot of growth this year, it might be a little overwhelming to manage all these reservations or impromptu gatherings in your establishment. So, we are here to help! I’ve put together a list of tips to help your bar or restaurant survive (and succeed) this holiday season.

1. Review your menu. Do you have holiday favorites, like spiced apple cider, peppermint milkshakes, or sugar cookies available?  It doesn’t take much for even the smallest restaurant or cafe to add some special treats to their holiday menus this season.  If you are hosting many sit-down dinners, do you have turkey, ham, and pork & sauerkraut meals with all the trimmings listed?  You may suggest family-style dining to your larger parties and try something new that could be very pleasing to your guests!   It’s also a great time of year to test market some new ideas or try out some new seasonal customs.  For example, you could try a ‘decorate your own’ gingerbread cookie for the kiddies, ‘top your own’ hot cocoa (think flavored whipped cream, holiday-shaped marshmallows, or shots of holiday flavors),  ‘create your own’ cocktail, or just add in some new products or promotions you’ve been wanting to try.  Maybe you want to introduce a new dessert buffet or try new mixed drink concoctions. The possibilities are endless, and if it’s popular and well received, you could find a way to work it into your everyday menu.  You may want to add just a small holiday menu, dress up some of your regular menu items in a new way to fit the holiday season, or create a holiday option in each category on your menu (beverage, appetizer, meal, dessert).  Any way your chef, brew master, or caterer addresses the holidays this season, your customers will be thrilled!  Make sure any changes or additions you make fit your bar or restaurant theme and coordinate well with your entire menu’s cuisine (for example, French restaurants could introduce a cranberry crepe or drinking establishments could sample an adult eggnog beverage).  Don’t forget: Be sure to add any new ingredients or required kitchen equipment to your regular purchase orders.

2. Check your staff schedules. With large parties needing extra attention and more people in general coming and going from your establishment, you will need to bump up your salary budget this time of year.  Make sure you are fully staffed and ready to give your patrons the joyous holiday get-together they are anticipating.  We know that end-of-year spending might be tight, but cutting staff at your busiest time of year could prove very detrimental to service and quality of your customers’ experiences.  In addition, take advantage of the prelude to the busy season to re-train or remind your staff on best service practices, speedy kitchen and delivery times, quick and clean bus habits, and overall quality standards.  There’s never a good time to make a blunder at your bar or restaurant, but during the holiday season, you want to make sure everyone and everything is running smoothly. This is especially important if you are introducing new menu items or expect your bar staff to learn how to make new drinks or properly serve in new glassware.

3. Define the space. If you are not used to hosting large parties, you may need to look at your tables and chairs and reconfigure your space in order to keep larger parties all seated together.  Can your tables push together?  Do you need to add extra tables?  Would it be better to place parties in certain rooms or areas and keep the smaller parties in a different section?  Should you swap out your bulky restaurant chairs with more sleek backless barstools to help more people fit around the room?  Large parties will need to feel like they are the only ones in the joint and be able to carry on conversations from end of the table to the other.  Being prepared for a large group of people at your bar or restaurant is your best defense this holiday season. (If you need help with future bar or restaurant furniture needs to help define your space, we can help!  Let East Coast Chair & Barstool show you tables, chairs, and barstools that will eliminate your worry.)

4. Re-design the take-out process. Whether it’s baked goods, holiday party catering, or extra 6-packs of beer, your customers may be demanding more take-out service this holiday season.  Is your bar or restaurant prepared?  Is there a special wait line for take-out orders only?  Do you offer carry-out parking/delivery?  Are the orders being marked accurately, and do you offer in-house order tracking on an order board or customer tracking digitally?  Are your prep cooks ready to handle the bulk of orders and getting enough lead time?  Working out the details for a smooth take-out process now could save you, your staff, and your customers a lot of grief.

5. Address extended wait times. It’s busy.  Your customers are told it might be an hour or longer before they can be seated.  Depending on your establishment and the party, they might have young children with them.  What do they do?  Is there a special room for guests to wait?  Can you hand out holiday-themed coloring books in advance to any kids?  Do you have a bar and appetizer area, so they can get started nibbling?  What about music/TV/other entertainment?  Will a long line that’s visible deter others from stopping?  Will waiting guests get in the way of your wait staff?  Do you have enough seating for waiting guests, too?  Considering how you might address this in advance will be a great help to you when you have a crowd waiting.

6. Set the mood. Decorations. Music. Party gear.  It doesn’t take a huge budget to make a large impact.  Worried you’re crossing a politically incorrect line?  Stay simple and just add a little oomph to dress it up for the season.  If you are doing a New Year’s Eve special event, make sure you have champagne goblets (glass or disposable) on hand for a toast and some kind of party hat, noise maker, or favor for your party-goers.  You want to make your bar or restaurant feel festive, so people have a good time and remember you when they’re looking for a place to eat or drink the whole rest of the year.

7. Announce any special holiday hours. Closing for the holidays?  Or offering extending hours?  Make sure people know!  Post signs on every door, add your new hours to your Web site, let regular customers know via wait staff, and add your holiday schedule to your regular promotions. The one reason why people aren’t at your bar or restaurant this holiday season shouldn’t be because they didn’t know if you were open. And if the only thing someone wants this holiday season is your famous pie, let them know if you are going to be closed so they can pick up a slice ahead of time.

No matter what challenges your bar or restaurant may face from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember to stay jolly and show your patrons a merry good time!  Shake off the small stresses and feel honored that your neighbors want to celebrate in your establishment. No matter how big or small you celebrate this season, remember that it’s a special time of year for everyone.

Happy holidays to you and yours!