We Took a Deep Dive Into the State of Restaurant Events — Here’s What We Found

By Caroline Cox | 3 min read

For months, we’ve been taking a closer look at the current state of restaurant events. We conducted an industry survey, interviewed event pros, and did our own research to see what trends, developments, and statistics hospitality pros should know about.

All of that culminates into a guide we’re serving up called “State of the Plate: Exploring the Restaurant Events Industry.” We’ll release this guide in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here’s a preview of what you can expect to find.

More technology often means more business

For this guide, we surveyed a group of 600 restaurant industry professionals. We asked them about the tools they use to manage events, the trends they’ve noticed, and how their business has changed over time.

For more than 57% of respondents, the number of events hosted at their restaurant space has increased over the past two years. The same goes for the use of tech at these businesses. In the same time frame, more than 55% of participants noted that they have increased their usage of technology to promote and manage their private dining programs.

It makes sense: By leveraging technology that automates certain processes and makes event management less time-consuming, you have more time to focus on things like customer service and business growth.

Corporate events are skewing more casual

It’s no secret that holiday events can bring in significant revenue for your events program. We wanted to talk to an events pro who’s seen serious success with holiday parties. So, we talked with Christa White. She’s the event coordinator at Atlanta-based Castellucci Hospitality Group restaurants Double Zero and Cooks & Soldiers.

Christa says one of the top event trends she’s noticed when it comes to holiday events is that corporate parties are opting to ease into the evening with a cocktail reception and passed hors d’oeuvres. “It’s something nice [the company] wants to treat their employees to,” says Christa. “A big trend I’ve noticed is that people opted for happy hour, reception-style events for larger groups.”

Having a pre-dinner cocktail hour, or scrapping the seated-dinner portion altogether, often leads to a more laid-back atmosphere where guests can mingle without worrying about a seating chart.

Social media marketing reigns supreme

Unsurprisingly, social media came up often in both our research and survey results. We asked industry pros about the most effective marketing methods for promoting their events programs. The majority of respondents listed social media posts (35%). When targeting holiday business, more than 54% said social media is their primary tool. (Runner-ups included online ads, email newsletters, word of mouth, and referral programs.)

We’ve talked before about how technology is helping restaurants grow, how being present on all the major social media platforms is effective for advertising, and where to start when it comes to leveraging social media for your events.

It can seem intimidating — and time-consuming. But simple things like planning ahead, being thoughtful about the content you post, and maintaining a consistent posting cadence will help make the most of a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon.

To evolve your brand, listen to your customers

Trends change fast in many industries — restaurants and events are no different. So, when national restaurant group Dick’s Last Resort decided to do some brand revamping, they turned to their customers.

“We wanted to add value for the customer by making sure our items are really fresh,” says Denielle Van Dyke. She’s the brand’s marketing manager at their Nashville headquarters. “We do a lot in house now — our chicken tenders are cut in house, and our sauces are all house-made. Little things like that make sure customers are having the best experience they can with us.”

They also worked to make their website more mobile-friendly, and to make it easy for parties to book their space right on their website via a lead form. Denielle says it was important for Dick’s Last Resort to evolve while also staying true to what’s made them successful all these years.

Communication is still a huge key to success

Our findings showed that, no matter what trends come and go, communication remains at the core of a successful event. Nick Miller, Gather’s CEO and co-founder, agrees. “Communication is key,” he says. “There are so many moving parts for each event — keeping everyone informed of details and responsibilities is the key to a successful event.”

Christa says the communication tools are one of the reasons why Gather is the only event software she’ll use. “I love that I can communicate with my team if I’m not in the office that day and give them all the information they need for an event, and I can easily communicate with the event client as well.”

Nick adds that technology has improved communication with guests and staff, “but has the potential to streamline the entire experience, from discovery through booking and the actual event.” We’re excited to see what the future holds — for events, guests, and the restaurant industry as a whole.

Stay tuned for our full guide, chock-full of insights on where the restaurant industry is today, and where it’s headed tomorrow.

Caroline Cox
Content Marketing Manager

Caroline Cox is Gather's Content Marketing Manager. She spends her time crafting blogs, thought leadership pieces, case studies, social media content and more, helping empower restaurants and other event venues to streamline their planning process and grow their events programs with success.

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