Building a Private Dining Program Without a Designated Space

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No space? No worries!

When event professionals from Barteca and The Porter Beer Bar were asked this question, they all answered with a resounding yes. Perhaps it is because private dining is a bit of a misnomer.

This could come as a surprise to some, but semi-private spaces produce largely the same results as four walls and a door.

Private events and group dining account for up to 30% of a restaurant’s revenue.

Not only are events an additional guest service, but they also increase a restaurant’s overall efficiency by allowing for minimal food waste as well as filling seats on slow nights. Large groups of diners also bring a tangible energy to a dining room that carries over to the a la carte tables. Thinking through a private dining program is worth the time and money invested. But where to start? There’s no building permit required.

Read on for how to build a group dining program and create a private dining space despite having a designated area to do so.

Events Require Planning

Every event is an opportunity, and opportunities require planning. Gather client Barteca plans their events a week or two in advance so the entire staff is prepared. Each event is a chance to treat each guest like they are a VIP, and in turn, if those guests have a positive experience they will become a prospect for future events.

Easy additions and edits to current decor can create a private dining feel including festive floral arrangements, unique table settings, and fresh tablecloths.

Promote Your Program

From the onset, Gather recommends trying to keep food and beverage minimums low to not scare leads away. We also suggest that if restaurants do not have a private dining room, it is especially important to market the semi-private space or space that can
accommodate larger groups. Take pictures of the space and put fresh flowers and linens on the table to make it look exceptional. After the pictures are taken, tell the world! Share those photos on social media and post about any specials. It is a small investment for what will most likely be a large return.

Each event is a chance to treat each guest like they are a VIP — in turn, they may become a prospect for future events.

Build Sales Projections

Barteca builds sales projections each week so they can break down each day and communicate whether an event is going on or not. That way, the Barteca team can tailor reservations around a specific event and plan to be staffed for that night’s event as well as the a la carte guests.

Order Food Ahead of Time

Events allow for precise ordering because you know how many guests are coming. For the day of, The Porter’s chef preps all food for fixed menu events separately from their normal service. That way, the event staff knows exactly what to serve the party and courses can be executed smoothly.

Collect a Few Dedicated People

There are a few dedicated resources needed in order to have a successful private dining and events program. The first is a dedicated team. The Porter recommends building an events team that knows what to expect. If the server is experienced and the planning and preparation are done in advance, the night-of may not require a large team. They have had parties of 30 that were handled by one well-seasoned server and an organized kitchen.

Building an events space doesn’t require a huge investment. Start your events program with easy additions like personalized menus, special service, and dedicated serving staff.

Pull Help from Current Staff

If a dedicated event team is not in your current budget, don’t fret. It’s not necessary for the event service staff to be full time. During nights without events they can be a server, manager, or host, but the night-of events, their sole focus should be the large party. As the private dining program grows, the staff can transition into a full-time events position. This is a great way to promote from within as well as appoint one person as the main events.

Allot Weekly Time

Time is another crucial resource events need. As mentioned above, events take some behind the scenes planning. Also, sometimes a quick response makes the difference between securing an event and losing it, so along with carving out time to plan confirmed events, find time every day to reply to leads.

Step One: Create a Space

Some ideas to help create your unique events space include: utilizing banquette seating to fit more people in a small space comfortably, using a non-conventional space like a beer or wine cellar for gathering and seating, using table extenders for banquet style seating in dining rooms, and creating a makeshift wall with curtains or room dividers.

Step Two: Customize the Experience

In order for guests to have a personalized event experience, you may allow them to provide their decorations and music, or rent out a specific part of your location, like the bar. On your end, you can create a special service team comprised of your best staff members and design fixed or personalized menus for events.

Step Three: Make it Beautiful

When it comes to event decor, a little bit of effort can go a long way. First, position your new events space in an area with a view of the skyline or kitchen, or create intimate dining spaces in the cozy nooks of your space. On the tables, be sure to dress tables with crisp linens and use fresh flowers as centerpieces.