Banquet halls are a classic choice for events. Thus, owners and managers of these venues often have an easier time than nontraditional spaces when it comes to getting people through their doors. But whether business is slacking or steady, there’s always room for improvement. If you’re looking to grow your events business, we’re here to help.
We’ve gathered some best practices to improve your sales game and win more banquet business. Plus, we chat with Russell Simon, sales director at Upstairs Atlanta, about the methods his business uses to increase banquet sales.
1. Highlight what makes your space unique
No private event space is the same, so take the time to let your customers know what you can offer them that others can’t. If you can, include both empty venue photos and event photos filled with people on your website and social channels so customers can envision their party at your venue. Whether it’s a stage that can host a live band or your location that has a killer view of the skyline, capitalize on that unique element and run with it.
“Upstairs Atlanta has a lot of character and personality with its Edison bulbs, exposed brick walls, and signature cement bar top,” says Russell. “Yet, it’s still enough of a blank canvas to allow any client’s vision to be brought to life. This ability has allowed Upstairs Atlanta to serve as a venue for all types of events, a benefit that a lot of venues don’t have.”
Related Guide: Weddings vs. Corporate Events: Which Are More Profitable?
2. Go after repeat business
The easiest way to increase your bottom line and boost banquet sales? Work smarter, not harder. Send past customers who booked with you this time last year an email and see if they’d like to start a tradition by doing the same this year. You can even offer them an incentive, like a free bottle of Champagne or a small discount.
This also helps customers who may be scrambling to find a venue for their annual corporate event or holiday party. “Our strategy for booking repeat clients is fairly simple — it’s to provide such a phenomenal level of service that clients have no desire to go elsewhere,” says Russell.
3. Show off your event menus
Whether your private event space offers food in-house or you work with caterers, make sure to mention that to your customers. If you’re a restaurant, include examples of your special event menus on your website. If you work with outside caterers or have a preferred caterers list, consider linking to their menus or sites so they can get a feel for those offerings as well. Prospects almost always ask about food options when they tour venues, so having this information easily accessible will make the booking process that much faster.
“While we don’t have an exclusive catering option or menu, we do have a preferred catering list,” says Russell. “Our preferred catering list includes some great special events catering companies and awesome Atlanta-based restaurants. Food is a very important part of an event or celebration so our preferred catering list contains top-notch professionals and companies that deliver exceptional customer service and delicious food! Upstairs Atlanta hosts many diverse events, therefore it is important that our preferred catering list represents a variety of cuisine to cover the multitude of palettes that our clients have.”
4. Make your clients feel special
As an events industry pro, you’re not just in the business of managing stellar events. You’re also there to tend to your client’s needs to ensure their event goes off without a hitch. Everyone likes to feel special, so what’s something creative you can offer your clients that will encourage them to have their banquet in your space?
“At Upstairs Atlanta, we believe in going the extra mile for our clients,” says Russell. “One way that we do so is by allowing our clients have access to our ‘Treasure Room’, which is a room filled with decor items that can be incorporated into their events if they desire. The Treasure Room has candle votives, vases, and other decor props that our clients can use free of charge.”
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals
However big the private events industry may seem, it’s actually a pretty small world. That’s because there’s a lot of networking involved when you work with potential clients and vendors. Take advantage of these professional relationships and ask for business referrals from both vendors you trust and happy clients through email or in person. Getting guest feedback, taking advantage of social media, and asking for online reviews can help spread the word about your business.
“Our marketing is the driving force for leads, which we then convert leads to sales,” says Russell. “We’re represented on many event venue websites, and we have a strong social media presence where we interact with prospective clients. Our most successful method of marketing has been, without a doubt, word of mouth. We have received many referrals from those that have previously had events at Upstairs Atlanta as well as from special event vendors and industry insiders!”
6. Make the booking process easy for clients
The easier it is for someone to book an event at your venue, the more likely you are to close the deal. “Event management software, specifically Gather, plays a vital role in increasing banquet sales,” says Russell. “We strive for efficiency, and Gather allows that for our clients, which is a huge benefit for us. From the client’s perspective, they love how simplistic and user-friendly Gather is.”
Software also makes it easy for businesses hosting events to send and receive proposals, make payments and communicate with clients — all in one place. “Planning an event can be a daunting task,” Russell adds, “so it’s nice that, with our event management software, we get to make our process easy for the client.”
Upstairs Atlanta hosts roughly 240 events a year, from weddings to corporate workshops. Their secret? Implementing all of the above tips and putting their clients first. “Just as we have with the sales side,” explains Russell, “Upstairs Atlanta has placed an emphasis on the operations side to deliver a stellar customer service experience while making sure that our venue exceeds the clients’ expectations.”
Now that you know how to increase banquet sales, see how our event management software can help you streamline your private events program!