The Restaurateurs Guide to Creating a Memorable Outdoor Event
When you’re the busy owner and operator of your restaurant business, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the swirl of day-to-day life. Dealing with a line of customers, trouble-shooting a cooler on the fritz (again), handling deliveries – the life of a restaurateur isn’t for the faint of heart.
But even the most gung-ho restaurant professionals may balk at the idea of coordinating, organizing and hosting restaurant events, especially outdoor events. After all, why take on more work?
Because it’s totally worth it. Outdoor events are popular with customers, and – thanks to social media – many now specifically look for fun, interesting restaurant events to go to when planning their next night out. Getting dinner and a show all in one is a sure-fire way to attract new customers and turn them into regulars. But where do you start?
Right here! Our guide walks you through all the key considerations you need to handle before you begin planning your event, and some killer ways to make sure your outdoor events are both memorable and successful. Stand up and stand out with these tips and tricks for your next (or very first!) outdoor restaurant event.
Why Are Outdoor Events Important for Restaurants?
Outdoor events are a fantastic way to attract attention to your restaurant for a few reasons. First and most importantly, hosting events can draw new customers, people who may not have otherwise heard of or visited your actual restaurant, while adding to the experience of your regular customers as well.
Hosting a series of successful events also solidifies the reputation of your restaurant as a buzz-worthy place to keep an eye on. Don’t get us wrong, outdoor restaurant events take plenty of planning and organizing, so a basic framework is key.
5 Important Considerations While Planning an Outdoor Event for Your Restaurant
These are the five essential elements you’ll begin with when planning every single one of your restaurant’s outdoor events. Without nailing down these core considerations, you won’t actually be able to plan an event at all. So be sure to lock down these details early, and then build the rest of your event plan from there.
1. Choose your venue – and get your permits
As they say in the movie business: Location, location, location. Not everyone has the space outside their restaurant to host large gatherings and events, so finding a venue needs to be your number one priority. Once you know where you want to have your event, the very next step is finding out what kinds of permits or other official permission you will need to have an event in that location.
Key considerations here can include:
- Venue permits and registration fees
- Sidewalk or street fair permits
- Furniture and equipment rental costs
- Food permits
- Alcohol permit or authorization
- Public safety requirements
2. Plan for the right number of people
How big is your event going to be, and how many people can you plan on being there? Both under- and over-planning are potential hazards here, especially for newer event planners. Selling tickets is one way to know exactly how many people will attend your event. However, if you know your area and the crowds local events tend to draw then you can also reasonably estimate just how many people your event will attract and arrange your equipment and menu plans from there.
3. Plan for the season – and the weather
There’s no hard and fast rule that says you can’t host an outdoor restaurant event during the colder months. Off-season events can be really popular precisely because it is the off season, and your show may be the only one in town. No matter what season you choose, you’ll need to have both climate control and bad weather plans securely in place before you move forward with your event.
Weather-related items include:
- Backup indoor location or alternate event date
- Canopy tents for dining and food prep areas
- Heating or cooling equipment for customer comfort
4. Customer comfort is key
Dovetailing off of seasonal and weather considerations is customer comfort – nobody’s going to stick around at your event for long if they’re too cold, too hot, too wet. But customer comfort also includes a host of additional considerations, including everything from porta-potties, adequate seating, charging stations for electronics, experienced parking lot attendants and more. You have to nail the big things, of course, but catering to your customers’ comfort also hinges on the little things, so take your time with this step.
Customer comfort includes:
- Sanitation and restroom facilities
- Adequate seating
- Handicapped accessibility
- Temperature control equipment
- Adequate parking spaces (with permits for security purposes)
5. Equip yourself for success
The right equipment is essential for everything from food prep and serving to customer comfort. So when reserving your venue, it’s very important to make sure you have an adequate power supply for all the electricity this equipment will be using. Seasonal considerations will dictate whether you need to rent portable heaters or fans, but you might want to consider purchasing custom canopy tents, tables and furniture outright if you have room to store these things and plan on hosting regular outdoor events.
Necessary equipment includes:
- Easy-to-transport coolers
- Fridges and cooking equipment
- Lighting, power cables and extension cords
- Extra supplies for restroom facilities
- Flatware, silverware, and cups
How to Create a Memorable Outdoor Event for Your Restaurant
Once you get the key elements listed above in place, it’s time to start nailing down the particulars for your outdoor restaurant event. Because you run your own restaurant you already know about setting the stage, creating a welcoming and unique ambiance for your customers.
But if you’re new to hosting outdoor events, you may be a little uncertain about how to create that ambiance on a larger scale, and outside to boot. Use the steps below to guide you through the planning process so you can create a truly memorable outdoor event.
Choose a Theme
You can interpret the word “theme” as strictly or as loosely as you want, taking it to mean anything from a themed costume party to something more like “chill summer garden party” or “cozy winter gathering vibes.”
Or you can let the aesthetic of your restaurant set the tone, translating the feel of your indoor dining spaces in the great outdoors. Whatever you decide, make sure your outdoor space is as welcoming as the one above.
Plan your activities
Food doesn’t have to be the main event. Wine tastings, game nights, tournaments – there’s a wide world of opportunity once you begin to think beyond the four walls of your restaurant. After all, your food can be a star attraction, but pairing food with fun activities is a surefire way to get people to stick around (and maybe order seconds).
Fun marketing fact: Hosting wine tastings is the perfect way to showcase your new personalized wine bottle labels!
Keep It Exclusive
A big block party-style event isn’t for everyone. Sometimes what you want is something a little smaller, more intimate, and more exclusive. Hosting an outdoor long table dinner like the one above is an amazing idea for a smaller outdoor event. And you can keep that gathering exclusive by selling tickets ahead of time, and issuing event passes as guests arrive.
Design a Unique Menu
You don’t have to stick to your restaurant’s menu when you host an outdoor restaurant event, but keep in mind that if you specialize in a certain type of cuisine your guests may be expecting dishes they’re familiar with.
Consider offering some dishes beyond your normal menu items, exploring either more traditional or more contemporary interpretations. A buffet setup like the one above is an ideal way for guests to try a little bit of everything, while also pretty much guaranteeing there will be something for everyone. Create beautiful custom labels for each dish to let everyone know what it is while adding to the overall vibe of your event.
Don’t Forget Branding
Don’t get so caught up in the logistics of planning your outdoor events that you forget to market who’s actually doing all this work – your restaurant! You want people to remember who held that awesome event they went to, so the next time they see your name they pay extra attention.
Restaurant banners and other flags are perfect fo attracting attention in a big way, and smaller branding opportunities like custom coasters are also fun and popular little freebies (and more ways to keep your restaurant fresh in people’s minds).
Hire Live Entertainment
Nothing sets the tone for a party like live music. Whether you book a single singer-songwriter or a band, whether you have musicians roving around the event or performing from a stage or roped-off performing area, live music enhances the vibe of your festivities. Make sure to book and confirm the date of your events with musicians well ahead of time.
Use Tents for Shade and Prep
Create a Memorable Outdoor Event with Stomp
Don’t let the idea of planning, organizing and hosting an outdoor restaurant event stand between you and exploring what can be a very profitable – and fun, we promise! – addition to your existing business.
Outdoor events attract new customers and enhance your reputation with your regulars, no matter what kind of event you end up organizing. Whether you host cozy and intimate events with a sit-down vibe, or big and crowded parties with live music and lots of games and activities, adding events to your area of expertise is a solid win for any restaurant.
Let Stomp help you create your next memorable outdoor event with our wide variety of restaurant products. We’ve got you covered with fully customizable canopy tents, banners and flags, table covers and more. Don’t miss out on making your events a success. Contact us today and stand out with Stomp.
- Marketing Team