Event Planning Checklist for Busy Bars & Restaurants

Bars and restaurants are gathering places. People meet at your establishment–intentionally or by accident–and become friends, regulars, business partners, lovers and better neighbors. The community you build around your business makes it the perfect place to celebrate holidays and other events. When you welcome customers to join you for special events, you promote growth for your business and for your community. Here are four great tips to help bar owners host and promote events, and a free checklist to help with planning!

Save the Right Date

Host holidays or events in ways that reflect the personality of your business. There are many ways to make this work. Maybe your business attracts a lot of customers who scorn football; host an “Anti-Superbowl Afternoon” with specials on classy cocktails and a temporary price increase on “cheap yellow beers” during the big game.

And if promoting a “Valentine’s Day is For Lovers” all-red, all-over event isn’t your bar’s thing, there are a lot of unique holidays you can use as vehicles to promote special offers. Did you know, for example, that February is National Grapefruit Month? Promote specials on a yummy grapefruit-infused IPA, house-made grapefruit sangria or a classic Salty Dog. A quick Google search provides a long list of holidays, both familiar and strange, and a little creativity with these dates can boost your business.


Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

A poorly planned party is worse than no party at all. You don’t have to go crazy or be super formal to build community and boost sales. Maybe all it takes to mark a special day at your bar is a special offer: ”Show us your hearts on Valentine’s Day! Whether red, pink, black, or tattooed, wear something with a heart on it and receive your first drink at the Happy Hour price anytime on 2/14!”. Maybe you decorate your business, maybe you don’t. Maybe your staff members are encouraged to dress up. Or not. Bite off what you can comfortably chew and then spread the word to customers and to your staff. Which brings us to the next thing…

Tell Your Team

Your staff members represent your business, and that means they need to know about your event offerings well in advance. Encourage team members to promote the event, and make it easy for them to do so with flyers, pins and postcards they can give to customers with receipts. Make sure your online information is updated so that team members (and current customers!) can share the event details through their social media platforms. Most importantly, make sure they have all the correct information about the event, including any food or drink specials, and that this information is reflected in business signage. You should also ensure that you have enough staff working to accommodate the anticipated number of patrons on the day of the event.

Promote, Promote, Promote!

You have chosen which event to host and how, you’ve told your staff, and now you need to tell everyone else. In addition to flyers, posters, and staff apparel, the Internet, especially social media platforms, makes it easy and inexpensive to spread the word. Software like Evergreen–which owners and managers can use to update all of their business accounts online with one button click, and send special offers and promotions directly to potential and current customers’ smartphones–make it even easier. In the blink of an eye, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else your business exists online can be updated with your new promotion. List your promotion on your website’s events calendar or page, on local news calendars, and also on TapHunter’s events calendar so customers seeking somewhere to go on that date will know about your promotion. With your information up to date, your potential and current customers will have the details they need to decide to come celebrate with you, in the community you’ve built.


Event Hosting Checklist for Bar Owners

Whether you choose to go low-key or all-out crazy for an event or holiday, we invite you to use this free checklist to help you cover all of your bases.

☐  Choose the holiday or event you will host/promote.
Can you host/promote the event or holiday in a way that reflects your business’ personality? Does the holiday/event align with your existing customer base? How will you distinguish yourself from competing promotions?

☐  Determine your goal(s) for hosting the event.
Do you want to bring in X new customers? X customers total? Sell X amount of a certain drink? Or simply build community? Setting a goal now will help with your planning going forward. Have a system in place to track the goal(s) so you can determine whether you’ve reached it, and whether to host such an event again.

☐  Determine your event budget.
Will you need full-color print materials to promote the event? Will your staff members need to wear event-specific gear? Do you need a certain amount of a menu item in stock in preparation for the event? Plan your budget in advance and track it so you can decide if the investment is worth the return after the event.

☐  What will your event look like?
Do you want to add a raffle (maybe a regular can donate goods/services, or a giveaway for a free t-shirt from your establishment) to your event? Can patrons keep specialty glasses that day? Are you going to decorate, and if so, what do you need? Consider which elements to include in the event to ramp up the fun factor.

☐  Review your service layout.
Will customers find your event more enjoyable if they can go to a specific spot at the bar to access the special offering? If you have an appetizer buffet special, can customers easily navigate it? Can your staff move freely and easily through the event space while serving, bussing, and restocking?

☐  Designate staff to help organize event details and promotion.
Choose staff to assist you with event planning and execution to make sure it runs smoothly.

☐  Develop a publicity/marketing plan (at least two weeks before event, if possible).
Have a plan to promote your event. Loop in the support staff helping with the event to make sure you don’t forget anything. Here are a few ideas:

  • Update online events pages, calendars, and social media platforms.
  • Put signage up at your business and around the neighborhood. Add QR codes (generated online for free) to make it easy for potential patrons to learn about the event.
  • Email your subscriber list about the event.
  • Invite current customers in person, an engaging tactic that regulars will appreciate.
  • Create an event hashtag for people to use when they post about your event online    (e.g., #BobsBarSweatpantsDay2015) so anyone, including you, can find content later.

☐  Choose a menu and confirm stock.
Is your menu appropriate for the type of event you will host? Do you have everything you need in stock for the event to run smoothly?

☐  Post a reminder on your website and on social media the day before the event.

☐  Take pictures at the event.
Take pictures that you can post to social media accounts and your website following the event to promote its success and popularity, and further engage your customers. Encourage your customers to take pictures and post them online with your custom hashtag. And be sure to like and re-share things from your customers on your social media accounts; engaged customers means better business.