Make it fun, customers will come. That should be your mantra as a bar or restaurant owner. Today, you’re not just competing with venues in town, your other rival is the customer’s living room: thanks to the rise in Netflix, video games, and takeout.
To motivate customers, it’s all about giving them a reason to get up and go out. That’s where this list of the best bar and restaurant entertainment ideas comes in…
While events are essential for attracting customers in big numbers, your best bet is to start by integrating fun into the overall customer experience. Here’s how:
Got Flair? Remember the Salt Bae? He sprinkled salt on a steak with attitude and became a viral sensation. As you plan out bar and restaurant entertainment, think of ways to add fun to your menu – and put on a performance. It could be Greek flaming cheese (saganaki), baked Alaska, or Caesar salad prepared tableside. Ask your bartenders to add some tricks and moves to their drink preparation routine. Known as bartender flair, it can take your bar and restaurant entertainment to the next level – and earn you plenty of exposure on social media along the way.
Let Me Take a Selfie Embrace the fact that people love taking selfies. Create a DIY photo booth. Set out props like giant sunglasses, feather boas, and of course…a backdrop with your logo. Need inspiration? Check out this “mug shot” backdrop at Prison City Brewery and Bar in Auburn, NY.
It’s inevitable. At some point during their visit, guests will wait – for a table, drinks, dinner, you name it. Bar and restaurant entertainment turns that into an opportunity to add value to the guest visit.
Bring Games to the Table You could kick it old school and paint a few tic-tac-toe boards onto your bar top, then set out X and O coasters. Or, bring an entire arcade tableside with handheld bar and restaurant tablets. Guests can even use these tablets to compete in real-time trivia against others across the room – and across the nation.
Take it Outside Do you have an outdoor patio or seating area? Then you’ve got even more options for bar and restaurant entertainment. Right now, cornhole (or bean bag toss game) is seriously trending. You can create your own cornhole boards or purchase them for under $50. Or, make your own giant Jenga blogs or Scrabble tiles for life-size fun.
Now, let’s shift gears into some on-trend events you can host at your venue. It may be tempting to simply hire a live band. However, today’s customers are seeking more shared social experiences where they can interact with each other (instead of yelling over a band). As you plan out bar and restaurant entertainment, ask yourself: does this event encourage – or inhibit – socializing?
Cooking and Bartending Demos Put your staff in the spotlight and run events like a cocktail 101 class during happy hour. Your best bartender can explain the history of the featured cocktail, then create drinks for attendees. Bring your chefs out of the kitchen to lead mini cooking demos, too.
Let Guests Get Their Hands Dirty Potting a terrarium, or painting a masterpiece. Who knew that craft night would be one of the most popular types of bar and restaurant entertainment? You bring in a host, who provides supplies and instruction to guests. According to Yaymaker, over 80% of customers who attend these craft nights are new to the business. Actually, you could run with the whole “craft night” theme and offer specials on craft beer that participants can enjoy as they do their projects.
Bust a Move If you’re looking for bar and restaurant entertainment for midweek evenings, teach your guests some new moves. Contact a local dance instructor. Salsa dancing night is big at Syracuse Suds, a bar, and restaurant in Syracuse, New York. Or, if business is slow in the afternoon, embrace the extra space. Hire a local yoga instructor to lead guests in a “stretch and sip” session.
Games come into play again on this list of bar and restaurant entertainment ideas. If you want proof that today’s customers are eager for competitive action, just look at the rise in axe-throwing bars. However, there’s no need to set up an ax-throwing arena, you can still tap into “cutting-edge” competitive bar and restaurant entertainment.
Open Mic Night for the Win
Open mic night is the unsung hero of bar and restaurant entertainment. There’s no need to pay a live band, and it’s much more social as your guests bond over their time on the stage. For a competitive twist, ask one of the performers to be a judge for the night. The winning performer gets a $10-$20 gift card to your business, and is then the host for the following week. Or, try open mic comedy night as a variation!
Try Live Trivia If you’re looking for midweek bar and restaurant entertainment, definitely consider a weekly trivia night. Popular everywhere from college campus bars to family restaurants, live trivia brings everyone together over the friendly competition – and brings them back, week after week. Get started with this guide to hosting a live trivia event.
Last but certainly not least, if you run a family-friendly establishment, gear some of your bar and restaurant entertainment to your youngest patrons. Why? Because a recent Technomic Generational Report found that 43% of parents let their children decide where to dine out. Kids will go where the fun is – and placemats and crayons don’t cut it anymore…
Create a Kid’s Play Area Dedicate a small area in your venue just for kid-focused bar and restaurant entertainment. A small picnic table and some children’s books are enough to give kids a space of their own. Although, using chalkboard paint on a section of your wall can give kids the thrill of “writing on the wall” (with chalk, of course).
Set Up Events Geared Towards Kids It could be hiring a magician to perform magic tricks at each table. Or, bring in a musician to run a Saturday afternoon sing-a-long. You could even host cooking classes for kids. Even if you aren’t interested in hosting kid-focused events as part of your bar and restaurant entertainment, you can still be #1 with kids. Make your kid’s menu more fun! Ask your distributor for fun items like dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Offer a make-your-own-sundae “kit.” Bring out a tray with little bowls of toppings, and let the kids play chef at the table. And don’t forget the prize! McDonald’s can do it…so why can’t you?
Ultimately, the very best bar and restaurant entertainment are geared towards the kind of customer you’re trying to attract. So why not send out a simple survey link or email to your customers? Ask them what it will take to bring them in…when they’re tempted to stay home.
By Lindsay Ott Wilcox Lindsay writes for the Buzztime Business blog. Her mission? To hook up bar and restaurant owners with the latest trends, tips, and best practices she has gathered from over a decade of foodservice research and writing. Lindsay is an award-winning writer and creative director, with recent honors from Graphic Design USA and the New York State Broadcasters Association.