5 Ways Restaurants & Bars are Adding Entertainment

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Picture this: a millennial couple is at home on Friday night. They’re hungry and in the mood to socialize. What will they do next? Head to your bar or restaurant? Or, stay home, order GrubHub, and get their social fix from Snapchat?

It all depends on if your restaurant or bar understands the value of entertainment.

Today, customers need a very good reason to get out of their home – and into your business. Awesome food and drinks are a great start, but it’s not enough. That’s where entertainment value comes in. It can turn an ordinary visit into a memorable experience. And that just might be enough to coax customers off the couch.

Now, take a closer look at exactly how to deliver the best entertainment value for your guests.

Think Beyond the Band: Get Social (and See New Faces)

There’s nothing wrong with hiring a band or musician, but it may not deliver the entertainment value you expect. Sure, customers may order drinks but it’s hard to dine with loud, live music. Plus, no one can talk and socialize above the tunes.

If your goal is to really amp up your entertainment value, turn to social events that encourage connections among patrons – like a craft night. Yes, one of the most popular events at restaurants and bars these days is a DIY night. Here’s how it works.

Groups of friends gather to paint a masterpiece or pot a terrarium. No worries, you don’t have to run the class. Hire a company like Yaymaker that sends in the hosts, helps you build a guest list, and doesn’t charge you a thing (seriously). According to Yaymaker, 74% of customers that attend a craft event will be new to your business.

Want more ideas for social events that can add entertainment value? How about bringing in a dance instructor on your slowest night to show guests some new moves. To amp up the social and entertainment value for singles, you could have the instructor randomly pair off partners at every dance.

What may seem like education to you, can be a ton of fun for guests – and give them a chance to bond over shared interests. There’s major entertainment value in asking your bartender to provide free demos or classes in the art of cocktail making. You could also invite in a local brewmaster to hold a beer tasting and discussion of their “craft” with fans of craft beer.

Put Fun on Repeat for the Win

Think back to the couple that’s tempted to stay home instead of going out. What if a visit to your bar or restaurant became a habit, or part of their routine? Another way to ramp up entertainment value is to create an ongoing schedule of events. For example, those bartending classes could run every other Tuesday night.

Another trend that proves that value of entertainment is a rise in bars and restaurants hosting bi-weekly book clubs (#BoozeandBooks makes a great hashtag, right?). Some partner with a local library, others reach out to existing book clubs in the area to see if someone would like to help kick off this type of entertainment at their bar or restaurant. Bonus points if you create a themed drink for the book of the month.

You could also tap into everyone’s competitive side with a weekly bar games tournament or league. Think darts, indoor or outdoor cornhole competitions, even board games or “giant” Jenga or chess matches.

Integrate Entertainment Value Into Every Visit

Another seriously social option that really delivers on entertainment value and attracts new faces is bar and restaurant trivia. At first, you might think of live trivia events where a host reads off questions and teams collaborate on answers. There’s only one problem with this type of event – and the events mentioned above – they’re usually held just once a week.

That’s why more bars and restaurants are turning to on-demand trivia to ensure entertainment value for every customer, every hour they’re open. Here’s how it works. Simple software connects you to a live 24/7 trivia network that’s displayed on your TVs. Using their smartphones, customers can compete for glory (and even cash prizes) against other players across the room – or even across the country. It’s a surefire way to practically guarantee entertainment value for everyone.

To weave entertainment value into every visit, you could also look to your menu. Are there dishes you could add that include an element of drama, interaction, or whimsy? Think Greek flaming cheese, Caesar salad or fresh guacamole prepped tableside, or retro-cool flaming Baked Alaska. Not only does this boost the fun factor for guests, these are also key moments customers would love to share on social media (giving you some nice free publicity).

If you think adding entertainment value to your menu is hokey or cheesy, consider this: Many Michelin-rated restaurants embrace the fun side of dining. For example, at 3-star Michelin-rated Alinea in Chicago, the dessert course features an edible taffy balloon that customers must pop to enjoy.

Consider Integrating Entertainment Value Into Your Concept

For further proof of the value of entertainment, look no further than the latest trend in restaurant and bar concepts: the recent rise in “social clubs.”

These venues serve food and drinks but just as important are the integrated social and entertainment options. For example, at the Pinewood Social Club in Nashville, TN, patrons can grab a drink with friends then hit the 6-lane on-site bowling alley. There’s even an outdoor pool and plenty of swank lounge chairs for relaxing – all swathed in Pinewood Social Club’s signature bright turquoise color. With all this entertainment value packed into one venue, it’s no wonder Pinewood Social Club was recently featured on the Today Show.

Don’t Forget the Kiddos!

So far, the focus has primarily been on entertainment value for adults. But even these trendy social club venues realize that for anyone with children, entertainment isn’t just an “extra” – it can be essential when dining out. Parents want their children to have fun, and at the same time, they want to catch up with each other. Venues like the Ivy City Social Club include ball pits for kids and a bar for parents.

But you don’t need to alter your concept to cater to kids. Little things can go a long way! Paint an area of your business with black chalkboard paint. Set out chalk and let kids go wild writing on the wall. If you have the space, a kid’s corner stocked with a mini kitchen set and play food would give families the entertainment value they deserve. Is business slow on early weeknights? Bring in a magician or puppeteer to stop by tables for mini performances.

Again, look to your menu as a place to amp up the entertainment value. Why not add a DIY dessert option? Kids can get a “sundae kit” delivered to the table. In the center is the bowl of ice cream, surrounded by little dishes full of toppings. The value of entertainment for kids cannot be underestimated. Today, 43% of parents let their children decide where to dine. So win over the hearts of the kiddos, and you’ll win over their parents, too.

It’s clear that entertainment value is more than fun and games – it can deliver real bottom-line business results. You’ll give customers an incentive to go out, and to choose your venue over the competition. Plus, after having such a great time at your bar or restaurant thanks to your entertainment offerings, you better believe you’ll also see an increase in repeat business. So go forth and add all the fun you can.

Author Bio: Lindsay Ott Wilcox 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.