I recently participated in a Grand Tasting at a local Food and Wine Festival. I was approached about three months ago to be a participant and thought it might be a great way to introduce my restaurants to some potential new guests. Unfortunately as we approached the date for the festival, I realized how unorganized the event planners were and their glaring lack of experience at hosting a major event. We made the most of a difficult situation; being veterans of this type of an event we at least had experience on our side. The lack of both planning and marketing for the event made for a tough situation when all the participants arrived to set-up. Communication is key and the lack of it caused numerous situations that were easily avoidable.
The Chamber of Commerce was expecting about four hundred guests to attend this tasting, which consisted of about twenty restaurants and forty wines. I felt the ticket price of fifty-five dollars was a little steep for the economy, although it could have worked if the event was marketed properly. My guess is the event had about one hundred and twenty-five attendees. I wouldn’t consider the event a bust; I felt the components were in place to have a truly wonderful event. I think the attendance was a disappointment and the monies raised for the arts were slim at best.
I have several questions about the event. Why would you plan an event with twenty restaurants and never have a meeting with everyone? Communication is key; you have an incredible amount of talent available, many of which do outside catering and special events. Why wouldn’t you tap into the experience of your participants? The other glaring omission in my opinion was not leveraging your participants. You have twenty successful restaurants, yet there were never posters printed and posted in each restaurant announcing the upcoming event. This time of year, the total customers patronizing the combined restaurants are well over one thousand customers a day. How about if part of being a participant was that you had to sell ten tickets to the event. Before the Chamber ever sold one ticket, you’d have two hundred sold with eleven thousand dollars in the bank.
My point isn’t to crucify this event; I’m trying to instill the importance of marketing. With proper marketing this was a very viable event, without it, a disappointment. We’re all guilty of hosting something at our restaurant that came up flat. Before you go forward with your next event, take the time to think about the results you want to obtain, and leverage everyone involved to achieve those results. Finally, make sure you market the event properly, there are many low cost marketing techniques you can use to get the word out. Four walls marketing is a key component, partnerships or sponsors are great ways to spread the word and utilize all the talent and personnel involved to make your event the success you envisioned when you first started planning the event.