During the course of the year, parties are a great way to increase sales and add to your total year end revenues. No better time to capitalize on this is during November and December. The Christmas party season is the "low hanging fruit" of the year. Are you prepared?
Party's are a great way to add that extra "gravy" to the already busy season, but it is also a great way to expose new customers to your establishment. That is why it is important that you have a solid design and execution.
When designing your party offerings, there are a few things to consider. Most of the time it will revolve around space. Do you have enough room to host a party for 30 if you have a 50 seat restaurant? Do you close or stay open? Do you have Chaffing dishes for buffets or enough plates for service and parties?
Anything is possible with the right amount of innovation, but sometimes really thinking outside the box is necessary. If you have a small seat restaurant, then maybe focusing on cocktail parties is the way you capitalize. If you already have a buffet steam table, then self serve parties may be the way. Either way don't try to be something you aren't; it never ends well. You can carve your own niche and make it work and stay within the confines of your business.
Here are some packages I have used in the past that are very effective.
Off The Menu- This option is a ala carte from your menu that is perfect for groups up to, I would say, 15 or less. This is designed for a party who wants a full dinner but are on a bit of a budget. This is a way to feed a group with out disrupting your operations and no additional small ware costs are incurred. I would not make this party too large but if it is what they want give it to them. Be sure to have extra support staff as this is one of the packages that has the potential to not go as smooth as you want, especially if you are short staffed.
Price Fix Plate Service- This option is perfect for groups up to 30 ppl. This package has a appetiser (usually soup or salad), entrée, and desert. You can make this as complicated as you choose with added courses if the client wants like more advanced appetizers, a second appetizer course, a pasta course, ect. This menu should be customized by the client to be effective in the selling process. The package would be billed as a per head basis, and most places add an auto grat on to it as well. A small investment on some nicer plating might be a good idea, as this is a representation of a higher premium meal than your everyday menu.
Buffet- This option is the most effective way to feed a large number of people (30+) in a fixed time with very little to go wrong. There is a lot of behind the scenes that goes into pulling one of these off, and if not properly priced you could loose your shirt on this, but the best way to serve many people successfully. You will probably have to invest some money in plates, silverware, chaffing dishes, salad bowls, serving utensils, baskets, ect. But once you have the stuff, it will pay for itself. The good thing about this is that you don't need very much additional staff; besides taking drink orders there is just clearing the plates. Your menu usually consists of a couple salads, one or two proteins, a vegetable, a starch, and a desert. You can make it as complex or simple as the client wants. Please keep in mind that the dishes must be able to stand up to sitting in a steam table. Stay away from stir fry's, delicate fish, and things that get cold quick and loose their durability. This is charged price per head.
Group Platters- This package is perfect for parties of 5-20 ppl who are either there for a happy hour event. This a great way to capitalize on alcohol sales and bring your clients a complete package. Usually the platters would be filled with appetizer items (usually many of them deep fried), focusing on finger foods or tapas. There is a low initial investment and this package tends to be the most popular all year round. Make sure the items are quick to prepare and hold up, as they are exposed to the air. If you have nachos on your menu, this is a good accoutrement to your package. You can either charge price per head or per platter- up to you.
Canapé / Hors d'oeuvres Platters- This is usually a high end cocktail party package. Usually a reception style event or a formal event. This is the least popular of the packages because of its special nature, but good to have if needed. This is perfect if you are doing wedding receptions or fundraising events. You usually charge by the piece for this one eg: 30 chicken tarts at $1.20 per piece. As the variation in ingredients for the canapés could be vastly different it's better to price per piece. This package is geared toward the 20-40 ppl range it's not uncommon for numbers being much higher. There is no additional capital expenditures as most of the equipment will be already purchased with the Group Platter package.
Well this is a bit of a guide to help you design your own packages for this party season. Don't wait too late to have a marketing plan and have a distinct assortment of dining options to make your clients next function with you a huge success.