How To Attract Corporate Business
Just as casual-dining restaurants typically covet families who go out to eat, fine-dining restaurants tend to rely on attracting corporate business. There are several reasons that many fine-dining establishments need corporate business to survive. Corporate diners are more likely able to expense account their tabs. They usually invite other guests, or are entertaining clients. Therefore, they are more likely than the average guest to dine in large groups. Finally, corporate guests make great repeat guests in your restaurant. If their experience exceeds expectations, they know they have found a go-to business when looking to impress associates or just get away from the office.
For these and other reasons, corporate guests are the type of people many restaurant operators want filling out their dining room. Businesspeople who eat at fine-dining establishments tend to go out to eat multiple times per week. They are seasoned diners; people who more frequently order wine, steak or dessert. They have discriminating tastes and the expense accounts to back up ambitious orders. They know good food and service, and value the delivery of both.
But corporate guests don’t find good restaurants on accident. Operators tend to have to work to attract corporate business. The first step is having the facilities to support large groups. This can come in the form of a closed-off dining room or an area of a main dining room that can be easily partitioned off. Event rental businesses typically rent curtains (called pipes-and-drapes) for this purpose. It’s also a good idea to buy audio-visual equipment if you have separate dining facilities. An operator who attracts programs or presentation dinners can recover the cost of a screen and LCD projector by renting them out to customers.
It’s equally important to be able to handle large parties or groups effectively. The best teacher with large parties is experience, and trial-and-error is certainly an important facet of handling large groups (as it is with most of this business). Handling large parties does not necessary require having all hands on deck in the front and back of the house. But it does require having an organized system of communication and competent people in place to execute it. Group menus that demonstrate value, streamline your menu across 2-4 courses, and present beautifully, are a great tool in this regard.
Word-of-mouth can spread quickly when a restaurant can capably execute large groups or presentation dinners. Businesspeople know other businesspeople, and they need reliable venues. On the other hand, negative reviews also travel quickly. Just as with the holidays, there’s no better occasion for your restaurant to shine than when accommodating large groups.
It’s worthwhile for new restaurants working to attract corporate business to make it as easy to book reservations as possible. This means eliminating down payments, group minimums, or any other unnecessary rules. Bookers of large groups are accustomed to these obstacles, and the need to make various menu or seating choices. They’ll be pleasantly surprised—and more likely to call back—if the reservation-making phone call lasts only five minutes. However, be prepared for inaccurate reservations. Large group bookers often make the reservation for the largest potential number of guests, or for all people who have RSVP’d to invitations, regardless of whether they are likely to show.
Finally, it’s worth understanding that the nature of corporate dining events has changed dramatically in the last five years, due to financial belt-tightening and federal regulation. Fewer companies and can afford to entertain guests, and more sectors face stiff rules against providing perks for clients. For example, a substantial percentage of presentation dinners for many restaurants five years ago came from the pharmaceutical and medical sectors. However, regulations have all but evaporated the ability of many of these companies to entertain guests. The competition to attract corporate diners has stiffened in response.
Like most things in this business, it takes time and patience to see corporate business regularly filing into a restaurant. Therefore, it’s imperative that operators get their business pointed in the right direction from the very beginning. Corporate business holds the key to success for most fine-dining restaurants.